3 Steps to Help Dysfunctional Teams get back on Track -

3 Steps to Help Dysfunctional Teams get back on Track


By Melissa McManus

I recently discussed how virtual teams can work together seamlessly thanks to the benefits of true teamwork. In this installment, I want to do a follow-up and discuss the flip side of that situation. The reality is that not everyone works well together. So, how do you handle a situation where the team is dysfunctional or there are members of the team who seem unwilling to cooperate? I have come up with a few suggestions that might help with rerouting the team and getting everyone back on track.

Define Roles and Responsibilities

A lack of defined roles and responsibilities could be at the heart of any issues you team may have. Everyone needs to be aware of their role, including what they are responsible for and how that ultimately affects the rest of the team. Without clear roles and responsibilities, it is easy for people to misunderstand or not complete a task that they were supposed to have done. This can be accomplished through a team meeting where everyone has the opportunity to contribute, discuss their strengths and weaknesses, and make a plan that makes sense for the given situation. I would also suggest writing these roles and responsibilities down and keeping them somewhere the entire team has access to them, such as an internal company portal or simply an office whiteboard.

Hold Each Other Accountable

Confession time: I struggle with a bit of procrastination. It’s a character flaw, I know, but it is one that I am aware of and deal with. Why do I mention this? I have found that you can stay accountable to your team and yourself through deadlines and clear expectations that the whole team agrees upon. I love having deadlines and dates to work with because it gives me a timeframe of when I need to have something completed by. Without deadlines, I end up working on other things and the item(s) without deadlines get pushed off. Working with deadlines is a great way to hold your entire team accountable for their part of the project. Additionally, setting expectations of when things should be delivered and how they need to be presented is also helpful in keeping the entire team engaged and on track.

Confront the Issue

When something is not working well it is not uncommon for others to not realize it. We all come from different experiences and backgrounds and so our perceptions are different. The best solution is to calmly talk to the person(s) and explain your thoughts on the current situation. Even if they do not agree with you, at the very least, it gets the conversation started. Remember, Rome was not built in a day—these things take time. Not everyone is amenable to change, but it is almost always necessary. Communication is the foundation of any relationship, including team relationships.

These are just a few things that you can do to make sure that your team is a functional, well-oiled machine that gets things done. If these steps have been used and there are still existing issues, then it might be time to have a conversation with your supervisor and/or HR professional about the team dynamics. At the core of it all is communication. Without good communication, the team has an uphill battle ahead.

What are some things that you have done in your teams to stay on track?

About the Author: Melissa McManus has five years of research experience as well as over a decade of experience working in the educational sector spanning from TK through Adult education. Melissa has a Masters in counseling, received from California State University, Fresno and a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership with a focus in Human Resource Development. Melissa’s professional interests include human behavior, research, writing, coaching, training, and knowledge transfer. On a more personal note, Melissa is involved in community service efforts including serving as chair of her children’s school site council, volunteering her time as an art docent, and serving in the library of her local church. In her free time when she is not running her kids to gymnastics or karate, Melissa enjoys reading (a lot), wine tasting, Crossfit, being with friends/family, and spending time with her husband and two children.

1 thought on “3 Steps to Help Dysfunctional Teams get back on Track”

  1. One of the biggest challenges in decentralized teams is an understanding and sense of empathy to the differences in everyone’s job. Being out in the field delivering services has a very different set of demands than keeping the home fires burning in the back office. Can anyone say ‘job shadowing’?

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