34 what-are-the-most-common-dysfunctions-of-teams

What Are The Most Common Dysfunctions Of Teams?

‘Something is just not right’ – a common line heard in most corporate office spaces these days. No matter how sorted your team seems with the right facilities and good planning, there always seems to be something off in the foundation of your team.

Patrick Lencioni, a famous American author coined the five common dysfunctions found in teams. Despite being a 20-year old model, it is interesting to note how relevant it is in today’s modern workspace. Here are some reasons why your foundation might not be properly set in place and what you can do to solve it as per Lencioni’s model. To make things more palatable, Lencioni structured this as a comprehensive pyramid diagram.

5 Dysfunctions of Team

Absence of Trust – Lack of trust and vulnerability

Trust is the foundation of every team. It is what propels people to work towards a mutual goal and be vulnerable with each other. If you don’t trust the intentions of your peers and have no confidence in their work or your own, you will automatically feel no connection with the team. Having a real connection with the team will ensure you work to your full potential to attain mutual goals that benefit the whole team.

If your team lacks trust, you will spend a lot of time micromanaging interactions within the group and concealing mistakes from one another. “I was part of a team that had no trust or bonding. I always hesitated to offer help apart from my tasks and felt I received no constructive feedback for the work I did. I felt the environment was very toxic owing to my peers always trying to point out each other’s mistakes in public. I felt my skills were not recognised, despite working in the company for three years,” said a professional from an IT consultancy company in Coimbatore.


Build an environment where people don’t hesitate to ask for help and go out of their way to perform tasks outside their responsibilities. The team should be willing to take risks and offer each other feedback without hesitating to admit their mistakes. Teach everyone to be patient and empathetic towards others.

Fear of Conflict – A lack of courage in various senses

If the team has a fear of conflict and tries their best not to confront each other, it is as negative as holding grudges and pointing out errors. Such teams focus on spreading negativity, making personal comments, and indulging in gossip instead of resolving the issue right away. People tend to take things personally and are constantly trying to find mistakes with each other to make their own mistakes seem small. Emotions come in the way of professional work and most ideas are turned down owing to personal vengeance.

“My agency recently addressed why the space was turning toxic. Can you believe we had a WhatsApp group to share work updates and all day long the messages would only be negative? People didn’t bother to message each other appreciating or acknowledging success. They messaged only to bring failures and petty mistakes to the notice of the management and tried to outperform each other. Working at the office felt like walking on dynamite, as you never knew when you would overlook a minor detail and get called out! Our manager finally changed the culture and decided to avoid registering controversial topics in public groups,” said an employee at a PR agency in Chennai.


Controversial topics still need to be addressed, no matter how difficult it might be. Keep your meetings interesting and tap into new perspectives and opinions. Encourage team members to engage in healthy debates. Not airing out issues will result in poor quality decisions.

Lack of Commitment – An absence of proper clarity and commitment

Having no clarity or knowing your purpose in the organisation will prevent you from working towards a mutual goal. Most teams fail to provide tangible goals their employees need to work towards, which leads to directionless work. Good teams that have targeted commitment avoid ambiguity and know their priorities. All the members are on the same page and know what goal the team is working towards.

The team leverages new opportunities they find and avoid delays due to over-analysis of the situation. Ideas move forward without any hesitation and the team as a whole is willing to make and learn from mistakes. With the ability to try new things and indulge in some risks, such teams tap into opportunities and techniques before competitors. They can adapt to new circumstances and change track as per the results they have gained.


Nurture an environment that focuses on learning and welcomes mistakes that are not repeated. The team aligns around common objectives and works towards mutual goals with a clear purpose in mind. At any moment, each individual is openly accountable and knows their contribution to the team’s growth.

Avoidance of Accountability – Mediocrity and a lack of being responsible

No team wants to lower its standards. But dysfunctional teams tend to have members who lack accountability. They find it hard to call out their peers and hold them accountable for their mistakes. This creates a sense of resentment among the members and the bad performers never get better. The teams’ overall standards of performance become mediocre, and they fail to meet deadlines despite working round the clock. Despite having a framework of tasks in place with clearly-defined roles, they fail to meet key deliverables and continue to bring in low profits.

“The issue with my company was that being the team leader, I was revered as the only person who could question others. I was the source of discipline and my team hated me as I spoke to them only to point out shortcomings. Yes, there was scope for poor performers to improve and approaches were questioned. But only I had the power to hold people accountable! It made people lose respect for me, as there was excessive bureaucracy and it felt like a dictatorship,” said the team lead of a SaaS marketing agency in Coimbatore.


Learn to build a team that identifies problems quickly and questions their peers without hesitation. Irrespective of the hierarchy, anyone should be able to express their concerns and provide differences of opinion. Performance management and corrective actions should be the duty of anyone and everyone – the ideal way to hold everyone accountable to everyone.

Inattention to Results – Stagnation owing to focus on individual gains

Teams fail to grow when they stop paying attention to their results. We don’t mean the performance of their roles or the process of meeting their targets. This is important too, but we are looking at what would happen if team members stopped focussing on the team’s collaborative results. Teams need to focus on the collective results that the overall team can accomplish, and not just on themselves.

By digging deeper and analysing your success, you might notice how each person contributed to the results. This will show you how much you have contributed and how you can improve your participation for better results. Without this growth mindset, there will be no attention to results. It is also interesting to see how the above four points come into play here. If you lack trust and accountability, your team will avoid conflicts and lack the commitment to work. This will lead to a lack of tangible results and people who care more about themselves than the team at large. Employees need to be result-oriented and be focused on growth – both as a team and as individuals.


This model welcomes achievement-oriented team members and studies the outcomes of your performance. It ensures that people aren’t just working – they know what works and what doesn’t. The leader needs to ensure that results are clear and once achieved – the results are equally shared amongst team members. 

We are sure your team is well-equipped with talent that can produce exceptional results. The solution to combat dysfunction is to set clear team goals along with individual goals. This means the team knows what to work towards. Frequent review meetings can ensure that the team and individuals stay on track.

It is time for the people in authority to make conscious decisions and ensure their teams are working in coherence. To know more about identifying and overcoming the dysfunctions in your team, click here.

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