A Dysfunctional Team? Blame the Boss


“I just wish my team would get along,” I heard from a leader not long ago. That’s not an uncommon complaint. But the more I learn about organizational health, the more I blame the leader for getting it in such predicament.

business fight

In my experience, unrest, infighting among departments or ministries, or divisions within an organization can be traced back to two main factors: lack of clarity and/or organizational culture. And in either case, they are always set from the top down.

Lack of clarity allows any good idea to be valid. Without a clear and articulable focus for your organization, any good idea is worth fighting for. I have worked with leaders who want to lead by consensus without a clear focus of identity and purpose. It’s a disaster. Usually the person with the strongest personality within the organization gets his or her way while others resent and get frustrated.

A contentious culture will eventually render the team and the organization ineffective. Long, inflammatory emails with multiple recipients are signs that you are part of a contentious culture. The passive leader who allows for bickering and infighting among his generals creates a culture that those who are not willing to fight for everything they do will not succeed. As a matter of fact, they’ll not stay long. There’s a healthy environment where team members have the right to push back on decisions, but that’s done with respect and welcomed by everyone.

What’s your experience with either lack of clarity or a contentious culture in your work history?

  • Maurilio, your insight is right on target as usual. Well summarized.

  • Mark H Jeffress

    Spot on! I worked for a woman who avoided confrontation at all costs. So much so that our entire team would fight and she was reluctant to take sides so she would just say, “work it out,” and walk away from the discussion. We never really worked it out. I hated the environment, even though I liked what I did. I left, and so did most of the people who worked for her.

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