group management, group dysfunctions

Group Dysfunctions: Are these 5 happening in your group?

Dysfunction junction, what’s your malfunction? We all remember the Schoolhouse Rock conjunction song, right? Anyone? Just us? Bueller?

It all comes down to connection

In the previous few posts, we’ve talked about how to keep group conflict healthy. We’ve talked about how establishing open feedback loops makes conflict manageable. Today, we’re going to talk about how to conceptualize auditing your group management process so that you can see into what group dysfunctions may be afoot. As leaders, we can’t solve what we haven’t accurately diagnosed, right? Clearly, tending to group dynamics and troubleshooting conflict is a big topic and too much for one post. We’ll create the container today, and in future posts talk more about how to actually use this framework to do the work of resolving the issues.

We recognize that a big part of group management and effective leadership has to do with relationships and emotional connectivity. These soft skills require finesse and often involve a learning curve. The best leaders are able to combine the practical savvy to get things done with the relational capability of getting everyone working together well.

Maybe your groups issues are totally unique…(but probably not)

We use Patrick Lencioni’s hierarchical pyramid model for describing the common group dysfunctions. Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in Psychology, the pyramid is structured so that if the most foundational needs (trust) are not met at the bottom, there is a limited ability to make progress at any other level. Once trust is actively becoming established leaders can start to tease out the issues further up the pyramid.

So let’s look at the rest!

group management, group dysfunctions, effective leadership, conflict troubleshooting

Dysfunction 1: Absence of trust

The question to be asking: Do your group members openly and readily disclose their opinions?

Group members are unwilling to be vulnerable with one another, unwilling to admit their mistakes or knowledge gaps, and are unwilling to coordinate with one another or seek help. Instead of investing in connection, members become defensive and relationships suffer.

Dysfunction 2: Fear of Conflict

The question to be asking: Are your group meetings compelling and productive?

Artificial harmony is the enemy of true connection. Teams that lack trust will be unable to handle conflict effectively. Open conflict and dialogue are important for creative thinking and finding creative, out-of-the-box solutions. When groups can’t handle conflict head-on, things get toxic quickly. You may be familiar with the symptoms: resentment, power struggles, back-channel trash talking, festering resentments, wasted time. A disaster.

Dysfunction 3: Lack of commitment

The question to be asking: Does your group come to decisions quickly and avoid getting bogged down by consensus?

Without an ability to navigate conflict, group members have a difficult if not impossible time negotiating group decisions. Lack of direction and an abundance of ambiguity means that nothing really gets accomplished and busy, distracted group members will have every reason to start bailing.

Dysfunction 4: Avoidance of Accountability

The question to be asking: Do your group members confront one another about their shortcomings?

When groups can’t commit or even muddle through a defined decision-making process, already fragmented group members will be unable and unwilling to hold themselves and each other to any standards. At this point there is no real cohesion on any front, because group members don’t trust each other, won’t work together, and don’t have any precedent for best practices.

Dysfunction 5: Inattention to Team Objectives

The question to be asking: Do your group members sacrifice their own interests for the good of the group?

After reading all of the above, you may be asking “what group?” and that is the point. By the time you get here, your days as a group are likely numbered. Group members consistently put their own interests and desires first, there is no accountability, and likely leaders are also at their wit’s end trying to hold things together.

Once leaders are able to characterize what their groups are experiencing and dealing with, then they can figure out the critical pathway to addressing these group dysfunctions. In the coming weeks, we’ll give some of our thoughts one what to do about each!

Happy Grouping,

The Team at Groupeasy

Leave a Comment