Six Ways to Turn Around a Dysfunctional Team

Sunday, February 24, 2019, 6:00 AM | Leave Comment

Many teams have some personality conflicts among team members. This is a typical human resource problem.

However, on some teams the personal animosity is so great that the team has a hard time functioning together. The project manager should try to resolve these conflicts.

If the project manager cannot resolve the conflicts (or if the project manager is the cause) the project manager may need to be replaced.

The first thing you want to do is assess the current state of the project and the state of the team interaction.

There is usually a correlation between team dynamics and team status. It is not common for teams to be on schedule and budget, and yet have poor team relationships. Poor team interaction is often associated with poor project performance.

Your response to the project team problems will depend on where you are in the schedule. For instance, if you have 30 days of work remaining, you will have less ability to make an impact on the team dynamics. In this case, the best course of action may be to try to motivate the team for the final push and watch the schedule closely.

On the other hand, if your project has many months to go, then you need to see what can be done to repair the damage on the team as well as re-plan the schedule to deliver on a new realistic timeframe.

Any plan is going to include the following items:

  1. Communicate well

    If the project manager is a poor communicator, it can result in a miserable project experience for everyone. Teams with poor morale tend to have poor communication channels. Don’t let rumors and uncertainty fester. Make sure you share as much information as you can about the project status and anything else that may impact the project team.

  2. Praise and compliment

    When people on your team do a good job, make sure they know it. People don’t expect money or gifts when they do a good job – just a pat on the back and a ‘well done’ by their manager. Give it to them – both informally and formally.

  3. Make staff replacements

    It is possible that one person, or some specific people, may be causing the drama and conflict. If you are unsuccessful getting the team to work together, you may have to replace one or more of these team members. Yes, that will cause some short-term pain as well. However, our scenario assumes we have a longer amount of time to fix things.

  4. Set clear expectations

    People need to understand what is expected of them so that they know the challenges they need to meet. Make sure you give clear instructions when you hand out work so that people understand what they are expected to do.

  5. Don’t over commit your team

    As you try to improve morale, you also need to be careful not to over commit the team. Determine the work remaining to finish the project and remove anything that is extraneous or can be done after implementation.

  6. Win some small battles

    Poor morale can cause your team to miss deadlines, which causes more pressure and degrades morale even further. The opposite is true as well. If the team can start hitting some interim deadlines (and you communicate this fact and praise them), the team morale should improve, which may make it easier to hit your next deadline.

These are some ideas for turning the team around. Make sure you try to identify as many team problems as you can, as well as the root causes if possible. Then, put together an action plan based on how much work and time is remaining on the project.

If there is not a lot of time remaining, focus on the schedule. If a lot of time is remaining, focus on repairing the project team, as well as completing the schedule.

Courtesy of…

This column is © copyright to and originally appeared in their weekly project management tip newsletter.

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