If you have recently been promoted to lead or hired into a team which is not functioning quite as it should, what do you do? Although being tasked with leading a team is an exciting time for anyone, a dysfunctional team who are not working together can turn your life into a nightmare. It is important to learn how you can best manage a dysfunctional team to get it back on track and get the people within it working together again, instead of against each other.

Dysfunctional teams are all different. In yours, everybody could be a part of the problem or it may just be a few individuals. You may have top performers who are still engaged with their work, being distracted by bickering and arguments – which definitely isn’t good. It doesn’t matter how you look at it: a dysfunctional team is a dysfunctional team.

Your job as the team leader is to change the minds of your team’s members; leadership is a blend of humility and authority which encourages and motivates others to do well and avoid workplace conflicts. So, how exactly do you manage a dysfunctional team and get rid of the toxic behaviour?

Remove the Bad Apples

If you have a few members in your team who are standing out for all the wrong reasons and are responsible for your team’s dysfunctional behaviour, get rid of them at the earliest possible opportunity. This may sound harsh, but it will save you a lot of time, energy and grief in the long-run; if problem-causers want to be problem-causers, then they have no place in your team and you will be better off without them. As soon as you have gotten rid of these few individuals, you will notice the energy in your team immediately shift to happy and productive.

This only works if there are a small number of key individuals causing all the issues; if your entire team is being dysfunctional and unruly, then this is the wrong tactic – you don’t want to get rid of your entire team.

Set a Team Vision

As the group leader, it is part of your role to set the overall goal and vision for the entire team. You need to establish this vision and set milestones to achieve it. It does not have to be anything overly-complicated; a simple picture of what you want to accomplish as a team over X amount of time is a great start.

The last thing you want is your team not knowing what to do or what is going on. You want your team to know what is happening and who is leading it, and you do this by setting an overall vision with lots of goals and milestones. Milestones are great because they tell people how they’re performing and how much closer they are to the shared vision.

Have Regular Face-to-Face Chats

There are plenty of managers out there who distance themselves from their team because they are busy and have faith that their team can perform well without them. This actually causes dysfunction because it makes your team feel as if nobody is in charge and that nobody cares about them. The best managers and bosses understand how important it is to have a visible presence among their team and will often check in with their individual team members to see how everything is going. The best manager will not sit on the side-lines and go with the flow; they will be active and play an integral role in the operation of the team. This stops the team drifting apart and prevents dysfunctionality.

Schedule Team Building Events

Now, this is not something which you should be doing every week or even every month, but, team building events every few months or so can really go a long way to managing dysfunction and promoting cohesiveness.

If the members of your team get the chance to bond with each other outside of a formal work setting, they are much more likely to work better together, as friendships form between people they otherwise would not have. Team building events are also a great way for your team members to blow off some steam and get to know each other in a relaxed environment.

People who work hard together and play hard together are less likely to run into problems with each other in the workplace and will work better together as a result. Team building events which take place in other cities are a great way to both reward your team and enable them to bond with each other, all the while making the team work better in the long-term and prevent problems from arising.

Have Performance Reviews

Although you will be busy as the manager of a team, you cannot use this as an excuse to avoid your duty to hold performance reviews. Ideally, these should be every six months, but it depends on your individual team and the industry you operate in. Some performance reviews may need to be done more or less frequently depending on this.

The very best managers and team leaders make time for performance reviews and view them as an integral part of keeping the team running smoothly. Your team members will respond well to validation, and what better way to do this than through a performance review? Performance reviews are a key indicator between high and low-performing teams and help motivate the people in your team and keep them working hard.

As a team leader, it is your job to make sure that your team is working well together. You may very well have inherited a team which is dysfunctional, but this is absolutely no excuse to let it go on. As the new team leader, you should put your foot down and work hard in your role as a manager to abolish this dysfunction and get your team back on the road to success.


Michael Deane is the Editor of Qeedle, a small business magazine, and has been working as a marketing executive for nearly a decade. He manages teams with great success, aiming to facilitate better conversion rates and return on investment for his clients.