5 reasons your team isn’t working and what to do about it

by Vicki Haverson

Building and maintaining a successful team isn’t easy and there are some common reasons why they often fail.

Leaders know that building and maintaining a great team is essential in helping them achieve their goals and the overall success of their organisation. Yet in most organisations how a team works together is mostly left to chance, leading to some common patterns of dysfunction.


Here are five reasons a team might not be working and what you can do about it.


Lack of clarity

With all the change and uncertainty that we’ve been experiencing the purpose and priorities of the team may have changed and it might have lost or gained some members, leaving it in a state of flux.

When there is uncertainty in the workplace, like changes in leadership, shifts in organisational strategy, or unexpected events, teams can be left feeling uncertain about what they should be focusing on, what their priorities are, and how they should be working together.

The purpose and priorities of a team can change in response to uncertainty and changing market conditions. It’s important to make sure everyone is aligned on what the team is there to do and establish working agreements, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities and agreed goals, priorities and deadlines.

Examining what roles are needed and why, as well as changing roles, on a regular basis is vital to keeping the team engaged and dynamic when dealing with uncertainty. Without this there is likely to be confusion, frustration, miscommunication and duplication of effort. Decision-making and progress is also likely to be impacted.

Being able to say yes to the question ‘do you know what’s expected of you at work’ is a fundamental need for everyone in a team that drives employee engagement and productivity and reduces stress and burnout. Management of expectations makes relationships clearer and less complicated and the more specific they can be, the better.


Poor communication

If a team isn’t communicating effectively, it can lead to a range of issues including misunderstandings, conflicts and reduced productivity. When team members aren’t communicating clearly and openly, important information can be missed or misinterpreted, leading to mistakes and delays in decision making.

Open and honest communication needs to be prioritised in a team through regular meetings and other tools to support their interaction. This involves creating a culture of psychological safety where members feel comfortable expressing their opinions and ideas without fear of judgment or retribution.

Learning to listen to one another and seeking clarification when its needed, feeling comfortable in asking questions to make sure everyone is clear and on the same page. Team friction and misunderstanding usually arise when team members speak from different levels of reality and the solution is to allow these realities to be expressed without judgment.

By promoting effective communication, teams can overcome the barriers that come with poor communication and build a stronger sense of trust and collaboration.


Trust issues

Trust is essential on any team, but it can be hard to build especially if the team don’t know each other well or there have been changes with people leaving and joining. At its core teamwork is about the connection that people feel at work and to the teams and people they work with. Connection is a basic human need and when those needs aren’t met, it can be hard to function.

Trust in a team involves a willingness to be vulnerable, to take risks and give and receive feedback in a constructive way. When team members trust each other, they are more likely to communicate openly and honestly, share information more freely and work together productively.

Teams can build trust by prioritising relationship building activities. This might involve exercises where they share personal stories, values and experiences, creating the opportunity for team members to get to know and understand each other on a deeper level.


Lack of diversity

When team members come from a similar background and have similar experiences and strengths, they are more likely to think and act alike. This can lead to groupthink, where the team may fail to consider alternative perspectives or ideas.

When a team lacks diversity, they may miss out on alternatives solutions or fresh ideas that could benefit the team and organisation. It can limit the team’s ability to adapt and respond to changes in the environment, missing opportunities and impacting on performance.

They might also fail to represent the wider community or customer base it serves or understand the needs and preferences of different stakeholders which can impact on customer satisfaction.

Bringing people together with diverse talents potentially allows for different perspectives, experiences and skills but in its raw form this diversity can also be a source of friction in the team.

To take advantage of the full potential of the team members and the team, its diversity and potential needs to be appreciated. It can take time and be challenging in terms of effort and also be uncomfortable on an emotional level as it challenges personal comfort zones and approaches. That’s where strengths-based training can help, acting as a trust accelerator, building inclusion and collaboration, and acting as a powerful formular for higher levels of productivity and performance.


Poor leadership

Leaders set the tone for their team and if they aren’t providing clear direction or setting a positive example, it can lead to confusion and frustration. In times of uncertainty, the team will be looking to their leaders and observing behaviours, particularly if they are lacking clarity or information.

If a leader is unsupportive or disengaged, team members can be left feeling unappreciated and demotivated, leading to low morale impacting on performance and retention. This can be costly for organisations and contribute to resistance to change and low productivity, discouraging them from taking risks and stifling new ideas.

Poor leadership can also contribute to conflicts and tension within a team, impacting on collaboration and communication, further impacting on team productivity and morale. It can have a cascading effect on the overall dynamics and it’s important for leaders to develop their skills and own self-awareness to be able to better support their team.


In conclusion, building and maintaining a team takes time and effort, but by addressing these commons issues you can set your team up for success. Make sure everyone has clarity on the purpose, goals and expectations, encourage open communication, build trust, foster a culture of diversity and provide strong leadership. Teams represent the greatest opportunity to improve an organisation and with these foundations in place, your team can achieve great things.


If you’d like to talk about the challenges you are facing with one of our Team experts, click here.