Healthy or Sick?

Published: May 6, 2015

Try to make an apples-to-apples comparison between diverse teams across a spectrum of industries. Start with the common features that make organizations thrive. Rate each attribute on a scale from healthy to sick. So, what should you measure?



Healthy: The team operates from a foundation of anchored mission, meaningful values, and clear vision. Everyone is aligned with the team’s goal despite enjoying different ideas about how to achieve it.

Sick: An antiquated mission statement is framed on the wall but doesn’t serve as a filter for decisions. The team is split in factions based on unspoken norms and conflict is avoided at all costs.


Healthy: Teammates feel connected and engaged in the work of the organization. Accountability is shared and mutual respect shapes the tenor of the workplace.

Sick: Lack of accountability sanctions under-performance. The absence of safety pervades most interactions. Teammates protect their turf and punish behavior that threatens the status quo.


Healthy: There are many paths to the same destination. Diversity is cherished as fuel for creating the new and different. The foundation of investment and trust supports the courage to take smart risks.

Sick: The prospect of failure causes immobilizing fear. Staying the same provides a false sense of security that changes won’t threaten comfort. Teammates keep new ideas to themselves for fear of criticism.


Healthy: Change is seen as a natural component of growth. Teammates carefully move away from old realities while doing justice to history with appropriate goodbyes. Energy is refocused on the opportunities afforded by new circumstances.

Sick: Overwhelming anger and bitterness depletes the strength of the team leaving them unable to move forward. Holding tightly to the past replaces energy that would otherwise be devoted to reinvesting in the future.

Teams that rate high on the healthy side of the organizational wellness continuum have strong and enduring cultures. Invisible to onlookers, strong cultures provide the resources for sustainability. Sick teams need a diagnosis and a treatment plan. How does your team measure up?

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.