Are Some Teams Too Broken to be Fixed?

Published: April 20, 2016

When the toxic element of a team devolves to a mutiny, the chance of repairing a broken culture is slim. Intractable positions only end in standoffs. Of all the reasons teams become stuck, this is the least healthy. The bulk of the team’s energy is consumed in reacting to its demise. At this stage, choices are limited. You can stay stuck or move forward.

Oddly, staying stuck is the easier option. Pain is normalized. Moving forward takes courage. The disengaged teammates fueling the mutiny are sure to exact a price from anyone who dares to suggest change. Despite their small numbers, the mutineers hold all the power.

Mustering the courage to stand up to the bullies doesn’t happen until you acknowledge the dire ramifications of staying stuck. Regardless of industry, the choice to halt a team’s growth has serious consequences:

  • Daily violation of organizational mission and values.
  • Weakened productivity due to the distraction of internal politics.
  • Failure to innovate and keep pace with best practice.
  • Loss of young and veteran talent.
  • Inability to attract and retain a sustainable workforce.
  • Legacy damage resulting from the public reputation of dysfunction.

Staying stuck is a choice. Once the costs of the mutiny are realized, the engaged majority is compelled to take charge. Let the ship sail. Those who wish to get on board are welcome as long as they agree to behave according to the spirit of the organization’s values. Those who prefer to amplify the protest should head for the lifeboats. The rest of us have work to do.

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.