Image credit: Max LaRochelle
The title of this week’s content, Storming, refers to the second phase of Tuckman’s revised model of team effectiveness (Tuckman and Jensen, 1977). Storming is regarded as the phase in which considerable contention occurs. As processes and ideas are defined— and team members become familiar with one another— conflicts begin to arise.
In this post, I’ll be reflecting on my experience at a previous workplace, and considering what led to the breakdown of communication and my ultimate resignation from the position. I’ll be refering to the heirarchical model proposed by Patrick Lencioni (2002, 187-190) in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.
Until now, I have chalked this experience up to a toxic environment. I’m ashamed to admit that I still harbour a level of resentment towards the organisation. I’d like to address and overcome this line of thinking. It doesn’t facilitate any personal or professional growth, and it only serves to negatively affect my own mental health.
To truely resolve these frustrations, I must consider how I contributed to the team’s dysfunction. By carrying out this post-mortem analysis, I’ll be able to uncover insights that will help develop my leadership skills and promote higher performance in my current team.
The first dysfunction proposed by Lencioni is ‘absence of trust’. In A Survey of Trust in the Workplace, Paul Bernthal (1998) reported honest and open communication as one of five ‘trust-building’ behaviours.
By the end of my time with this organisation, I had become totally disengaged with the work that I was being asked to complete. I was convinced that what I produced had no significant benefit to the business.
Instead of initiating an honest conversation about why I felt the work wasn’t beneficial to the business or my own professional progression, I isolated myself and allowed my resentment to grow.
Despite identifying issues around my role and within the business, I didn’t raise them to upper management. In a blog for Clear Review, Stuart Hearn (2017) recognised ignoring issues one of “three main manifestation of conflict avoidance”.
I ignored the issues because I had previously witnessed, and had been involved in, debates with the upper management that became hostile. This aligns with Lencioni’s second dysfunction: ‘fear of conflict’.
These two disfunctions culminated in Lencioni’s third dysfunction: ‘lack of commitment’. In this week’s course content, Alcwyn Parker (ca. 2020) suggested that this dyfunction can be remedied when team members who disagree on the direction of a project still make an effort to commit.
Honestly, I disagreed with the direction, and I became passive.
My avoidance of honest conversation and conflict were rooted in apathy rather than fear, but as a result I found myself critically unmotivated with no desire to remotivate. From there, I felt the best course of action was to resign from my position.
This has been a particularly difficult post to write. I think it is natural to want to be the hero of one’s own story; before writing, that is how I regarded myself. Worse, I saw my previous employer as the ‘villain’, unfairly fostering an environment that was not conducive to gainful employment.
The reality is that it’s extremely unlikey for a business owner to intentionally create a negative environment. On some level, I incorrectly saw the organisation’s dysfunctions as the product of malicious intent.
Using Lencioni’s framework, I have been able to reframe my working experience in a less biased light. I no longer feel the same resentment that I held before this reflection.
I’m now more confident that I could recognise when my own behaviour might contribute to dysfunction in a team, and to a toxic environment.
BERNTHAL, P. 1998. ‘A Survey of Trust in the Workplace’, Development Dimensions International, pp. 1–5.
HEARN, S. 2017. ‘Addressing Conflict Avoidance in the Workplace’. Clear Review [online]. Available at: https://www.clearreview.com/conflict-avoidance-destroys-work-culture/ [accessed 23/08/2021].
LENCIONI, P.M. 2002. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable. 1st edn. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 187-190.
O’HARA, C. 2014. ‘Proven Ways to Earn Your Employees’ Trust’. Harvard Business Review [online]. Available at: https://hbr.org/2014/06/proven-ways-to-earn-your-employees-trust [accessed 23/08/2021].
PARKER, A. ca. 2020. ‘GDD730 Week 3 – Dysfunctions of a team online lecture’. Falmouth University [online]. Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/913/pages/week-3-the-dysfunctions-of-teams [accessed 23/08/2021].
TUCKMAN, B.W. & JENSEN, M.A.C. 1977. ‘Stages of small-group development revisited’. Group & Organization Studies, 2(4), 419-427.