4 Problems that Destroy Teamwork (and How to Solve Them)

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. - Anonymous
Just as a chain is as strong as its weakest link, so a team is as strong as its weakest member.  A single problem member will have a dangerous effect on the strength of the entire team. Today, we will examine four dangerous problems that will greatly undermine your team's effectiveness.


Selfishness, or caring more your one’s self than for other, actually damages the interests of everyone in a team – include those of the selfish person. A team should function as a group working toward a common interest, but selfishness causes the team to splinter, as each individual strives toward what they sees as their interest. In this divided state, the “team” ceases to function as a cohesive unit, and little, if anything is accomplished.

Solution: Selflessness

Thankfully, the solution to this problem, if not easily implemented, is at least simple to understand. Each team member needs to put aside their own interests and work toward the goals of the team. If you are the selfish teammate, you can solve the problem by focusing on the team's goals rather than your own. When someone else is the selfish party, the solution is more difficult. If you can show the person that you care for them and their goals, you may be able to convince the teammate that they do not have to defend their own interests. If they still persist in thinking only of themselves, you may have to gently correct them or even request them to leave the team. Selfishness must be dealt with quickly because it spreads rapidly.


People exhibiting this problem perhaps do not believe that the team is accomplishing anything useful or would simply rather be somewhere else. Either way, their lack of interest will undermine the team’s effectiveness and potentially spread to other members.

Solution: Dedication

The solution to this passive problem is dedication. When building a team, try to find people who are passionate about the goal and who want to be on the team. If you have an uncommitted team member in your group, you can try to talk the problem over with them. Perhaps they feel ignored and unimportant and will gladly become a dedicate participant with a little encouragement. If they simply do not want to be on the team, your best choice might be to let them go and choose a new (dedicated) replacement member.


Competition is good, but too much competition within a team will destroy its ability to work as a unit. For example, teammates in the workplace who are competing for a promotion or raise may be tempted to try to look better than their teammates. This action will spread distrust, and the team will not be able to accomplish nearly as much as it could have in a trusting environment.

Solution: Collaboration

Collaboration will exponentially increase your team’s effectiveness. When team members end the internal contentions, the team will be prepared to successfully compete with other teams. If you, as the leader, see your team is failing to cooperate, call a team meeting and discuss the problem. Recognizing the problem is the first step to the solution. If possible, set a difficult, short-term goal that will involve the expertise of all the members. This will force your team to work together and will hopefully show them the advantage of collaboration.


While persistence to stand by the truth is a virtue, obstinate refusal to consider new ideas and methods is a major problem. For example, Napoleon once told a defeated opponent, “I will tell you the mistake you are always making. You draw up you plans the day before battle, when you do not yet know you adversary’s movements.” Team members who refuse to consider new processes and procedures will destroy the cohesiveness of a team.

Solution: Flexibility

While you need not (and should not) surrender your long-held ideas and opinions at the first sign of a new thought, good team players are willing to learn. If you are the one introducing a new idea, you should do it carefully and gently with the awareness that it will be difficult. Make it clear to your fellow teammates that you are not questioning them but rather a particular idea. By conquering these four team destroying problems, you can turn a group of individuals into an effective team. What team problems have you recognized? How have you solved them?