Misaligned Teams: Tips on how to work through disengagement

Sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of a challenging situation where conflict has progressed to the point that the individuals involved are suffering. Even after you’ve tried to taken action steps toward harmony, the situation has only shown minimal to no progress. What should you do now? Often in situations like this, the contrast can run so deep that the team is on the brink of disengagement. What do we do when we are faced with a team member expressing negative behavior that is escalating to the disengagement of the whole group? 

Some possible angles to consider to take the best course of action: 

Could there be something else going on that might not have to do with the topics that are being brought up? From what you know, would you say this person’s way of “engaging” had to do with something else: His or her status in the group? A deep seated resentment because something happened in the past? Often the mis-alignment is not about the topic of the day, but about a fundamental dissatisfaction this person has with the group. 

A helpful method is to look for where there’s misalignment is to use our POM model.  Would you say this person is not aligned on the group’s purpose? The group’s outcomes? The group’s methods?  Or a combination of 2 or 3 of those?

It might be worth weighing the potential risk vs. potential reward for assessing the perceived alignment on purpose, outcomes, and methods and having a frank discussion with the individuals involved. I know the difficulty of this level of authenticity but the change that has the potential to take place is worth it. 

Some strategic initial 1on1 conversations might be in order to find out what’s really going on behind this person’s negative engagement. Watch for the initial blaming of things outside this person—it always starts off as someone else’s fault. That’s how we learn to rationalize things. It’s not until we are confronted with having to explain those resentments out loud that things loosen up. Sometimes, what people really need is simply to express. To express disappointment or feelings of being betrayed or overlooked. Sometimes, just an opportunity to express is all a person needs to get re-engaged. 

There is very likely something else going on beyond the discussion of the moment.  It could be around status and/or resentment. It’s difficult to say definitively because of the continued blatant unwillingness to engage.  If you are able to get to the root of the problem then theres a chance to redevelop engagement with the team. 

If the situation has progressed so far perhaps the best you can hope for is to use the experience as learning, and move on. However, often frank, open conversations will surface the potential for constructive conversations to take place.

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