14 Signs – How To Recognize Dysfunctional Behavior at Work

dysfunctional behavior

Any type of dysfunction comes with a cost. It prevents employees from producing their best work, it impacts morale and can cause stress and illness. What does dysfunctional behavior look like in the workplace?

It doesn’t matter where you work, pretty much every work environment has some form of dysfunction. Often, the employers who believe they are the worst are the best and vice versa.

• Personal Problems
It’s difficult, but personal problems should be left at the front door. There will be times where it’s impossible to leave your problems at home, but it shouldn’t be a regular occurrence. Distractions like this overwhelm the workplace and it can have a knock-on effect.

• No Support
Everyone should be treated fairly in the workplace. Everyone deserves the same level o respect. If there are managers or colleagues who violate the basic principle of respect and support, then it creates a dysfunctional workplace.

• Playing Games
If there are people who hide resources, withhold information or just refuse to share their knowledge, then it’s dysfunctional behavior.

• Turf Wars
In a perfect world, we would all get on. The reality is much different. There are going to be people you do get on and those who don’t get on. That’s fine. However, if there are constant rifts, arguments, and mean-spirited competitions then this is detrimental dysfunctional behavior.

• Mood Swings
Mood swings that culminate in pouting or yelling is blatant dysfunctional behavior yet, so many employees engage in this and think it’s acceptable. It isn’t.

• Credit Takers
Certain people are guilty of taking credit for work they haven’t done. This is typical of those who will step on anyone to get ahead and those who suffer from low self-esteem. It might not seem like that big a deal, but it’s this type of dysfunctional behavior that can destroy even the strongest teams.

A low self-esteem may also drive someone to misrepresent their title or position. They’re too scared to take a risk and work toward that position, but they’re happy to pretend they’ve arrived.

• High Turnover
Employees who are happy and fulfilled don’t walk away from opportunities. If a workplace has a high labor turnover, then there’s dysfunction.

dysfunctional behavior

• Undeserved Promotions & Frequent Reorganizations
If the people who play games are getting promoted, it’s going to create resentment and damage respect. Likewise, reorganizations don’t engender trust. It breeds uncertainty.

• Backstabbing
If there is backstabbing, gossip, and a rumor mill in action, then it signifies dysfunctional behavior in the workplace.

• Preferential Treatment
If there’s one way to create dysfunction and cause strife in the workplace its preferential treatment. You might have favorites at work, but you can’t show it, no matter who you are.

• Prejudice
There’s no place for it, it should not be tolerated under any circumstances. If there is prejudice or bigotry going on in the workplace it has to be dealt with immediately. Allowing it to fester is feeding dysfunctional behaviors.

• Processes & Procedures
Processes and procedures make the workplace tick over like clockwork. If they aren’t in place, then it shows disorganization that stems from dysfunctional behavior. There is also danger in being inflexible with regards to processes and procedures.

• No Confidentiality
Nothing can ever be gained by violating confidentiality. If there is no confidentiality in the workplace, it signifies severe dysfunction.

• Bullying
This is a behavior that cannot be tolerated. If there is bullying in the workplace it must be dealt with it immediately. It symbolizes a much deeper issue and it has to be rooted out.

Creative Problem Solving For Your Daily Life

Problem-solving is a time-consuming process. It’s why we solve a lot of problems as we go before they’re really allowed to become serious problems. When a potential problem is identified in its earliest stages, a solution can be found and put into place to avoid the problem entirely.

That requires the ability to analyze the issue to find weaknesses that can be shored up. A savvy person recognizes that the best approach is to avoid the problem altogether. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible.

There are then two things you need to focus on.

One being early detection.

Two being creative problem-solving.

If you want to live and/or work in an environment that elevates creative problem-solving, then it’s up to you to create that environment. There are several ways that you can do this.

First of all, you have to create an environment of open and honest communication. People should feel free to approach you with a remedy when they come across a problem.

You should also be proactive in finding problems. Speak to people to find out potential problems are bubbling. This allows you plenty of time to find the root cause and therefore come up with a creative solution.

Often, problems reappear because we don’t treat the root cause, rather we focus on dealing with the symptoms that stem from that root cause. The root issue should always receive the focus of our attention.

dysfunctional behavior

Dysfunctional Behaviors As An Opportunity

Problems should always be viewed as an opportunity. A mistake isn’t the end, it’s progress. Why? It turns traditional problem-solving on its head and forces you to think more creatively. With creative problem-solving, you can progress matters. Practice techniques that will enable you to find the best solution from a list of good solutions.

Since you’ve created an open and honest line of communication with everyone, you can use those lines to communicate the ultimate solution. Share what the creative problem-solving solution is, share the process, show your work.

It starts with you. Share your goals and let people use your criteria list to bring you solutions to problems as they arise. If you allow everyone to play an active role, then you create an environment that generates creative problem-solving.

In the workplace, it makes employees more satisfied with their roles. They feel a part of the overall process, they feel like they’re more than just a job description.

Managers set their employee’s goals. They encourage action plans. What they don’t, but should encourage is creative problem-solving. If you come across a problem, you should seek to resolve it on your own. If it’s above your pay-grade, you should find a potential solution and take it to the powers that be.

If you’re in a position of power, then it’s up to you to gather insight from your employees. In marketing, focus groups bring customers together to sense-check their products before they bring them to market. Think of it in that sense.

Try again!

If a solution fails, you simply go again. Failure isn’t final, it’s just a little bump in the road. Ultimately, every mistake we make is progress of some kind and every problem we encounter is an opportunity to do better. Part of the creative problem-solving process is completely changing how we frame problems and solutions. It requires a radically different mindset.

The words that you choose influence how you and others view a problem. If you talk about coping with, minimizing or eliminating, then you still see a problem in traditional terms. If you talk about gaining, enhancing, maximizing or accomplishing, then you’re flipping it on its head and taking a positive view of the situation.

Love and success,


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