10 Toxic Traits of Bad Teams

Mike Nash
Mike Nash
October 19, 2022
10 Toxic Traits of Bad Teams

As in romance and with family, relationships at work greatly impact your well-being. Hundreds of studies confirm that healthy work relationships result in increased commitment levels, lowered job stress, and heightened perception of making a positive impact. Unfortunately, many toxic traits of “bad” teams are taken in stride, seen as commonplace, just “part of the job.” If any of the following rings true for your work team, it’s time for a detox:

  1. Poor Communication: Good communication is key in any relationship, and especially so in the workplace. It’s the river from which everything else flows. If your Slack game is slackin’ (or non-existent), teammates are siloed, and/or the boss is more like a ghost, it’s likely guaranteed this isn’t the only toxic trait here that’ll sound familiar.
  2. Lack of Trust: If no one is communicating with each other, trust is difficult to build. Yet, work isn’t done in a vacuum, and regardless of role, everyone relies on someone to get the job done. When trust is missing, productivity is suffering.
  3. Favoritism or Cliques: Maybe some trust exists…between certain chosen individuals. Nothing to dampen morale like watching a colleague receive special favoritism from peers or the manager day-in and day-out. You’d think with everyone being adults in the workplace, cliques would be left behind after graduation.
  4. Lack of Recognition: When communication and trust are lacking, there’s also a lack of accolades. Positive reinforcement is a necessity for motivation and awareness of a job well-done. Regular check-ins, like frequent 1:1s, are perfect opportunities for recognition, so make time to establish your own.
  5. Lack of Enthusiasm: It’s hard to be enthusiastic about what you’re doing when you’re stuck in a toxic quagmire. Take a moment and consider your teammates: does anyone exude a passion and liveliness, or is morale down in the pits?
  6. Fear of Failure: Your manager starts every meeting with, “Why aren’t we moving faster?” You get assigned annual performance goals and review them bi-annually. When the only motivation in place is a fear of failing, that’s not motivation at all
  7. Complaining: Perhaps there’s one type of communication amid your team: complaining. If it’s easier to commiserate with colleagues than to spark excitement about the current project, toxicity abounds. And idly complaining in private accomplishes nothing if it’s never brought to your manager’s attention or to the culprit. Also: Don’t be the guy complaining about your job on social media.
  8. Widespread Burnout: Turnover is a positive word when it’s preceded by “cherry” or “apple.” Not so much when we’re talking about your team. Like air pollution, toxicity in the workplace spreads and compounds, resulting in widespread burnout that’s hard to eradicate once it’s taken root. Vacations may temporarily solve the issue, unless of course…
  9. Poor Work-Life Balance is Encouraged: It’s lunchtime: where are you and your teammates going? If it’s straight to the fridge and right back to your desks, you have your first clue work-life balance is off kilter. Water cooler talk becomes more like drinking the Kool-Aid. Staying late, emails expected to be answered at all hours, and avoiding vacation time are all obvious toxic practices we’ve societally come to accept, but poor work-life balance appears in and is encouraged in many forms.
  10. Ethics Need Not Apply: Do you know your company’s values? Is there even a page dedicated to it on the website or employee handbook? This is an unfortunate oversight for many workplaces, even though it’s such a simple guiding light for team members. Beyond those specific to your org, standard values need to be present and, hate to break it to ya, but these ten toxic team traits are signs of ethical wrongdoing.

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