What is the psychology behind common failures

Team failure: 5 common causes + 4 effective tips against it

The collaboration should improve results and lead to success. Unfortunately, the result is often the opposite: team failure is a common problem in the workplace. An old German proverb already knows that many cooks spoil the broth. According to this principle, tasks should more often be done alone. But there is another way: team failure can be avoided. We explain the causes behind team failure, what goes wrong in teams and what you can do to prevent team failure ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Team Failure: Is It Better Alone?

Let's be honest: teamwork rarely works that well. Instead, there is silence, tactics and pacts, possibly even sabotaging and intriguing. A single hit and stab. With increasing competition in the workplace, team failure regularly occurs. It is not worked with, but against each other. True to the motto: Everyone is next to himself.

With so much team failure, the question arises: Is the constant collaboration overestimated? After all, Beethoven composed his symphonies all by himself and Schiller those ode to Joy definitely not written in a team. And yet: it often doesn't work without a functioning team. The following applies not only to team sports, but also to everyday work: No team, no win. It takes different know-how, the different skills and qualifications in interaction. Most projects cannot be mastered by one person alone. The goal must be to prevent team failure - not avoid teamwork.

The causes of team failure

Team failure seems to arise individually between those involved. But the US author Patrick Lencioni has worked out five elementary reasons for team failure in his book “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team”. Particularly dangerous: These causes of team failure do not simply co-exist, they are mutually reinforcing. The five malfunctions that trigger team failure are always up to date. They can be seen almost everywhere when teams have problems working together:

1. Lack of confidence

As soon as employees close themselves off and no longer allow closeness, they usually begin to hide mistakes, insecurities and weaknesses. Openness is therefore impossible - and without it, there can be no mutual trust. If there is a lack of mutual trust, nobody dares to ask the others for help. Instead, everyone is busy making their own weak points as invisible as possible so that they are not exploited by others.

2. Fear of conflict

If everyone in the team wants to avoid conflicts at all costs, in the end everyone treads on the spot. Instead of engaged discussions and controversial exchanges, from which mature concepts emerge, there is no feedback, no suggestions for improvement, no friction. Harmony is basically good, but a team also has to endure conflicts in order to be able to address undesirable developments.

3. Lack of commitment

If no honest exchange has taken place beforehand, in which everyone could contribute their own opinion and ideas, then no one will get involved in the decisions made afterwards. Open discussions are the humus on which commitment thrives. Without this there is at best obedience, but no commitment. Rather, an anti-attitude arises until the motivation sinks to zero.

4. Lack of responsibility

Point three also leads directly to point four: If the team members do not come to a binding agreement and identify with the decisions, no one will feel responsible for their implementation. In the worst case, some even begin to sabotage the decision - just to prove how bad it was (which is also true in terms of teamwork). Unfortunately, teams offer the perfect framework to avoid responsibility. The others can do it as well. In addition: Those who do not believe in the success of the team and do not trust the others are not interested in taking on responsibility.

5. Negligence towards the outcome

If nobody feels responsible, the goals are pursued negligently. Instead of a common goal, everyone ultimately only cares about their own advantage - starting with pure image creation through to individual enrichment. Personal goals are placed above the common goals. My salary, my position, my ego ... Everything is more important than the success of the team. In any case, the commitment to the product and the joy of work are gone.

Measures against team failure

Of course, these five points can also be turned around and formulated positively, motto: In order for teams to act together again and to pull together with commitment, they must ...

  • Gaining trust in one another.
  • Establish an open, fair discussion culture.
  • define common goals.
  • Get and take responsibility.
  • can foresee success and participate in it.

Another possibility are targeted exercises for team building. These strengthen the sense of togetherness and cohesion. No more selfishness, towards one for all.


You could say: companies need more do-gooders in the office. Do-gooders in the sense that they allow others to succeed, actively help them, and take back themselves. The US research team Jia Hu (University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana) and Robert C. Liden (University of Illinois, Chicago) came to this conclusion: If employees are particularly motivated to help their colleagues, then the degree increases Cooperation and team success at the same time. That works best when the task at hand requires strong interdependence and interaction.

Nice side effect: These people stay with their team longer and do not change employers so quickly. Here, companies and superiors can intervene in a targeted manner to subtly help the altruism in the team on the jumps. The researchers propose to smuggle in a type of Trojan horse. In other words, a team member who is clearly focused on supporting the others. That rubs off and also makes the others more selfless.


Who actually belongs to the team? When social psychologist Richard Hackman asked executives this question, there was disagreement. The answers ranged from five to 24 - in the same group. Under a head of department who doesn't count you on the team, your motivation shouldn't go sky high ...

An experiment at Montefiore Medical Center in New York shows that clear assignments prevent team failure and demonstrably make collaboration more successful. To do this, they compared two teams: one in normal work clothes, one in jerseys with shirt numbers. Sounds strange, but it actually had an effect. The group with the jerseys did much better, and a lot more instructions were given in it. In the office, you are still welcome to do without numbers on your back. But the experiment shows that clear assignments help a team - and maybe also that symbols can create identity and cohesion.

Background music

It doesn't have to be a highly complicated measure to prevent team failure. Sometimes it is enough to turn small controls. For example, fill your workforce with music classics such as Yellow Submarine, Brown eyed girl or Walking on Sunshine.

Team members are more helpful when listening to good mood music. This is what behaviorists at Cornell University want to have found out. If, on the other hand, they listen to heavy, dark music - heavy metal, for example - then they tend to focus on selfishness. In the comparison between happy music in the background and no sound at all, the good-mood sound also scores better. Cheerful music therefore improves teamwork and cooperation. And very important: It is significantly cheaper than expensive team building measures ...


Classically, all team members should be valued. Nobody feels left out like that. It also promotes a one-for-all-all-for-one mentality in which the team sees itself as a whole. Scientists from North Carolina State University have found out in an experiment, however, that it can be useful to highlight individual employees and to reward them with additional praise.

In your experiment you praised some particularly good individual performers. The other participants noticed that. Consequence: In the test groups in which one person was publicly lifted onto a pedestal, the others also tried harder. They emulated the nerd, oriented themselves to his approach and thereby improved themselves. The idea of ​​naming an employee of the month may be an option against this background.

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