Dysfunctional Groups: Three kinds of work that strain employees

This is part four in a series that has considered factors that keep dysfunctional groups stuck Why Dysfunctional Groups Get Stuck

These include:

Today we look at the work itself.

    1. Difficult Customers. We found in conducting CREW that certain types of units were overly represented among those facing challenges with collegiality. They were units dealing with difficult clientele: emergency rooms and mental health units. ERs have a relatively high proportion of their interactions with people experiencing trauma and their concerned family members. Patients on inpatient mental health units often have behavioral control issues. Dealing with difficult customers is not limited to healthcare.

      A contentious interaction with clients has resonance. Intensity prompts intensity. Although employees maintain a calm demeanor when dealing with an aggressive client, the confrontation has an emotional impact. When employees respond in kind, that impact is even stronger.
    2. Impossible Demands. Some companies have systematically analyzed positions regarding the time, effort, and skill required for success. Other companies either never do the original analysis or ignore information indicating that they have greatly underestimated what’s required. Being in an impossible position is an immense strain on people, especially for dedicated individuals determined to do the right thing. When failing to meet all the requirements of the impossible position, they are likely to feel guilty and resentful. These feelings undermine solid collegial relationships.
    3. Value Conflicts. The experience of working contrary to their personal or professional values undermines employees’ connection with work. Dedication to the mission or to core values unites a workgroup. That dedication gives priority to what people share over what is separate. When employees lose a connection with core values or perceive the organization as lacking commitment to its stated values, things fall apart.

Challenging work can bring people together or force them apart. There are circumstances in which groups overcome extreme demand or challenging customers to attain impressive successes. The point here is that unless groups have resilience, leadership, and trust, they become more likely to turn on one another in tough situations.


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