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Dysfunctional team meeting (what NOT to do)

Exercise for Employee Orientation: The Dysfunctional Team Meeting

Working in teams is a core element of the the workplace. This exercise is designed to initiate
discussion on Best (and Worst) Practices in team management and participation. Managers
should schedule an all-team meeting with enough time to work through this exercise, including
the debriefing questions at the end. If that is not possible, teams may complete the exercise
independently.
Set up
Ideally, the Manager and HR Director play themselves. If they are not available, assign their
roles to members of different teams.

Scene 1: The HR Director assigns the task

HR Director: The senior VP of Operations has just informed me (in very strong terms) that our 4th quarter
performance is being adversely impacted by poor teamwork within the IT department. S/he is scheduled to meet with our President/CEO, VP of Finance and VP of Sales in 30 minutes. S/he wants an answer to “how we plan to improve service team performance.” I just observed a meeting and took detailed notes on what I observed. I want this to be an accurate experience, so members of each team should take on roles in this I want you to walk through the meeting. Then, work in your teams to answer these questions [writes them on the board]
1. What is wrong with this team?
2. How can it be fixed?
3. What are Best Practices in teamwork?
I want workers from each team to take roles and read or act through the script in front of us all so you will have an accurate idea of what the meeting was like.

Scene 2: The group reads/acts the Dysfunctional Meeting

(See Dysfunctional Meeting script below.)

Scene 3: The teams work the task (8-10 min)

Manager: Work in your teams to answer the questions. You have 8 minutes.
Note for managers: It is essential that you actively facilitate the teamwork so participants have a positive
experience. Let them struggle to experience failure but not to the point of despair. Keep bringing them back to task. Remind them they are on a very tight deadline so the perfect complete solution is unlikely – they should be aiming for “good enough” and the core solution.

Facilitation Tips

Goal: to help participants figure out what is confusing them, or share and comment on a new idea,
or encourage a point of inquiry.
• Provide participants with strategies for arriving at solutions on their own, that they can use again when
face with similar problems on the job.
• Make participants aware of the strategies they are using
• Ask questions instead of providing answers

Script: The Dysfunctional Meeting

Setting: Meeting room in which employees are discussing a major deadline for their client. They’re sitting in front of a marker board.
Characters:
Shanti –most intelligent of the group but defers to authority
Suzanne –is domineering and condescending; takes credit for other people’s ideas
Rodney –middle level IT manager, group leader; doesn’t listen; interrupts
Neil –clowns around; doesn’t engage in the group
Tao –young, ambitious, has not learned the subtleties of when to speak and when to listen

The Meeting

Rodney: OK, everybody, let’s get to work. We have the client deadline coming up, and we don’t have
anything to show. So we’re going to sit in this room till we come up with some ideas.
Neil: (complaining) How long is this going to take? (He checks his cell phone)
Rodney: If it takes all day, we’re going to stay here and do it. I’m not going to take the heat from management just because you guys haven’t done the job.
Suzanne: Some of us have been doing the job. (Noises of disagreement from the others)
Shanti: (raises her hand, shyly) Why don’t we brainstorm – (Nobody listens – they’re still complaining)
Shanti: Suppose we list some tasks that need to be done and assign responsibilities. (She starts to get up – picks up marker)
Tao: (Gets up quickly and grabs another marker) I’ll do it! I have good handwriting!
Rodney: I don’t know – maybe that’s a waste of time. (Neil’s cell phone rings; he removes himself to talk)
Suzanne: (condescending) We’re never going to get anything done. I prefer to do my own work. That way I can be sure it will be done right.
Tao: (writes “1. Everybody shut up”)
Rodney: OK, we can try this. I don’t think it will work – but we’ll give it a shot. Who’s got an idea?
Suzanne: We should start with a review of the software configurations to be sure they’re current.
Tao: The place we should start is with a review of the firewall logs. (Writes what she says, not what Suzanne says)
Suzanne: No – we really should start with a review of the software. You’re the writer, Tao – you’re the one with good handwriting, so write what we tell you.
Tao: (writes “Software”)
(Neil joins the group again.)
Shanti: (raises hand) Perhaps we should –
Rodney: (interrupts) I think we need to review traffic logs.
Neil: I think we should break for margaritas.
Suzanne: Quit clowning, Neil. Why don’t you just go talk on your cell phone?
Rodney: Why don’t you give us an idea?
Neil: I’m keeping my ideas to myself. Some people in this group have been known to take credit for my ideas. Right, Suzanne?
Suzanne: I don’t know what you’re -
Rodney: (interrupts) I knew this wasn’t going to work.
Shanti: (raises her hand; speaks softly) Perhaps we should check the Help Desk logs to see what the complaints really are.
Suzanne: Check the Help Desk logs.
Tao: (writes “Review Help Desk logs”) I think the word is “Review.”
(Neil’s phone rings again. Everybody groans. He leaves the group.)
Rodney: This is a lot of work. You guys better plan to stay late and get it done.
Shanti: Shouldn’t we assign responsibilities?
Rodney: OK, I have another meeting. (Picks up his notebook) You guys work this out.
Suzanne: What happened to we? We are going to stay until –
Rodney: (interrupts) I’ll check back after my meeting. I hope you can get something done. (Shakes his head,
mumbling as he goes out.) What a lousy team!

Credits

Scriptwriters: Phyllis Gobbell, Nashville State Community College; Jane Ostrander, De Anza College
Advisors: Paul McConnell, Foothill College; Ruth Loring, Nashville State Tech Community College
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