12 Disadvantages of Teamwork in the Workplace

Updated on March 17, 2018
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UK born and educated, Paul currently splits his time between freelance writing and managing a junk collection franchise in Florida.

The merits of teamwork have been well discussed, as organizations increasingly adopt a more team-orientated approach. There can be downsides too. Some workers are ill-suited to teamwork, for instance, and conflicts can easily develop.
The merits of teamwork have been well discussed, as organizations increasingly adopt a more team-orientated approach. There can be downsides too. Some workers are ill-suited to teamwork, for instance, and conflicts can easily develop. | Source

In recent years, there has been a shift by many organizations away from individualism towards team-based structures. Teams can be very effective but there are also downsides to this approach. Examples of downsides include: processes taking longer with a team involved, conflicts arising due to personality clashes in some teams, and members blaming each other when something goes wrong.

Listed below in more detail are the twelve main disadvantages of teamwork in the workplace.

I never found a professional environment that made the production of plays efficient. Teamwork is demanded, but there are very few teams.

— David Rabe

1. Many processes can take much longer when there's a team involved. Much more coordination, work distribution, feedback, and general organization is needed in a team. This can end up costing more money, as well as time and resources. Decisions can also be harder to reach in a group situation.

2. In theory, the workload is shared out equally, but in practice, some people have a tendency to sit back and let others do the work in a team situation. As well as being inefficient, this can also breed resentment and lower morale for the whole team.

Infighting can render a team ineffective and negatively affect morale. Great care must be taken when putting together the team. How conflicts that develop within a team are dealt with is also very important.
Infighting can render a team ineffective and negatively affect morale. Great care must be taken when putting together the team. How conflicts that develop within a team are dealt with is also very important. | Source

3. Even if the team is perfectly balanced in regard to skill sets, personality clashes can develop over time. Conflicts can arise due to different styles or approaches, or because members of the team are competing with each other in an unhealthy way.

4. Some workers are much better at working on their own and don't fit well into a team environment. These people are happier and work more efficiently alone. They should be screened out at the interview stage, or given independent roles.

One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity, there ain't nothin' can beat teamwork.

— Edward Abbey

5. Some workers focus too much on the well being of the team and don't bring their own creative ideas to the table, resulting in less innovation and a lack of new ideas. Peer pressure can also make some workers suppress their own ideas for fear of "rocking the boat" or undermining a consensus.

6. A new individual worker can often hit the ground running, but a new team takes longer to organize and come together, both practically and socially. Sometimes delays are also caused because certain team members may need additional training to fulfill their role.

Working out who is at fault when something goes wrong can be difficult in a team situation and there is a real danger of members blaming each other. This puts  pressure on the team leader to keep the team together and minimize future errors.
Working out who is at fault when something goes wrong can be difficult in a team situation and there is a real danger of members blaming each other. This puts pressure on the team leader to keep the team together and minimize future errors. | Source

7. When something goes wrong, there can be a tendency for team members to blame each other. With an individual, it is usually quite clear when they have made a mistake, but with a team, it can be hard sometimes to work out where the fault actually occurred.

8. Because a team functions as a group with group responsibility, it can be difficult for managers to assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of individual members. If the team is successful, for instance, it may not be straightforward working out who contributed to making it happen.

The work of the individual still remains the spark that moves mankind ahead even more than teamwork.

— Igor Sikorsky

9. Communication skill levels need to be very high for a team to work effectively. In practice, communication breakdowns can be common, however, resulting in inefficiency and a lack of trust between team members.

10. It's difficult to run a team without having regular meetings, but meetings need to be effectively managed and organized. They always need to have a purpose and a goal or they can devolve into social gatherings.

It's difficult for a team to function without meetings. How effectively meetings are organized and conducted is therefore crucial to a team's effectiveness and efficiency. The team leader generally bears most but not  all responsibility.
It's difficult for a team to function without meetings. How effectively meetings are organized and conducted is therefore crucial to a team's effectiveness and efficiency. The team leader generally bears most but not all responsibility. | Source

11. As well as conflicts between individuals, teams can split into factions, where two or more sub-groups each have their own agenda and "poltical" positions. This situation can be difficult to resolve without dissolving the whole team and rebuilding afresh.

12. Team leaders play a disproportionately large role in the success or failure of a team. Overbearing or disorganized leaders can make the experience for members stressful or dysfunctional and render the team ineffective for the organization. Team leaders can also sometimes take sole credit for work that they didn't do, aggravating team members and presenting an inaccurate impression to senior management.

Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team.

— John C. Maxwell

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    © 2018 Paul Goodman

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      • UnnamedHarald profile image

        David Hunt 5 weeks ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

        These are valid points. Yes, teams CAN be effective, but I doubt they are in the majority. You didn't mention the A or S words-- Agile or Scrum, but these methodologies have been jumped on by management, partly because they generate numbers and allow micromanagement of the process from above without actually managing the project. Yes, I've spent a few years in team environments and on the odd occasion when a team performed exceptionally well, the individuals were "parceled" out to other teams to "infect" those teams with the proper behavior. Like as not, the individuals were dumbed down to their new team's level. You may detect a certain bias in my comment ;)

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