Skip to content

The Signs That Your Team is Dysfunctional

“Trust starts with trustworthy leadership. It must be built into the corporate culture.” – Barbara Brooks Kimmel

For decades, alarms have sounded about declining engagement in the workplace. Yet companies continue to struggle with toxic cultures, and the low productivity and unhappiness that go with them. Why is “culture” so difficult to improve? What makes so many good employees leave organizations?

Well, if you’ve ever been part of the team that’s dysfunctional, you’ll agree that the number one contributor to teams’ dysfunction is the Absence of Trust. Neuroscience has shown, in different studies, that almost everyone over six years old can cognitively forecast what someone is likely to do by putting themselves in the other’s shoes. This ability helps us understand how others will behave. But empathy gives us additional information about others; it tells us how another person is feeling, or is likely to feel, in various situations. This tells us why someone is doing something. Neuroscientists call oxytocin the moral brain chemical because when the brain releases it, we treat others well, like we would a family member. The oxytocin-stimulated empathy means if we were to hurt someone, we would share that person’s pain. Since we don’t like pain, empathy motivates appropriate social/moral behaviours. Human beings have highly developed empathy because it makes us more effective social beings. Prosocial behaviours like being trustworthy sustain us in communities of other people, including in organizations. As social creatures, we only survive in groups, so having the neurologic capacity for empathy and thereby an enhanced understanding of appropriate social behaviours has increased our likelihood of survival. But it gets even better than that: Oxytocin makes it feel good to be part of an organization.

When I help organizations on creating high-performance teams, I draw a lot from science – sociology, anthropology, cognitive psychology, neurology and of cause neuroscience. One of the major dysfunctions of a team is the Absence of Trust. What you find a lot of times is that people don’t trust each other in teams. They are not willing or able to be open with each other. They pretend that everything is okay and they are not prepared to show vulnerability to each other.

This means that meetings are boring, everyone is just nodding their heads and going through the motions and it leads to Artificial Harmony – pretending to be okay. Trust is, however, more than just being open with each other. It includes things like:

  • Reliability;
  • Acceptance;
  • Authenticity;
  • Self-orientation (the amount of focus there is on oneself) instead of others.

So, how trustworthy we are is dependent on how reliable we are; How accepting we are; How open we are; How authentic we are; and to what degree we are concerned with ourselves rather than the other person. Now, each of these components of trust can be improved if you want to. When there are low levels of trust in your team members, it leads to many other problems.

How do you know this team dysfunction is not a problem for your team? Well, you’ll know when:

  • People in your team are open with each other;
  • When they are doing what they said they would do;
  • When they are accepting of each other’s differences;
  • When they are being authentic; and
  • When they are thinking more about each other than themselves.

My NeuroTalks and NeuroTraining Programs – the ‘Veli Ndaba NeuroEngineering Leadership Effect’ #VNNLE, focuses on the Neuroscience of things like Psychological Safe Workplace, Peak-Performance Culture, Motivation, Workplace Culture,  etc which are the foundation of performance in the workplace. I help teams move from Ordinary Teams to NeuroTeams.

“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” – General Colin Powell

Do you have the Absence of Trust Dysfunction in Your Team? I’m certain do, let me help you resolve that situation!

Veli Ndaba is a NeuroEngineering Leadership Effect Speaker and Trainer, Brain Coach and Author of four books (You Are Born to Win, Your Dream is Calling You and SWITCH ON! And Set Your Soul On Fire!) and Newspaper Columnist. To book him to speak at your next event or to help you and your team unleash your greatness, contact him on, or +27 83 304 9773


Open chat
This is Veli`s office. How can we serve you today?