Taking One From the Team: Seven Negative Roles And Behaviors That Undermine Team Performance

Along with the existence of positive and constructive team roles, negative and destructive agendas can emerge that undermine the ability of individual teams to function and perform adequately.

Negative and destructive roles emerge for a variety of reasons, including personal agendas, resistance to change, immaturity, and lack of motivation and/or team leadership and management.

One of a leader's major roles is to observe individual team members and watch for destructive and negative behaviors. When problems surface, they need to encourage the team to collectively recognize and handle them within the team environment. If this fails, it is up to leaders to take specific action with the offending individuals.

Leaders need to be watchful for the following negative roles and behaviors within their individual teams:


The aggressor criticizes everything said within the team environment, and is in effect an active naysayer. He or she has the ability to block the introduction of new ideas and concepts by minimizing and deflating the status of other team members and creating a sense of intimidation. If this behavior and role is not checked it will tend to decrease the team's overall motivation and subsequent member involvement.


The blocker is a dominant personality who automatically rejects the views and perspectives of others out of hand. This individual blocks the team's ability to brainstorm and discuss the merits of new concepts and ideas raised. Like the aggressor, this individual can be highly detrimental to the team effort as he or she intimidates individual members, limits their participation, and decreases overall team motivation and involvement.


The withdrawer holds back his or her personal participation and refuses to become active within the team environment. This individual focuses the team on his or her immature behavior and attempts to resolve the conflict and unrest it creates, which effectively limits the team's ability to make progress on problems and assigned projects.

Recognition Seeker

The recognition seeker looks for personal attention and in so doing monopolizes the discussion by continually asserting his or her personal ideas, suggestions, and viewpoints. The recognition seeker is also attempting to win the team over to his or her ideas and opinions. Unfortunately, this behavior minimizes other individual team members input, which hampers overall team participation, involvement, and motivation.

Topic Jumper

A topic jumper is unable to explore any specific topic in depth. He or she displays a short attention span and continually interrupts group discussions by attempting to change the subject. These continual interruptions diminish overall productivity by keeping team meetings off-focus.


The dominator displays threatening and bullying behavior within the team setting. This individual uses intimidating and minimizing behavior in an attempt to take over the team and control all discussions. The dominator will typically "hijack" the team by coercing it to pursue his or her personal agenda.

Devil's Advocate

While the devil's advocate in the sense of introducing different viewpoints into the team discussion is a positive team function, it can become a negative role when used to block team progress or consensus. In this regard, the devil's advocate is simply a naysayer that refuses to allow the team to move forward.

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. is the author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. He can be reached at 800-654-4935 or 715-342-1018.

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