My first dysfunctional team was a challenging, painful, character building (as my mom would call it) experience. It taught me many things (the hard way). It taught me about the importance of all being on the same page as a team. It taught me about how critical it is to have a trusting relationship with your boss.  It taught me about the cost of bringing work stress home.  But I learned something more important from my second dysfunctional team.

Why, you ask?

After six years with the organization, I left my first job because the team was dysfunctional.  I was convinced I could find another team with better alignment and a much healthier dynamic. As I interviewed at different places, I paid particular attention to the culture and the vibe I got from the team.  I had eight interviews each with two different organizations to make sure I was seeing the full picture. In the end, I chose to join the organization that offered the lowest paycheck, but the best team. I wasn’t making the same mistake twice!

The first couple of years were fantastic. But slowly, my second team became dysfunctional too.  We were merging teams, changing leaders, revising strategy, moving offices—doing all the things that stress people out and bring out the worst in them.  We saw passive behavior, aggressive behavior, passive-aggressive behavior, you name it.

I was in on the action as much as anyone.  I was aggressively pushing for the new world order, not taking enough time to consider (or to care) how the changes would affect people who had been working in the team for a long time.  I didn’t do enough to make personal connections in response to the gossip going on behind closed doors.  It was challenging, painful, and character building all over again.

And that’s when I realized that teams are hard. Making teams work takes effort. I could keep jumping from team to team; leaving once the honeymoon phase was over, or I could stay put and change this team for the better. I could change me for the better.

Eight years later, I’m still with that second team.  Some of the players have changed, but today it is one of the greatest groups of people one could ever hope to spend their days with.

Do you keep changing teams in hopes of finding a mythical happy land? Maybe instead of changing teams, it’s time to change your team.

Further Reading

10 Signs that your Dysfunctional Team is Getting Better

What to do if you’re Struggling with your Team

Are you Working with a Toxic Team?

Video: There’s No Big Secret to Improving Team Effectiveness