Why Teams Fight and What to Do About It

Kangaroo fight

Image source

Nothing is more frustrating, from a leadership point of view, than a group of individuals circling each other like vultures. In-fighting wastes time, energy, and resources.

Incompetent leaders have teams who turn on each other.


Lack of focus invites conflict. Teams who don’t know what’s important can’t focus. Leaders focus teams by showing them what’s important, now. Focus generates energy, unleashes creativity, and fires urgency.

Personal agendas:

Everyone knows Mary wants her way because it makes her look good. She cares more for her career than the team’s success. Immature people think only of themselves. Mature managers manage for the benefit of others.

People, who need control or credit,
fight to get it and refuse to give it.

It’s time for a tough conversation. Reform or remove her. If you can’t remove her, make her insignificant to the team.

Naughty or nice:

Teams flounder when they don’t know how to fight nice. Advocating for ideas isn’t naughty until it becomes personal.

Naughty fighting focuses on people.
Nice fighting focuses on issues.

Naughty fighting is filled with “you.” But, blame and accusation never solve problems.

Past tense conversations never create the future.


Those who don’t fit, fight. Give team leaders a voice in forming the team.

Team formation establishes team potential.

High performers, who don’t fit, ruin teams. Creating fit:

  1. Identify purpose. Why are we here? Know who you are before identifying those who fit.
  2. Authorize teams to choose new members.
  3. Interview for team positions like you interview for new hires.
  4. Establish your code of conduct. How will you treat each other?

Will we interrupt each other during discussions?
What happens if someone is late or doesn’t follow through?
Will we have fun or be serious?
How will we solve disagreements?
What does candor look like?

Why do teams fight with each other?

How can leaders deal with conflict in the team?