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overuse and under-use of a team role

 


In team role theory, the principle of ‘adaptation’ is quite important.  To put it simply, individual team roles should be used when it is appropriate to use it.  To work out whether there may be evidence of a complex we ask:

Is it appropriate to use this team role in this situation?
Is the team role actually being used?

We then use the following table:

Good teamworkInappropriate Appropriate
Being UsedOveruse Valid use
Not being UsedValid non-useUnder-use

A team that is good at adapting will occupy the diagonal boxes from the bottom left to the top right.  When the role is appropriate, they use it; when the role is inappropriate, the team don’t use it.

When a team is affected by a team complex, they become unable to occupy one or both of these ‘good’ boxes.

Overuse Complex

An overuse complex is when the team use a role even when it is not appropriate to do so.

Overuse ComplexInappropriate Appropriate
Being UsedOveruse Valid use
Not being UsedValid non-useUnder-use

In this example, the team role is being used all the time, whether appropriate or not.  They are rigid in their use, unable to flex their behavioural style and use a different team role.

Under-use Complex

A second scenario is where the team seems to be unable to use the team role.

Under-use ComplexInappropriate Appropriate
Being UsedOveruse Valid use
Not being UsedValid non-useUnder-use

In this example, the team role is not being used at all.  They avoid using it.

Under-use and overuse Complexes

This may seem, at first, to be an oxymoron:  the team both overuse and under-use the team role:

Overuse and
Under-use Complexes
InappropriateAppropriate
Being UsedOveruse Valid use
Not being UsedValid non-useUnder-use

The team use the role when it is not appropriate, but fail to use it when it is appropriate.  There is both a rigidity and avoidance in its use.

This is a bit like having a dodgy volume control on an old radio.  As you turn it, the volume jumps from full-on to full-off and back again, it is difficult to find the ‘appropriate’ moderate volume in the middle.

Another, more extreme, analogy is that of someone with an eating or drinking disorder.  They are unable to eat or drink healthily, but they’ll go without food or drink for long periods and then binge.  They are not in control of their own behaviour, so lurch from one extreme to another.

Conclusion

Teams can sometimes have difficulty in using a team role appropriately.  They perhaps go from overusing a team role to under-using it and back again, without being able to operate in the middle.  They may work well as individuals, but when they come together as a team these dynamics take over and their use of team roles swings between rigid use and avoidance.

Complexes are unconscious dynamics.  This means that the team may not be aware of the problem.  Or, if they are aware of it, they are unable to identify why it happens.  Or perhaps they think they know why it happens, but put the blame firmly on someone other than themselves.  All these are characteristics of an unconscious team dynamic.

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©2007 Steve Myers. Copyright and trademark information