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Dysfunctional Commitment

This post is from George Dinwiddie's blog by George Dinwiddie. Click here to see the original post in full.

Team commitment is a wonderful and sometimes fragile thing. Many responses to my description of it are indications of how frequently the word “commitment” is used in a dysfunctional manner. Indeed, the post was prompted by similar conversations.


Believe me, I’ve seen these dysfunctions many times. They are so numerous and varied that no catalog of them could be complete. It’s not the word, commitment, that causes the problems, however. And avoiding that word will not solve the problems. Instead, we have to look at the behavior and attitudes behind the problems in order to reliably recognize them and choose strategies for correcting them.


A common fundamental issue is distrust between managers and workers. If these two groups see themselves in opposition, rather than in alignment, then even the most well-intentioned statement may be taken poorly. This can engender a response that furthers the distrust. The reinforcing feedback cycle that results can drive a deep wedge between the two, and create persistent stereotypes.


When a healthy team looks at each other and asks themselves for mutual commitment, they’re committing to working together in trying to achieve a common goal. When someone off the team asks for a commitment, it no longer feels mutual. It feels like being asked...

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