Dysfunctions and poor performance: A Look Beyond Labour Law in South Africa

In the realm of organizational performance, poor employee performance is a pervasive concern. While South Africa’s labour law delineates how employers can address such issues, it’s critical to understand that the root cause of poor performance may lie in areas outside the employees’ control or culpability. Before rushing into formalizing labour relations procedures, an investigation into the underlying causes of the dysfunction is warranted.

One of the most seminal works in this area is Patrick Lencioni’s model of team dysfunctions. Lencioni presents a five-pronged approach to identifying and addressing the sources of low performance. These dysfunctions, which may individually or collectively contribute to poor performance, are:

  1. Absence of Trust: Teams suffering from this dysfunction are unwilling to be vulnerable within the group. Team members are reluctant to admit mistakes, weaknesses or ask for help due to fear of ridicule or reprisal.
  1. Fear of Conflict: Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered, passionate debate about key issues, causing team members to avoid conflict, resulting in lack of participation or buy-in.
  1. Lack of Commitment: Without conflict, it’s difficult for team members to commit or buy-in to decisions, creating an environment where ambiguity prevails.
  1. Avoidance of Accountability: The lack of clear plans and goals leads to low standards and accountability. Without commitment, team members often hesitate to call out peers who fail to deliver on their promises.
  1. Inattention to Results: The ultimate dysfunction of a team is the tendency of members to care about something other than the collective goals of the group. When individuals aren’t held accountable, team status and ego can become more important than the team’s results.

By assessing these five dysfunctions within a team, organizations can identify areas that need attention and develop tailored strategies to improve performance. This process requires honesty, open communication, and a commitment to change from everyone involved.

The return on investment for addressing these underlying issues can be significant. Not only can it lead to improved performance, but it can also foster a more positive work environment, promote better communication, and increase employee satisfaction and retention.

Moreover, by addressing these issues before they escalate into more serious problems, organizations can avoid the need for more drastic measures, like formalizing labour relations procedures, which can be costly and time-consuming.

In conclusion, while the labour law in South Africa provides a framework for dealing with poor performance issues, it’s essential for employers to first consider the potential underlying causes of these issues. By applying models like Lencioni’s, organizations can proactively address dysfunctions, improving team performance and fostering a more effective, harmonious working environment.