5 Causes of Dysfunctional Thinking

This week I encountered a situation that got me thinking on the topic of dysfunctional thinking. What is it, and what causes it?

We all have good intentions, but sometimes it’s our good intentions that prevent us from speaking up, educating others, debating, or making the best decision.

Here five challenges that can lead to an environment of dysfunctional thinking.

1. Catering to Whims

When we cater to whims, we miss opportunities to educate, lead up, or proceed with a plan or strategy. If your leader seems to be leaning toward a whim, ask them what the objective is and how it fits into the big picture. Brainstorm with them on how you can help them learn or accomplish what they want without getting distracted by everything shiny.

2. Moodiness

Yes, we all have bad days, but when every day is an emotional roller coaster, our teammates spend more time figuring out how to side step our moods or avoid upsetting us rather than focusing on doing their best work. I’ve learned the best solution to a bad mood is to focus less on my needs and focus more on being grateful and serving others.

3. Resistance to Change

When we resist change, we’re worried more about our own comfort than about what’s best for the future of our team and organization. We don’t have to love change, but we do have to be willing to consider new ways of doing things. Evolving in business isn’t a novelty; it’s a necessity for long-term survival.

4. Fear of Failure

This is one area where leaders can make a huge impact! Make “learning from mistakes” part of your organization’s culture. When employees fear failure, they don’t choose the best option. They choose the safest one. How do you react when one of your employees drops the ball or makes a mistake? Help them see how they can avoid the same mistake again by teaching them how they learn from it.

5. Group Think

The best decision is usually the result of input from several teammates, but only if those teammates are all thinking independently. When we discourage creativity or individual opinions, we end up settling for the path of least resistance. Every opinion or idea won’t be right, but you can strive to create an environment where every opinion and idea has value.

How do you combat dysfunctional thinking?


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  • Luke says:

    Linda, it seems that a lack of trust undergirds every problem on your list. I don’t think those would be as much of an issue if a culture of trust of peers and management was justified by the actions of those individuals. What are your thoughts on trust in an organization?

    • Linda Sasser says:

      Totally agree with you Luke! Trust is the foundation. It’s also very difficult to teach trust (although we will attempt it in our next webinar). We form our trust boundaries through life. Once an adult it’s difficult to change it if it’s never been present or if our trust got hurt.

      I do believe that as leaders it is our responsibility to step forward first by giving trust away. Yet many leaders believe that their trust must be earned. This can create a deadlock.

      Thanks for your comment!!!! You are definitely on the right track.