Fri | Apr 3, 2020

Trevor E. S. Smith | How insecurity frustrates team dynamics, performance

Published:Sunday | May 12, 2019 | 12:07 AM

“My days are filled with disputes, distractions, and with people being disruptive. I desperately need to be in an environment in which my colleagues are cooperative, concerned and constructive.”

This cry is not unique in organisations. Many individuals spend the majority of their waking hours in toxic environments. Dysfunctional teams abound.

One root cause of dysfunctional teams is INSECURITY.

I want to examine three ways in which insecurity is manifested and how to address the problems it produces.


Insecurity is the companion of misunderstandings.

Individuals who feel insecure ‘hear’ through different filters. They put a negative spin on things. They listen from a mindset that expects unfavourable outcomes.

This drives a lack of trust and a tendency to be suspicious. That, in turn, causes confusion and produces conflicts that sap time and energy from the group.

Trust, empathy, and a desire to empower and encourage others are factors that underpin high-performance teams. Insecurity triggers emotions that undermine team cohesiveness.


Work to identify underlying issues that might be the source of frequent and unexplained misunderstandings. If insecurity is a candidate, then you need to invest time in extending reassurances. Demonstrate in concrete terms that the individual is in fact a valued member of the team.

Initiating conflict might really be a call for attention and a need to belong. Use that as a guide for how you should respond.


Sometimes insecurity plays out in the form of complaints of being unfairly treated or being disrespected.

This leads to at least two challenges. On the one hand, the ‘victim’ is distracted and becomes either immobilised or trapped in a state of low energy. Performance suffers.

On the other side, colleagues are mystified as to what is really happening and they become distracted.

Both sides take their eyes off the goal, and productivity and harmony take a nosedive.


Boosting self-esteem and extending well-meaning assurance and support is the antidote to victimhood.

It must be noted that the issue of insecurity may require time to be resolved. These feelings might be rooted in long-standing and ingrained self-esteem issues. A great deal of patience is required. Professional counselling may be required. Do your best not to make the situation worse. Be very careful with your communication and choice of words. Strive to be uplifting and empowering at all times.


Warning: The inner feelings of insecurity may be masked by faked dominance and even overt aggressiveness. You have to be careful to discern if such actions are not really a call for help.

Instead of withdrawing within themselves, some individuals lash out and actively display negative behaviour.

This may be dangerous and requires decisive action.


Do not ignore inappropriate, disruptive behaviour in the hope that it will simply go away. An intervention is required to indicate to the individual the implications of the behaviour and why it cannot be tolerated.

In some instances, professional counselling is needed and prompt action needs to be taken to provide it. Too often, these situations are left to fester with truly regrettable consequences.

- Trevor E. S. Smith/Success with People Academy. Email:


PS: Remember I will be hosting a conflict management workshop with counselling psychologist André Allen-Casey at the St Andrew Church of Christ, 77 Red Hills Road, at 6:30 p.m., on Sunday, May 26. Admission: FREE.