Team Complexes: A Basic Introduction
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Team Complexes


A Team Complex is a team dynamic, a hidden force that operates within a team.

Whilst some team dynamics can help team performance, a team complex is a potential dysfunction. It can prevent a team from adapting, from responding appropriately to certain situations.

Relevant in certain situations

The presence of a team complex doesn't necessarily result in poor team performance, it depends on what the team needs to do to succeed.

If a team need to use a particular collective behaviour to succeed, and a team complex prevents them from using that behaviour or makes them use it inappropriately, then poor performance will likely result. The team complex acts in a similar way to a physical handicap for an athlete, it limits and inhibits performance.

However, if that behaviour is never a critical factor in team success, then the presence of the team complex may be irrelevant. In this case, the team complex acts more like an appendix - it may be present but it doesn't cause any problems.

A team complex is therefore relevant in certain types of situations, but not all.


A team complex could be considered as a form of GroupThink.

Most definitions of GroupThink say that it is a team dysfunction where individuals strive to conform to the prevailing thought processes or decisions within the group, at the expense of feelings of individual responsibility or personal views.

In fact, conforming to group decisions is a team dynamic that can make a positive contribution to team functioning. Good teamwork involves getting the right balance, or managing the tension between, collective and individual opinions.

This natural process becomes dysfunctional when the balance shifts so much towards group conformance that individual views/contributions are repressed.

The Sixteen Teamwork Complexes:

The Sixteen Teamwork Complexes, below, are derived from the rigid overuse or underuse of MTR-i team roles, which in turn are derived from Carl Jung's theory of psychological types.

Rigid underuse occurs when a particular team role becomes a "no go area". The team may be able to use many roles in the team, but this is one that they avoid even when it is appropriate to use it because of the situation they are in.

Rigid overuse occurs when a particular team role is used far too often, even in situations when it is inappropriate.

Some team complexes can involve both rigid overuse and rigid underuse. The team role becomes like a broken volume control on a radio, where it is either on or off: as the volume control is turned, the sound cuts in and out, going from very loud to very quiet, but never in between. That is, the team role is either overused or avoided, and the team are unable to use it at an appropriate 'volume' in-between.

Rigid UnderuseTeam Role
(Jungian function-attitude)
Rigid Overuse
The team works independently, not as a team
(extraverted Feeling)
Team members daren't disagree with each other
They try to do everything, not focusing on what's important
(introverted Feeling)
They are too wrapped up in their own cause
They are stuck in a rut, only doing what they've always done
(extraverted iNtuition)
They start too many initiatives without following through
They can't see outside their own box
(introverted iNtuition)
They are on a different planet to everyone else
They spend too much time thinking - everything will be done tomorrow
(extraverted Sensing)
They go at everything without stopping to think
They fail to recognise they haven't communicated with each other
(introverted Sensing)
They try to collect and keep too much information
Chaos results from an absence of proper organisation
(extraverted Thinking)
The rules are too important and the team is inflexible
They are unaware of consequences because they don't think things through logically
(introverted Thinking)
They spend all their time nitpicking each others' arguments

For a technical discussion of the relationship between these team roles and Jungian psychological theory, see our team complex explanation page.

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