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I'm looking for an adjective that describes a group of people who don't get along, who work poorly together, who don't necessarily like each other. A word that means or implies interpersonal difficulties, but not ones that are impossible to overcome.

Example:

Several ____ coworkers caused the project to be delivered late.

Some words I've come across that I don't think fit:

  • Inharmonious: This is probably the closest, it just sounds very clunky. I wouldn't use it in everyday conversation. If I can't find anything else, this is probably what I will use.

  • Incompatible: This has a more absolute connotation that I want. If two things are incompatible, there is just no way around it.

  • Antagonistic: Close, but it doesn't convey the "interpersonal" part. If I said "several antagonistic coworkers," I'd be more inclined to think they were antagonizing someone outside of the specified group of coworkers.

  • 5
    Like oil and water, Bob and Joe are immiscible. – Dan Bron Dec 14 '16 at 18:57
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    Was it due to incompetence, tactical ploy, personality conflicts, "does not work well with others" or "does not participate"? The adjective for all of these is either (soon to be) unemployed or related (to the boss ;) – Mazura Dec 14 '16 at 23:00
  • It you didn't mind a phrase: team members who didn't gel caused ... – k1eran Dec 14 '16 at 23:14
  • There is nothing wrong with using antagonistic for this. – Ben Dec 15 '16 at 9:39
  • "a group of people who don't get along, who work poorly together, who don't necessarily like each other" are "mismatched", although tthat does not fit well with your example sentence. – Mawg Dec 15 '16 at 10:13

19 Answers 19

29

fractious

1(typically of children) irritable and quarrelsome: ‘they fight and squabble like fractious children’

1.1 (of a group or organization) difficult to control; unruly: ‘King Malcolm struggled to unite his fractious kingdom’

‘After going backwards at the election and losing ground in opinion polls since, Opposition MPs are cranky, fractious and looking for answers.’

Oxford Living Dictionaries, Fractious. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/fractious

Fractious can describe individual people, but more often describes a group or an organization.

  • 1
    I really like this one. Even if it's unfamiliar to listeners, its echoic similarity to words like fractured and fraction make it fairly intuitive that it would mean something like "not working together", and the connotations of childish irritability make it particularly damning for co-workers who ought to be cooperatively-working. It's also nice that it can apply to characteristics of an individual or to group dynamics. – 1006a Dec 14 '16 at 22:44
  • I like this because it's probably HR speak for, "All these people should be fired (not just the one that everyone says has a personality conflict)." – Mazura Dec 14 '16 at 23:10
30

I personally find the term over-used, but consider dysfunction or dysfunctional:

abnormal or unhealthy interpersonal behavior or interaction within a group

(link and definition from M-W).

It doesn't fit your example sentence, but a slight tweak gives:

Rampant dysfunction among the coworkers caused the project to be delivered late.

12

A common term for people who do work well with others is team-player. So you could say:

Several co-workers who are not team-players caused the project to be delivered late.

If you want a term that is less perjorative, then uncooperative is, perhaps, the most straightforward word to use:

Several uncooperative co-workers caused the project to be delivered late.

Another possibility is individualistic:

Several individualistic co-workers caused the project to be delivered late.

If you want a term that describes the group as a whole, then incohesiveness is possible:

Due to incohesiveness, the team delivered the project late.

Alternatively, you could put it the other way round, and use cohesion:

Due to lack of cohesion, the team delivered the project late

Finally, you could use uncollaborative, although this does not appear to be a dictionary word. The meaning, however, seems to be reasonably clear. See: Is “uncollaborative” a word?.

Several uncollaborative co-workers caused the project to be delivered late.

10

How about quarrelsome, intransigent, uncompromising, inflexible, or unyielding?

M-W:

quarrelsome: apt or disposed to quarrel in an often petty manner

intransigent: characterized by refusal to compromise or to abandon an extreme position or attitude : uncompromising

uncompromising: not making or accepting a compromise : making no concessions : inflexible, unyielding

inflexible: rigidly firm in will or purpose : unyielding

unyielding: characterized by firmness or obduracy; characterized by lack of softness or flexibility

Each of these common all too common traits results in interpersonal difficulties, but not ones that are (necessarily) impossible to overcome. They often end in the kind of failure you describe:

Several quarrelsome OR intransigent OR uncompromising OR inflexible OR unyielding coworkers caused the project to be delivered late.

6

While it would require a sentence reconstruction, the term at odds might fit

In conflict or at variance.

his behavior is at odds with the interests of the company

Oxford Dictionaries Online

You might try

Because several coworkers were at odds, the project was delivered late.

Often, but not always, the term suggests disagreement.

You also could consider disjointed

Lacking a coherent sequence or connection.

piecing together disjointed fragments of information

Oxford Dictionaries Online

The term is more often applied to systems or activities rather than people

Disjointed societies, systems, and activities are ones in which the different parts or elements are not as closely connected as they should be or as they used to be. ⇒ ...our increasingly fragmented and disjointed society.

Collins

6

Several toxic coworkers caused the project to be delivered late.

Search the web for "toxic people" and you will get the gist.

One humorous excerpt I found is:

Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people's buttons. Either way, they create unnecessary complexity, strife, and worst of all stress.

http://www.talentsmart.com/articles/How-Emotionally-Intelligent-People-Handle-Toxic-People-1028629190-p-1.html

6

You offer antagonistic, but have the objection that it could be an antagonism with people exterior to the group.

Then I'd suggest to add the adverb mutually, which will imply that two or more of the workers are at odds with one another within the group.

Several mutually antagonistic coworkers caused the project to be delivered late.

4

uncongenial, as defined by The Free Dictionary

uncongenial adjective

  1. Devoid of harmony and accord

  2. Not pleasant or agreeable

The OP rejected inharmonious as too clunky, and incompatible as too absolute. The attitudes of uncongenial colleagues towards each other can be improved by a skillful manager and a willingness to listen on everyone's part.

The source of the uncongeniality may be a small unconscious offence that has festered with time or it may be basic disagreements about non-work related topics. If it is a fundamental difference about the approach to the work, with no one willing to compromise, then you have incompatibility and the team is better broken up. If the OP's problem is how to deal with an uncongenial atmosphere at work, he might pose a question on https://workplace.stackexchange.com/

3

We may as well say:

Several disunited coworkers caused the project to be delivered late.

Macmillan:

disunited ADJECTIVE

not agreeing, or not working together to achieve a goal

Collins:

disunited graded adjective & adjective
If a group of people are disunited, there is disagreement and division among them.
⇒ ...an increasingly disunited party.

COBUILD Advanced English Dictionary. Copyright © Harper Collins Publishers

2

In Spanish, we often use the word Colaborador to describe a person who works selflessly as a team player.

In English, Collaborate does not seem to get used that often, probably because of the negative conotations still remaining after WWII.

However, in some workplaces, it is still used and the

...person that prohibits you and/or your team from making progress...

is called a Non-Collaborator. So perhaps you could say:

Several noncollaborative coworkers caused the project to be delivered late.

2

Several noncooperating coworkers caused the project to be delivered late.

Adjective noncooperating ‎(not comparable)
Etymology: non- +‎ cooperating.
Wictionary

Or rephrasing:
Several coworkers, who did not cooperate well, caused the project to be delivered late.

1

One possibility could be

incoherent

The physics meaning could be relevant here.

Several incoherent coworkers caused the project to be delivered late.

  • 1
    See how other users have included the relevant dictionary definitions in their answers. Please edit your answer to improve it. – NVZ Dec 15 '16 at 11:57
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    As a caution, if I saw this I'd assume the primary definition for incoherent and would think that the OP was saying that the project was delayed because the employees were unable to speak intelligibly (or communicate with each other, perhaps). ...or that they were semi-conscious... – A C Dec 15 '16 at 21:42
1

I would say clashing. But to be honest, I just got it from Thesaurus.com.

1

You could also say "A group of workers with bad synergy". Synergy is the added value of people working together opposed to when they'd all do the work individually. Sometimes this is illustrated with the formula '1 + 1 = 3'.

1

I would suggest the word divisive. It is, however, probably starting to get into the realm of being difficult to overcome, if not quite impossible. It also suggests a certain intent I believe, though I'm not sure that intent would necessarily extend to cooperative (or lack there-of) projects together.

0

I will suggest downhearted or dispirited because they are disheartened and unwilling to fight for the same end. Successful teamwork needs great communication, a good spirit and positive energy to reach the goal, as suggested on this page about teamwork by a UK consulting group.

  • These sound like adjectives that could describe individuals in the group, but not necessarily a group as a whole. Also the words don't imply interpersonal difficulties, which the OP specifies. – Katherine Lockwood Dec 15 '16 at 23:37
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A common term to describe a team in this state is storming.

0

It is possible to have a team full of harmony and positive emotions who still don't get anything done. Many answers seem to start using words indicating a struggle of some kind must be behind or indicative of things not getting done.

It could also be because of passivity, disinterest, apathy, different kinds of incompetence, lack of structure, planning, management et.c.

0

I would suggest

Several incompetent coworkers caused the project to be delivered late.

Incompetent is defined by the New Oxford American Dictionary as, "not having or showing the necessary skills to do something successfully." It's an adjective but can also be used as a noun in situations such as yours.

protected by user140086 Dec 16 '16 at 1:40

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