How To Deal With Difficult Team Members

problem-team-memberThere will be times in all businesses where the team are not in perfect harmony. Sometimes you’ll come across problem individuals who make things difficult for everyone, and if you don’t address them it can make your workspace an unpleasant environment, and reduce the efficiency of your business. Problem team members can come in many different forms – they can exhibit bullying behaviour towards one or more other workers, passive aggression, refusing to work, gossiping and turning people against each other, or simply being unpleasant to manage or work with. There are a number of steps to dealing with a problem team member, depending on how bad the problem is.

  1. Identify if the problem is the team member, or something wider. Problematic individuals can be caused by a deeper problem – poor management, feeling stressed or overworked, a difficult home life or feeling that they themselves are outcast in the team. Your first step should be to talk with the member who is giving you trouble – not an inquisition, just discussing how they feel about the job and what emotions they experience coming to work every day. You may be able to solve the problem immediately.
  2. Identify if the problem comes from yourself. When talking to the individual, they may be unwilling to point any blame at you. However mirroring behaviour is extremely common, and they may be picking up on cues from you. Pay attention to the way you speak to employees, whether you brow-beat or nitpick them, how often you compliment people and whether you are behaving in a way that might not be ideal for them to mimic or might make them feel stressed.
  3. Give them clear objectives and expectations. An unproductive team member may simply be unsure what they’re supposed to be doing, and a team member who makes jokes that make people feel uncomfortable may not realise that it’s inappropriate at your work space. Lay out guidelines and directions so that they understand what is expected of them.
  4. Talk to them. If you still can’t seem to make headway, it’s time to talk to this person about your concerns. It’s important to do this in a way that isn’t aggressive or condescending – mention that you’re concerned whether something is making them behave this way, and gently but firmly let them know what needs to change.
  5. Speak to HR. If you still see no improvement, it may be time to either move them to a different team or to let them go altogether. Although it’s hard to lose someone, there’s no value in keeping someone around who brings down the rest of the team.

Further reading:

A problem team member can ruin morale and create problems for all your other staff. Addressing the situation as soon as possible is essential for an efficient and healthy work environment.