4 Effective & Useful Way to Deal with Difficult Team Members


You’re looking right in the eyes of the redneck of the team. He’s been making your work life a living hell and you have no clue how to deal with this guy. He’s the best performer you +9 have had, but the work is finally breaking his cool and he’s breathing it all down your throat. There’s something that you need to do to calm off the situation. You have no idea what will make this guy just stop in his tracks and concentrate on the vision you have for your project. There’s blood boiling scenes and frustration and a lot of pent up anger.

You know that this is detrimental to your project and you know that this can have far reaching effects on the health of your project and the team members as well. You need to find a solution and you need to find it now.

In this article, we will look at some of the main reasons why your team members can be a menace to the team and your project, how this can be resolved by a single link of connectivity, and steps in order to make your team stronger than it ever has been. Let’s learn together how to deal with that difficult team member.

Causes Your Team Members to Be Hard to Deal With

We always attribute difficult team members with the difficult times they are facing in their personal or professional lives. They are those individuals who currently lack the emotional quotient we’d find in motivated and dedicated individuals who have a healthy mindset and a goal to achieve in their careers. But, most often, we also ignore the many facts that can as well contribute to your team members going rabid or in contrast, your team members going all mum and they might just not open up at all causing a lot of hindrance. I am sure these aren’t the personalities you selected when they came up for their interviews. It’s surely a phase that has overcome them in a single blow and has left them fending for themselves in many ways or means possible.

difficult team members

After consistently studying such individuals in my workplace and referring to many case studies published in the world of psychology, I’ve come to the conclusion that following list encompasses the reasons we have to deal with difficult team members:

Based on these reasons, these difficult team members are categorized into 9 types. Let’s have a look at these difficult team members:

  1. The Quiet One – This kind of difficult members are the quiet ones and this quietness can surely affect you and your team. Not that these individuals are underperformers or anything, it can be quite concerning if they aren’t there to contribute effectively. Think of them as a ticking time bomb; detrimental when they explode.
  1. The Ghost – You have surely encountered these individuals either in your own team or another team in the department. These difficult team members are often off-site, normally at home, missing from every important meeting or discussion. They call in sick or having important personal works many more times than an average sick person does. With sick leaves and no continuity of work, it can be hazardous for your team’s work or even for your plans.
  1. The High Performer – To watch an individual who is actually performing consistently and who is always at the top spot can be demotivating to others who have now started to feel that there’s never a chance for them. This perspective doesn’t normally look at high performers as the difficult team members, but nonetheless, this situation can surely be a challenging situation for you to tackle. It’s important that you switch to coaching mode and let your difficult team members know that everyone has a different pace within the organization and it’s only through hard-work that you can achieve what you want to.
  1. The Lost – These individuals don’t seem to fit into the new role that the organization has created. These difficult team members are mostly lost and they don’t seem any way out. Sometimes, they can start cribbing and even throw other team members in frenzy.
  1. The Argumentative One – This individual has always a problem with everything that takes place or with the changes that are taking place. This difficult team members person are very much vocal about their issues and problems they face. They seem to love to argue to show dominance in the team.
  1. The Devil’s Advocate – This individual can very well throw and dictate the path of the conversation at a meeting or gathering. Normally a crowd-puller, the devil’s advocate can fill in your mind and can steer you off course.
  1. The Aggressive Dominator – This individual will always consider themselves to be your second-in-command. They don’t really value the comradeship of their peers and colleagues but are always the ones seeking complete authority and command. They are leaders among their little work units and are often aggressive individuals who know how to get their work done by force.
  1. The Not-so-Serious One – The joker in the team, this type of difficult team members is always poking fun and isn’t too serious about the things that are happening in the office. Though we’d love team members to be jovial and fun to be with, an overdose can pull their focus off work and disrupt the work of others as well.
  1. The Attention Seeker – The jack of all trades, the spotlight baby, these individuals love it when the lights are all over them. They love the attention they gain through their various stunts and these stunts may not just be the high performance bit, but can also be infamous events.

If you can relate to any of these categories or you have a team member that fits the bill, this article needs to be further read by you.

Effects of Difficult Team Members

When you have even a single difficult team member, I am sure by now you have plans going kaput or a constant excuse on your lips for not completing a particular task at the scheduled time and date. It’s very important that you take care of this situation as soon as possible and not let it aggravate to the extent that it affects the proceedings of the project or the work in your team. This can often affect the other team members and throw them off course from their jobs.


With difficult team members, the team leader should at all times try and curb the effects that are brought upon the team by them. But, what can these difficult team members really bring to the table? Yes, they surely can bring a lot. They can:

  • Difficult team members can refrain from contributing to objectives of the team
  • Difficult team members can spread the negativity within the team
  • Difficult team members can dissuade team members from contributing to the project or job
  • Difficult team members can disconnect the team from the virtue of teamwork
  • Difficult team members bring about bitterness and fights among team members
  • Difficult team members can impact the smoothing functioning of the team
  • Difficult team members can throw your plans off-track
  • Difficult team members can Push the cost and timelines of the project

Some of these difficult team members can be extremely detrimental to the entire plan your business has for your department. It can even contribute to your loss of prestigious awards that are doing the rounds.

Communication – The Key Problem Solver

Amidst all your worries and anxieties and those palpitations you go through when you’re faced with a problematic child in your team, it’s good to know that though these problems are bogging you down, you have Communication to the rescue! Communication has, over eons, proved to be the perfect connecting tool for humans to spread their ideas, their views, and their ideologies. This communication became a great bridge to resolve any kinds of problems and issues that crop up.

wh question

When you are dealing with difficult team members, it’s only through communication that you can move a step ahead and resolve the differences that lie in between you and your team member. Let’s take the causes that we discussed that are prompting difficult team members to put forth a difficult situation at work and we will look at how communication can broadly manage these causes:

  • Lack of motivation – Words of encouragement and support can elevate moods and can bring back lost difficult team members.
  • Stress at work or at home – One-on-one meetings with difficult team members on a regular basis is a good form of communication to advocate and advise team members on their take with regard to stressful situations.
  • Lack of additional responsibilities bestowed on them – Through communication, you can make sure that you coach your difficult team members of the responsibilities the organization has conferred on them and how they can grow and when.
  • Their skill sets don’t match the evolving role – Check their performances through reports and other forms of communication and find out ways to help them realize how difficult team members can support the organization or find a place where their skill sets can be magnified.
  • No support from boss – If you’re the boss, ensure that you communicate with your team members on a regular basis and ensure that you’re approachable to them when they need to talk.
  • Reached the limits of their capabilities – Again one-on-one meetings can help you out.
  • Constant disagreements with another personality in the teamConflict management has its basis in communication and you will have to resort to conflict management to get the best out of your team members.
  • Overly-optimistic view of themselves – Toning this view through communication is your only medium to get people to look at the other side of things.
  • Non-receptiveness to negative feedbackEffective communication is a must here and negative feedback needs to be belted out correctly. For an insight into rendering negative feedback, check out this article.

Effective Steps to Deal With Difficult Team Members

We understand the importance of teamwork, and how even if one person isn’t in sync with the team, there can be a collapse in the structure. As team leaders and project managers, we have to be that link that corrects the situations and helps our department and teams to complete the company objective.

In this section, we’ll look at 4 successful steps that will help you deal systematically with the difficult team members you encounter in your team.

  1. Understand That There’s a Problem

If there’s some problem, it shows. And, if it shows, you need to accept that it’s a problem that you need to solve. Understand that there’s a problem. You need not be afraid of resolving conflicts between you and your team members or even between your team members. Team issues need to be resolved as soon as possible and to do that, you need to acknowledge that there’s a problem. This way you’ll gear onto a problem-solving mode and you will be able to effectively deal with difficult team members.

  1. Sit Them Down and Let Them Know of Different Behaviors

Once you acknowledge that there’s a problem, you will know the target audience for your one-on-one meeting. Sit down with your team member and strike a good conversation with them. Try and allow them to let the cat out of the bag. Ask them questions that will enable them to trust you and let their problems in front so that you can help them out of their troubles. Let them know of the behaviors they are projecting and how it’s affecting the work and the team. This way they will know what role they play in the design of the big picture. You will even enable your own project to be successful and your prestige to be intact.

  1. Arrive at the Solution

Once you know of the problem and you have the confidence of your team member, you can now think together and come to a conclusion on the same table. Ask them for a commitment to move towards improvement and you both can arrive at a solution and measure of success. The solution should be agreed upon by you and your team member.


  1. Make Action Plans and Hold Them Accountable

Let your difficult team members know that they will be held accountable for their behaviors and they will have to give in their all when it comes to the action plans. Hold them accountable for the things that are supposed to be undertaken. Check the far reaches of the problem and if it pertains to the entire team, you might want to involve the team as well in the solution and the action plans.

You should know that one solution won’t fit every circumstance and situation. As managers and team leaders, it’s important that you help your difficult team members of the best course of action and what needs to be changed at the right time and place. These changes rest in your hands and it’s you who can make the difference. All the best with your endeavor and there’s no problem too big that can’t be resolved.

Recommended Article

Here are some articles that will help you to get more detail about the Difficult Team Members so just go through the link.

  1. How to Present Negative Feedback to Your Team Member?
  2. How to Improve Group Dynamics for Teams?
  3. 10 Best Things You Must Know About Team Building Techniques