How to Turn Difficult Employees into Team Players

turn difficult employees into team players

It happens to the best of teams. It happens to the best of businesses.

Despite your best efforts, there’s that one person who just loves to cause a ruckus.

Yes, it’s a taboo subject. But this is a safe place – here you can be honest with us in admitting that, at some point in our career, we’ve all dealt with somewhat of a “difficult” teammate or employee. Someone who, for whatever reason, simply rocks the boat and/or rubs people up the wrong way. Someone who simply hasn’t heard – or chooses to ignore – the age-old adage about there being no I in team…

Well, if there was one, they’d find it. We’ve all worked with these people – perhaps even, in the wrong job, been this person ourselves. But from a manager’s perspective, the issue is this:

Sometimes those same people are really, REALLY good at their jobs.

So, as an employer, what are you to do?

The answer is simple: turn them around.

There’s a team player inside of everyone, I’m almost certain of it. But bringing them to the surface… Well, that’s the tricky part.

To turn difficult employees into team players is for sure a challenge. It’s a process of first, getting to know them far better than you do at the moment. Understand what makes them tick; where their motivation derives from. Why it is that they act the way they do, why they struggle to form relationships with their colleagues. It’s a case of appreciating the characteristics they do have, and working on the attributes they perhaps lack.

Is this individual overly territorial around their work, which can make other staff uncomfortable? Are they playing the wise guy in an attempt to bolster or prove their worth in the workplace? Are they bringing the team down with an ever-pessimistic attitude, or by regularly playing the victim? If you answered yes to any of the above, the question then becomes this: where do these actions stem from?

It’s on you as their leader to identify why things are happening and, through careful management, unceasing patience and subtle guidance, to bring them around to a new way of thinking. At least, a new way of presenting in the workplace. With the right encouragement and understanding from higher up, you could be pleasantly surprised at how an employee who you formerly considered a little more difficult than their peers can truly come into their own.

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

But it also doesn’t have to be that hard. The truth is, it’s as important to know when to admit that enough is enough, that this person isn’t perhaps contributing to your company culture in the way that you’d like, and to part ways with professionalism, grace, and well wishes. Importantly, there’s something to be learnt from everyone we encounter in the workplace – and that’s something to celebrate. To every cloud, there’s a silver lining.

One thing you can’t afford is for that person’s attitude or ethos to affect, usually with detriment, the rest of your team’s performance. In fact, forget performance – this is about their enjoyment at work. It’s about building a cohesive team who have one another’s backs. Who work towards an aligned goal. Who work hard to achieve success, together.

If there’s someone on your team who isn’t promoting that same culture as a priority, it’s high time you took a closer look.

It’s somewhat of a taboo subject, sure, but one which we can all relate to from one time or another. What advice would you give around proactively managing difficult employees? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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