How to Deal With Challenging Team Members – Part 1

As you manage your team, you sometimes have to deal with challenging team members. One type of challenging team member is the nonperforming team member.

This team member fails to “deliver the goods”. They’re expected to do a job and produce results, but they’re not. You must address their mediocre performance.

When dealing with a nonperforming team member, you must determine if the team member is “unable” or “unwilling” to perform the work. In fact, you must seek to find out if your team member is underperforming because they can’t perform the work (i.e. lack of ability) or refuses to perform the work (i.e. lack of willingness)—or both.

Because you know your team members, you can usually tell whether your nonperforming team member lacks ability or willingness (or both).

Lack of Ability

This team member is making an effort, but their efforts are unfruitful: they don’t produce expected results, either in quantity or quality.

This team member may simply need additional training and coaching. With a little training, they can acquire the required skills and increase their level of ability. This little push can put them back on track.

However, it’s possible that, despite your best efforts, they still can’t meet your productivity and quality standards. In this case, they may simply be unfit for the work you’re requiring of them. Perhaps you should consider assigning to them a new set of responsibilities.

In any event, maintaining the status quo doesn’t benefit anyone. It doesn’t benefit your nonperforming team member, who is trying hard, but can’t quite make it (not good for their self-esteem). It doesn’t help your team; other team members have to pick up the slack so that the team meets its targets. It doesn’t profit the organization, which isn’t getting the results they’re paying for.

Lack of Willingness

If you know your team member is able to perform the required work but refuses to carry out his duties, you may be dealing with a demotivated employee, who needs new challenges.

Perhaps the employee is simply going through a rough patch, and as result, their performance has tanked. Perhaps the employee tends to procrastinate, and thus, isn’t producing as much as they can—or should.

Whatever the reason, you must address the situation. Discuss with the team member their poor performance and explain to them the effects of their poor results (e.g. other members of the team must pick up the slack; the team isn’t meeting its goals; etc.).

As a leader, you’re responsible to keep your team engaged and motivated. If possible, try to reignite your team member’s passion for the work. However, make it clear that you expect them to remain professional and carry out their duties with excellence.

In some cases, you may need to devise a detailed improvement plan to help your team member get back on track. That improvement plan should outline the weekly (or daily; or whatever frequency makes sense in your context) targets they must hit. To ensure the plan is followed (and effective), meet regularly with the affected team member.

About The Author

Vladimir Elie

I help people learn and apply success principles and strategies so that they can get the results they want in life.