How to Deal With Challenging Team Members – Part 2

As a leader, you must lead various team members, most of whom do just fine, most of the time. They perform their work on time, meet your standards of excellence, and get along with other members of the team.

However, sometimes, you have to deal with challenging team members. And how you deal with these team members tests your skill as a leader. This is where skillful leaders get to stand out. Most can navigate calm waters, but it takes a skillful captain to navigate troubled waters.

In the first post of this series, I addressed nonperforming team members: the person who doesn’t meet your team’s productivity and quality standards.
In this post, I address the uncollaborative team member(s). This is the team member(s) who doesn’t work well with the other team members.

A Collaborative Atmosphere

As the leader, it’s responsibility to create a team atmosphere that promotes collaboration between your team members. However, despite your best efforts, from time to time, you’ll have team members who refuse to collaborate with others. In most cases, personality clashes are the root cause of this.
In fact, when you investigate the issue, you’ll usually find that team members fail to collaborate because they can’t get along—at a personal level. For example, Paul doesn’t want to collaborate with Suzanne because she gets on his nerves, specifically because she has a “my-way-or-the-highway” attitude.

The Professional Playing Field

One of the things you must do is bring the uncollaborative team member(s) back on the professional playing field. That is, remind them to remain professional. And if collaborating is a requirement of the job, you make it clear to all team members, including the uncollaborative team member(s).

Remaining professional doesn’t require that team members become best buddies and go for coffee after work. It means team members perform their work to the best of our abilities and we remain respectful to the various stakeholders—at all times.


At times, you may need to act as a mediator to reconcile two team members who struggle to collaborate. In this case, make sure you listen attentively to both sides before issuing a verdict.

From my experience, rarely do you have one party 100% right and the other 100% wrong. Usually, both sides are right and wrong at the same time; it’s a misunderstanding.

As the mediator, you should strive to remain neutral as you assess the situation and aim to bridge the gap between the parties by reminding them of the team’s objectives and expressing your expectations clearly.

Individual Coaching

Also, you may need to provide feedback to individual team members to address specific behaviors that erode team spirit. As the leader, you define what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behaviors in your team. And when someone steps out of bounds, you must address it at an individual level by providing them feedback and coaching to help them improve.

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.