Leading Difficult Team Members

D'HaitiHow do you handle leading difficult team members?  This is the question that some managers may be dealing with on a daily basis. Even after consulting with others and seeking guidance, you might still be dealing with the problem of a difficult team member who is affecting the productivity in your team or unit.

A CPA friend of mine has worked on teams before and is a great “people” person, relational, with empathy for people. He recently accepted a promotion into management and moved into his new leadership position, inheriting all the perfections and flaws that came with it.  Nonetheless, he was excited to make a difference and achieve new goals.

During the first of his management meetings, one of his team members sabotaged the meeting and was very discourteous.  The team prepared their statements for a write-up on the uncivil employee, which he thought would solve the problem.  Not long after, another incident surfaced of another team member violating the confidentiality of cases. A write-up was prepared on that team member. It soon became apparent that most of the veteran members on his team had had disciplinary actions in the past, but the prior management didn’t follow up with any actions to resolve the continuing problem with these employees.

The morale on the team was diminishing and productivity was dwindling.  I suggested that he request support from upper management to assist with the problem.  They advised him to seek an outside mentor to help him learn how to coach his team members.  With new insight, he attempted to work on building a constructive working relationship; however, the team member remained unwilling to be mentored or coached.

Not to be discouraged, he spent time seeking advice from tenured members in the office and raising any issues in management meetings.  He also started reading articles that offered leadership techniques and perspectives, like, 6 Ways to Become a Better Listener, and These 7 Motivational Navy SEAL Sayings Will Kick Your Butt into Gear.

In meetings with a mentor, he completed a “Personal Style Inventory” assessment to determine his personality style and began making adjustments in his management style and technique to deal better with his team members and colleagues. Last time we spoke, he told me his leadership role is a work in process, but he is adapting and learning each day to be a good example for his team members. I believe he’s going to become a leader others will follow if he continues his positive persistence.

Serge D’Haiti
Florida Department of Revenue