Project ManagementRisk Management

How to Deal with a Difficult Team Member

Some people are just pests, and if you are unlucky, you might find yourself managing one as part of your team on a project. This does not need to be the end of the world though. Maybe, just maybe, you can work with this person and squeeze out a positive outcome. In a post at Project Bliss, Leigh Espy discusses the steps you can take.

Pest Control

The first thing you have to do is actually acknowledge the problem exists. Pretending the problem is no big deal only grants the problem a license to fester. Take the person aside and discuss the issue in respectful language:

Focus on the behavior. Don’t use labels or blame. For example, say “You’ve missed the last three due dates” rather than saying “you’re lazy and incompetent.”

Let the team member know the impact that it has on the project or the team. “When the design document isn’t delivered on time, the developer can’t start her work on schedule.” Or “when you shoot down everyone’s idea in the meeting, people become discouraged and don’t want to share.”

And once you say these things, you must listen intently to how the person responds. You want to absorb his or her perspective on the issue and ideally learn something you did not know about the person before. Espy notes that, for instance, it could simply be that there has been a miscommunication about expectations. Bringing the problem to light and uncovering the failed communication underneath might be enough to remedy the situation.

If not, work with the person to build an agreed-upon solution to the problem. Then follow up over time to see if the person is holding up his or her end of the bargain with this solution. If the person really does improve—terrific. And if not, escalate the issue. Get specific about how the person’s performance is not up to snuff and hurting the team. Swat that pest hard.

You can view the original post here: http://projectbliss.net/difficult-team-member/

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