Five Ways to Turn Difficult Employees into Team Players

bigstock 129678386
bigstock 129678386

As soon as you read the title of this article, someone (or perhaps multiple individuals) may pop into your thoughts. Because we all have different personalities, varying backgrounds and unique opinions on how things should be done, we are bound to encounter problems with others in the workplace. As a manager, it is likely that you are currently overseeing at least one difficult employee.

While numerous strategies have been created to make it easier to work with challenging staff members, it can be unsatisfying to simply learn to tolerate difficult employees. Managers are responsible for the success of their teams, so it makes sense to want to help the entire team (including challenging staff members) thrive. How do you begin to achieve this goal? Here are five ways you can encourage difficult employees to become team players.

Schedule Regular One-to-One Meetings

Open, regular and honest communication is key to helping turn difficult employees into team players. When you schedule consistent one-to-one meetings with your entire team, you show your staff that you care. This is especially important for challenging employees, who may feel as if they aren’t being heard. As tempting as it may be, don’t postpone or cancel these meetings, as this can cause further frustration and a lack of trust.

Demonstrate Sensitivity

If you aren’t close with the difficult employee, you might not know the real reasons behind his or her challenging behavior. While it is important that all employees show respect and perform their duties, issues caused by difficult employees likely have a root cause. Did a close relative of the employee recently pass away? Are they struggling with mental health problems? Are there other serious issues the employee is experiencing? Be cognizant and sensitive of potential underlying problems.

Don’t Be Discouraged

Your efforts will not produce immediate results. In fact, they may not even produce results for weeks or months. That’s why it is essential to have realistic expectations when working with difficult employees. Helping challenging individuals in the workplace isn’t an easy task, but it is absolutely a worthwhile endeavor.

Create Opportunities for Teamwork

Need a project tackled quickly? Pair some of your top performers with challenging employees to create a real situation that demands teamwork. Repeated exposure to situations like these can help difficult employees build their teamwork skills and, ultimately, make them effective team players.

Foster a Positive Work Environment

Working in a positive environment has the potential to transform attitudes and performance. If your team environment is currently suffering, even the most dedicated staff members can lose motivation and become disengaged. Do everything you can to create an upbeat, focused and encouraging environment for your team.

Can All Difficult Employees Be Turned into Team Players?

The short answer to this is a definite no. Inevitably, some individuals will be resistant or possibly defiant to your efforts. Some people are going to remain stuck in their toxic behaviors, even with a highly effective manager as the team leader. However, your efforts and dedication have real power. With strategies like the ones listed above, you have the potential to transform low-performing, unmotivated and even insubordinate employees into team players.


About the author: Now working as a writer, Jackie Edwards started her career in human resources for a number of small businesses. She specialized for a time in handling workplace disputes and provided mediation for colleagues who were finding their working lives difficult due to any number of reasons, including stress at home or situations within the workplace that were tough to handle. After becoming a mom, Edwards refocused and decided to spend more time with her family. When she’s not writing, she volunteers for a number of local mental health charities.




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