Leading Difficult Team Members

Personality clashes happen to the best of us, and sometimes we can just walk away. However, in a leadership role, you can’t just throw up your hands and give up. Successfully overcoming your negative responses to one of your staff requires strength and poise to rise above a riff with a team member. A leader can not risk losing focus on the company’s vision or mission due to conflict with an employee. Don Johnson’s Lion Taming gives tips on how to manage staff and work towards the same goal.

Here are some steps to resolve the inner turmoil of dealing with a difficult employee:

1. Identify the Problem:

What bothers you about the employee, and why do you not like working with them? You need to understand you can not change their personality or manners. You can, however, change your attitude by working to build positive interactions. Any disdain you have towards your team needs to be kept to yourself or expressed upward on the chain of command. If your staff sees or senses that you disfavor a member, this will create more extensive problems and blur objectives and goals.

2. Know Your Role:

As a leader, your role is to oversee the staff. You are not performing a job to make friends or compete in a popularity contest. Your business and personal life need to be separate. Having a small staff can create closeness and form bonds, but you also need to establish healthy boundaries as the leader. Setting clear expectations and demonstrating equal treatment amongst all employees sets the team up for success.

3. Act Professional:

Know your audience and always act professional and courteous. The old saying, “treat others how you wish to be treated,” needs to be on repeat in your head when dealing with a problematic employee. Show genuine concern and make time for all members of your team. Attempting to make a conscious effort for conversation will show your staff that you are human. If the difficult staff member does not engage, do not let it eat at you.

4. Work With the Team:

Sometimes, rolling up your sleeves and working side-by-side with your staff shows that you are not afraid to get your hands dirty. Together, the entire team can work in unison and accomplish great things. Taking challenging tasks on as a group can have a profound impact. Always be aware of the situation and environment and step in when the timing is suitable to be the most effective.

5. Avoid the Blame Game:

If the employee has bad habits or a bothersome personality, do not broadcast it to the staff. If any team member, or you as the leader, makes a mistake; don’t make anyone a scapegoat. As a leader, own up to your errors if the situation calls for it, but making an example out of someone only causes further damage.

Show your team every day that you value and appreciate them by making little gestures like saying thank you. When you communicate, set realistic expectations, and acknowledge accomplishments, large or small, your staff will be motivated. Rising above conflict and staying cool, calm, and collected, your team will move a mountain for you.

Updated from this Leadership blog post.