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Managing Team Members With Bad Attitudes

Working with a team has many benefits: different team members bring new ideas to the table, brainstorming together can lead to creative problem-solving, and work moves forward even if one team member is unavailable. But inevitably you’ll end up on a team with someone who brings a bad attitude to the table.

Maybe your problem team member takes credit for all of the team’s work. They might refuse to listen to others’ ideas, belittle other people on the team, or walk away in a huff every time there’s a disagreement. Whatever kind of bad attitude they have, it can bring down the whole team and drain everyone else’s motivation.

What can you do when one member of a team threatens to get in the way of everyone’s hard work? Here are a few tips on how to manage a team member with a bad attitude:

Empathize

It might seem counterintuitive (you definitely don’t agree with this person!) but expressing some empathy for their point of view might change your problem colleague’s outlook. For example, if they shoot down someone else’s idea, you can say, “You’re really worried that this idea won’t work. What do you suggest instead?” When someone feels like they’re being listened to, they might be more likely to listen to others.

Set Expectations

Rather than single out the one team member with a bad attitude (which can just make them feel hurt and resentful), get the whole team talking about expectations and ideal behavior when working together. Make a list at the beginning of every project; expectations could include things like “we listen to everyone’s ideas” or “we wait until a person is done before talking.”

Find Their Strength

Some people just aren’t cut out for teamwork. You can try to force your colleague into having a better attitude, but at some point, it might make more sense to let them do their own thing. Depending on their specific talents, you could assign them some important research or ask them to draft the team’s final report.


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