Team dynamics are often complicated and there are always one or two team members that are difficult to manage. Unfortunately, these people can bring down the entire team if the situation is not resolved. Fortunately, it’s not impossible to form a cohesive team, even with difficult personalities in the mix. Here are 8 strategies to manage difficult team members.

Recognize that there is a problem

Before you can address a problem, you need to recognize that there is a problem and that it’s having a negative effect on team dynamics. You look at the full picture and identify the problem behavior and the impact it’s having on the team. Once you’ve identified the problem, you need to resolve it as quickly as possible so that the team can get back to the business of doing business.

Identify the culprits

When you realize there’s a problem, you need to look at your team dynamic to identify the root cause. Sometimes it’s easy to spot the problem team member because they stick out like a sore thumb. But it’s not always obvious and you may have to dig a little deeper.Here are some of your potential problem team members,

  • The Quiet One – doesn’t contribute effectively and frustrates other team members.
  • The Ghost in the Team – doesn’t pitch up half the time.
  • The OverAchiever –focuses only on results, always has to be the best and is bad for team spirit.
  • The Lost Member – doesn’t fit in and is not comfortable in the team.
  • The Argumentative Type- picks fights to demonstrate their power.
  • The Devil’s Advocate -sees problems everywhere.
  • The Aggressor – bullies their teammates.
  • The Joker – can’t take anything seriously.
  • The Diva or Attention Seeker – hogs the spotlight.

You can have one or more of these types in your team and they can work together brilliantly, or it can be a total disaster if you don’t handle them correctly.

Tackle Problems Head On

Once you know there’s a problem and you’ve identified the culprit, don’t let things fester, and don’t be fooled into thinking it will sort itself out. Sit down with the problem team member, in private, and discuss their behavior. Highlight the impact it’s having on the team. The person may not even realize their behavior is detrimental so give concrete examples to demonstrate your point.  Help them understand and appreciate their position in the team and your expectations.

Take time to listen

Given the team member the opportunity to explain their side, and actively listen to what they’re saying.  This will give you helpful insight into the person’s perspective and enable you to get to the root of the problem.

Find a solution

Work together with the team member to come up with solutions that could improve team dynamics. By making them part of the process they will be more invested in the outcome and work harder to achieve success. Part of the solution should be measurable targets and not just vague suggestions.

Always be Professional

Once you’ve had a discussion with the team member give them time to apply the solution, and don’t undermine them by spreading gossip or making negative comments to other team members.


Once the plan is in place, keep an eye on the situation to ensure that there are visible improvements. Follow-up with the team member regularly and give constructive feedback. If you see positive changes, let them know immediately.

Know when to call it a day

If you’ve identified the problem correctly, had the discussion, and monitored the team member’s progress, and you still don’t see improvement, then it’s time to rethink your team as a whole. You might need to reshuffle and make some changes.

Managing difficult team members is challenging, but not impossible, and you have to do it properly if you want your team to be successful.

About the Author: Jocelyn Pick