Working With Difficult People

Sometimes, we have to work with difficult people. When a team member shows a bad attitude or does not put in real effort, social contagion may drag down a team’s morale and productivity. Team members pick up on subtle social cues from other people. Over time, if nothing is done, the problem may be more acute and prevalent. Here are some tips to keep in mind before things get worse (O’Hara, 2017):

Don’t judge the book by its cover.

Before assuming someone is a slacker, try to understand the root causes of a person’s behavior. It could be that the person is dealing with a stressful situation at home, or she is not sure how to best contribute to the team.


Word Bubbles

Start a dialogue and clarify individual and team mission.

Take the lead and make sure you’re not ostracizing the person.

Talk to the person in a less formal context (e.g., go for a coffee break together) and get to know them. Building a positive relationship helps foster a productive dialogue.

Revisit the team mission and clarify individual job tasks by reminding people what they should do in the team.




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Teamwork: An Open Access Practical Guide Copyright © 2020 by Andrew M. Clark; Lolin Martins-Crane; Mengqi Zhan; and Justin Dellinger T. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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