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Best Strategies To Manage Your Difficult Team or Family Members

Difficult team members can disrupt the work of the team due to several reasons. 

They can create a negative and toxic atmosphere within the team. Their behavior, such as constant complaining, criticism, or disrespect, can demotivate other team members and lower overall morale.

They often struggle with effective communication. They may be dismissive, argumentative, or unwilling to listen to others’ perspectives. This can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and breakdowns in collaboration, hindering the team’s ability to work cohesively.

Difficult team members typically struggle to build trust and establish positive relationships with their teammates. Other team members may become hesitant to share ideas, seek help, or collaborate with them. Their negative behavior can also create unnecessary conflicts and delays, impacting the overall productivity of the team. Constant exposure to negativity and conflict can create a toxic work environment, causing talented individuals to seek opportunities elsewhere or take frequent sick leaves to avoid stress.

That is why it is crucial to address and manage their behavior to ensure a harmonious and productive team dynamic. 

There can be several possible reasons behind difficult behavior in team members. When working with such a person, it is very important to understand what causes his bad behavior. The reasons can be multiple. Here is a list to consider (not exhaustive)

1. Personal Issues: Difficult behavior may stem from personal issues or challenges that team members are facing outside of work. These could include personal stress, health problems, financial difficulties, or relationship issues. These personal struggles can affect their mood, attitude, and behavior in the workplace.

2. Lack of Skills or Knowledge: Sometimes, difficult behavior can arise from a team member’s lack of necessary skills or knowledge to perform their tasks effectively. This can lead to frustration, insecurity, and defensive behavior, as they may feel inadequate or threatened by their peers.

3. Poor Work-Life Balance: When team members are overwhelmed with work or have an imbalance between their personal and professional lives, it can contribute to difficult behavior. Stress, exhaustion, and burnout can manifest as irritability, impatience, and negativity, impacting their interactions with colleagues.

4. Misalignment with Organizational Values or Goals: Difficult behavior may arise when team members feel disconnected from the organization’s values or goals. They may have differing opinions or conflicting priorities, leading to resistance, defiance, or a lack of cooperation with others.

5. Lack of Motivation or Engagement: When team members lack motivation or engagement in their work, they may exhibit difficult behavior as a form of disengagement. They may become apathetic, uncooperative, or resistant to change, which can disrupt team dynamics and hinder progress.

6. Past Negative Experiences: Difficult behavior can also stem from past negative experiences, such as previous conflicts, failures, or perceived injustices. These experiences may lead to a defensive or combative attitude, making it challenging to work collaboratively with others.

7. Personality Traits: Certain personality traits, such as being overly assertive, controlling, perfectionistic, or confrontational, can contribute to difficult behavior. These traits may make it difficult for team members to adapt to different working styles or compromise effectively.

In our school there was a mathematics teacher with a very difficult character. At one point, my class (age 13) came to a mutual intolerance that couldn’t be overlooked anymore. The pupils behaved worse and worse every day, and the teacher tightened the nuts. 

In the class reunion, they told me the teacher wasn’t fair to them, etc. Honestly, they were right. But… 

I told them about this teacher as a person, about her very hard life at home (she had three invalids in her family and she was the only person able to work). I tried to discover the humanity of my pupils, to make them understand that hurting a person in difficulty is not as good as they are.

You must try to make her smile, I said. Imagine how she feels when she’s already broken and offended, she comes to your class and she sees your angry faces? She does not create any good, in this situation. Try saying something nice to her. Oh, this dress fits her so much! Today, she looks so young! The fundamental thing is to be sincere, to tell the truth. Because if she understands that you are lying, she will become even worse than before. As would any of us.

I have to say that I didn’t say anything to this teacher. She didn’t know about the meeting, nor about the decision we made.

The next week, my pupils were having a blast. After each lesson, the whole class would come running to me and tell me what they said and how the teacher reacted. She has come to see this class not as enemies to be destroyed, but as good guys.

After a while the situation stabilized, the teacher was always harsh, but the class now saw it from another point of view. And we finished this year with good marks in mathematics. But I still hope that this lesson of humanity has served them in their lives.

Working with and managing difficult team members can have some positive aspects.

While managing difficult team members can be challenging, it presents opportunities for growth, improved team dynamics, and the development of valuable skills. By approaching these situations with a positive mindset and proactive strategies, you can turn challenges into opportunities for personal and professional development.

Dealing with difficult team members can be a learning opportunity for personal growth and development. It can help develop skills such as patience, empathy, conflict resolution, and effective communication. Managing difficult individuals can also enhance your leadership abilities and problem-solving skills.

By addressing and resolving conflicts, promoting open communication, and fostering a positive work environment, you can create a stronger and more cohesive team. This can enhance collaboration, trust, and overall team performance. You can become more adept at handling disagreements and finding solutions that benefit the entire team. These skills can be valuable in various aspects of professional and personal life.

Successfully managing difficult team members requires building trust and resilience. Navigating challenging situations can build the ability to handle future difficult individuals or situations more effectively.

Difficult team members may bring unique perspectives and ideas to the table. You can tap into their potential contributions and benefit from diverse viewpoints. This can lead to innovative solutions and improved decision-making within the team.

Managing difficult team members can provide an opportunity to develop leadership skills, even if you are not in a formal leadership position. It allows you to practice influencing and guiding others, setting boundaries, and fostering a positive team culture. These skills can be valuable for future leadership roles.

And you contribute to creating a positive work environment for yourself and others. A positive work environment promotes job satisfaction, employee well-being, and overall productivity. It can also attract and retain top talent within the team.

As we see, trying to create positivity in one’s workplace—whether it’s in a large factory or working from one’s home, also helps to elevate ourselves in our own personal development.

Finally, I’ll tell you a story. One of the Dalai Lamas (I do not remember which) was always accompanied by a monk who had a very bad temper. Nobody could stand it. There was no need to take him in tow, and many if not all complained that the Dalai Lama should send him away. But he used to say that this monk is his great teacher because he forces him to practice patience.

I don’t think modern life allows us to be so tolerant. In your opinion, is it possible to practice such patience at work? 

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