Have A Challenging Team Member? Switch Your Mindset with This Approach

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how to deal with or manage a difficult team member

We all have colleagues or team members with annoying traits; you know, the kind that we normally complain to our friends about over dinner. But something we often choose to forget is that we all have flaws, and a character flaw is a limitation or imperfection present in a person's character. There's a new way of thinking about these flaws that can improve the dynamic of your team: 


Switch the mindset


The flaws of a person's character are subjective and personal to the person doing the judging. What you perceive as a flaw, another could perceive as a positive.  Our flaws are just qualities that we all have, that are judged to be positive or negative based on a person’s perspective.  But that knowledge doesn’t really help us in the moment when Brenda across the office has a certain characteristic that really irritates you. To make a change as to how you see someone, it takes just a slight shift in thinking: flaws aren’t flaws, they’re really incompatibilities.


We often find it easier to judge someone for a flaw that we disapprove of than it is to make an effort to adapt to them. By taking complete responsibility for the judgments we cast and the actions we take, we can ultimately change our world and interactions.


If we change our mindset from “it is their fault that they are flawed” to “how can I use this quality to improve our relationship?”; our work lives can become a lot easier.


Related: The Easiest, No-Cost Activity Used to Build Team Connectedness


Understand that there's no perfect compatibility 


Let’s start with the obvious; we all have some team members that drive us bonkers. They have annoying habits and a unique way of doing things that are completely different from our own way.


First, we need to accept that not everyone is going to be compatible, especially not in a work environment. You hire people who will be good at a job and take compatibility into account, but you are never going to be perfectly compatible with your team. So when it comes to improving communications, efficiency and quality of work, we tend to look at what they are doing wrong and want to correct their behaviour. The thing is, as much as we may want to, we can’t control people and mold them to who we want them to be. 


Eliminate the negative construct 


Take a moment to think about the incompatibilities among your colleagues and teams. What really annoys you about them? Is it the way that Joe is long-winded when he communicates? Or how Amy interrupts her teammates without realizing it?


If someone has a quality that you perceive as a flaw (for example, they aren’t great at communicating about project status), you’ve already given up on any chance of improvement. If you perceive this quality as an incompatibility, then you open up the possibility for change and adaptation.  Remember, it may be that they are great at communicating, but they don’t communicate in the same way as you. By taking responsibility for your negative response, you allow the opportunity for you both to work on a form of feedback (or feedforward) that helps one another.


By eliminating the idea of flaws as a negative construct, you and your team member can work on creating a perfectly flowing team by encouraging them rather than criticizing. When team members feel like they are accepted for who they are while being coached on how to improve their behaviour, a much healthier work environment can exist.


Adjust as a leader


You have to include yourself in this, even as a leader there is a level of give-and-take, you need to understand and take responsibility for your incompatible habits.


If you're asking your employees to change for the needs of the team, you will also have to adjust. If you sit down with your team members and work on a way that is the best way for you both to communicate, you can have a blossoming relationship.


A good leader leads by example and with emotional intelligence, and that means growing as a person, getting better leadership skills and being open to the idea of change. If you treat your colleagues with respect and appreciation, they will work harder for you than anyone.


Related: Coaches’ Tips: Scaling and Adapting Leadership With Emotional Intelligence


By reimagining and understanding people’s “flaws”, we can build on our relationships. We have no control over any other person’s behaviour, only our reactions to them. Once we understand this and take complete responsibility for our reactions and inner judgments, we can use our mindset to foster positive changes. By offering a new approach and a give-and-take attitude that will benefit both parties, it will create an increase in collaboration, morale, and happiness for your team.


Is your team's dynamic turning toxic? Learn more about how to prevent toxic team cultures from our coach|sultants: 





About the Author

Jade Nyx

Jade Nyx is a qualified life coach living in North Devon in the United Kingdom who wants to make the step up to help you on your charge to make the world a better place. She specializes in self-love and body positivity. Leading from her own experiences and value, she tries to lead by example and encourage others to take a deep breath and plunge into the cold waters of embracing themselves, loving their bodies, and helping make their lives brighter, so that together, we can all make the world a better place.


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