What are the best ways to deal with difficult team members?

Managing a team means knowing how to use the qualities of each employee to achieve – and why not exceed – the objectives set by a company. But when difficult personalities in this team hamper collective work and interfere with understanding between colleagues, it is essential, as a manager, to take things in hand quickly! Between communication, project management and conflicts between team members, the role of a manager is rich in challenges.

So how do you create a good working atmosphere while optimizing results?

What are the secrets of good managers to maintain team cohesion, supervise and get the best out of each employee? Here are some answers for managing difficult personalities.

Hard to deal with personalities

Every business, and even every team, has its own set of personalities that are difficult to manage. By forcing the character traits or even caricaturing a little, we often find within a group: the rebel who does not pay much attention to the rules or to the hierarchy, the small leader who likes to speak loudly and be noticed, the latecomer, the shy one who does not express himself, typical profiles and different personalities that a manager will be able to find in his team during the talkative who loves to interrupt his interlocutors or the traditional know-it-all … So many his career. However, while the role of a manager is in no way to transform the personality of his employees, his main objectives must always be to support them in their professional development while maintaining the proper functioning and results of his team. So how do you effectively manage individualities and strong characters? How do you defuse conflicts between employees before team meetings turn into a settling of scores?

To manage a difficult team: focus on individualism

Because you don’t speak the same way to a sickly timid person and a loud talker, it is crucial for a manager to understand the personalities of all the members of his team. This is the first step for successful management!

The assessment or individual interview, annual or not, is also a good way to get to know each member of his team and identify his motivation levers. It is also an excellent way to take stock of current issues, the department’s action plan and to define specific objectives in line with management’s vision and strategy. Sometimes a negative mindset or a lack of involvement is the result of a lack of meaning in the work or a greater need for recognition. Providing training or new tools can also help regain the confidence of a less involved employee, re-motivate them and soothe a tense work environment.

Knowing your team allows you to adapt your communication and management methods to the profile of the employee you have in front of you.

Organization & discussion as keys to building an effective team

Depending on his possibilities and the requirements of each company, a manager may also choose to reorganize his department and review the role of the various team members so as to optimize the quality of work while enhancing the strengths of each. Some tasks can be entrusted to carefully chosen pairs: imagine Ms. Know-it-all working hand-to-hand with Mr. Indifferent or even Mr. Stress-Free accompanying the anxious eternal on a project. Assigning new roles can be an effective way to bring about changes that benefit everyone, re-motivate your team, foster cohesion and collective intelligence. A good collaboration between motivated personalities often generates new ideas!

Other arrangements are possible, such as setting up collaborative work tools or the brainstorming café, which allows employees to express themselves and managers to provide feedback on the work of each person but also on the team. This new form of meeting, less formal than a meeting, can also be an opportunity to involve team members more, encourage cohesion and make decisions specific to the proper functioning of the service.

Finally, in the event of a conflict between several employees, it is crucial that the manager take the time and behave as a real team leader and coach. He must react quickly, if possible proactively, and exercise authority so as not to allow a situation to escalate. Once the cause of the conflict has been clearly identified, each person concerned must have the opportunity to express themselves on the reasons for the conflict but also to propose their solutions even if it will ultimately be up to the manager to put in place an appropriate action plan. to solve the problem. When driving a team, it is crucial for the manager to behave as a leader, to set clear limits to be respected and to take distance from his emotions.

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Identify the situations at the source of difficult behavior

The behavior of a team is often the result of a situation: extra work, organizational changes, and unforeseen events … More than a spontaneous reaction, it is also a way of alerting your manager. Identifying what leads to problematic behavior is therefore an essential first step. As a difficult team needs factual and reasoned elements, good communication will then be essential. And if your management is the source of the problem, agree to question yourself and react to change the attitude of your team.

Listen to understand the feelings

Anger or feeling of insecurity due to restructuring, relationship problems with employees, stress induced by the hierarchy: daily professional life generates feelings that sometimes dictate behaviors that are complicated to manage, which can hinder work and the progress of projects. This is why listening to team members to understand their emotions in different situations is essential. This time allows you to explain, to give meaning or a new direction, to arrange certain responsibilities or to involve more. Listening to your team is respecting them; an essential first step in building trust.

Empower and involve your team

The best way to make your team members positive is to empower them by involving them in the choices concerning their operational sphere. The idea? Give more meaning to their function, while allowing them to understand and accept situations that may initially elicit negative reactions. Let them know all the relevant information and listen to their views, so that they feel taken into account.

Act as a leader

Managing a difficult team involves behaving like a true leader: by providing a framework, by demonstrating authority without being tyrannical, by being attentive and proactive. These qualities are all the more important in the event of conflict or harmful behavior. To achieve this, knowing how to gain height from events and distance from your feelings is necessary, and management training is proving to be very effective.

What posture to adopt in the face of a difficult employee?

In order to hope to resolve a conflict quickly and quickly regain the balance necessary for well-being at work and professional efficiency, you, as the responsible manager of your team, must act as soon as possible. However, you will take care not to let yourself be destabilized or contaminated by the behavior of this employee with difficult behavior.

You don’t need a psychology degree to do this. A minimum of common sense, composure and self-confidence – especially in your managerial posture – as well as a calm and constructive exchange / dialogue / listening will resolve many situations.

Beforehand, you will take care to check what was reported to you – if any – and note the facts allowing you to affirm that such or such attitude is problematic, as well as the consequences induced by this behavior.

Manage character incompatibilities to properly manage a difficult team

Taken individually, each of your employees is full of good will. But when it comes to working collectively, management difficulties arise. One cannot stand being crushed, while the other does not tolerate lax behavior. The leader profile wants to do everything very quickly, when the thoughtful personality will want to take the time to ask all the options to choose the best.

In this case, it is important that the personalities, however different they are, get to know and understand each other. If you detect real incompatibilities, it’s up to you to organize the team by focusing on the right complementarities.

Likewise, if the relationship problem concerns you (tensions between you and one of your employees), you will have to find alternative solutions in terms of communication and collaboration at work: more autonomy, a different management method, or even the integration of this employee into another team if the problems persist.


In conclusion, as we have understood, communication will be essential to recreate the link between managers and employees. We will therefore have to pay close attention to our management technique but also to our way of expressing ourselves.

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