How to Manage Difficult Individual Contributors

By April 14, 2022 April 10th, 2023 Common Business Problems

Last Updated on April 10, 2023 by Dave Schoenbeck

It would be wonderful if every team worked well together on every project all the time. However, understand that that isn’t the reality of most groups learning to manage difficult individual contributors.

A wild horse depicts how to manage a difficult individual contributor

Whether remote or in-person, you must have an element of finesse and respect when handling difficult team members. As a manager, you have many tasks beyond managing individual contributors. Your role is to implement strategy, provide feedback, and grow the team to succeed.

Dealing with uncooperative team members should be swift and effective without being destructive or biased toward stakeholders. 

How should a leader provide direction and balance brilliance with team dynamics? Read on to learn how to manage difficult individual contributors.

How to Deal with a Non-team Player at Work

The team’s success starts with the individual and the company culture. 

Although it can be to your advantage to hire someone who is a little “weird” and thinks a little differently, it still needs to be the right hire, as I describe in my article 4.5 Reasons to Hire a Crazy Person

Sometimes you won’t know someone is problematic until they’re engrained in the role—or a significant life event that spills into their work life.

Remember, one bad apple can spoil morale and cause employee turnover. Here are a few tips from SHRM on how to manage difficult individual contributors:

  • Communicate: Be transparent and communicate clearly.
  • Plan ahead: Hire well and be prepared for a potential upset.
  • Stay calm: Show respect and be fair.

It is vital to remain non-reactive in a problematic situation. As the manager, people look to you for resolve and fairness. A calm approach fosters trust among the team, too.

How to Lead a Difficult Team

Small business owners and organizations might have one or multiple difficult employees. Forbes offers insight into how to manage difficult individual contributors. The article’s theme hits on the traits that make and develop good leaders—empathy, consistency, courage, and respect. We all grow through a healthy dose of adversity.

Learning how to manage difficult individual contributors will not happen overnight. At the start of your career, you will handle difficult people differently than at the end of your career. Why? Because you’re educated with experience.

If you nip destructive behaviors before they bloom into catastrophes, you’ve saved yourself and your company grief. However, dealing with the negative behavior before it sprouts too tall would be best. 

As you deal with a problematic subordinate, remember this is your time to show compassion and leadership to your entire team. Be an example of tolerance and strength if a contributor is challenging. Now is not the time to show preferential treatment for any team member—oddball or not. If handled correctly, you’ll command the respect of your team and peers. On the other hand, if you go too far, there is a chance that you may now be considered the problem employee.

Please fill out my contact form for a complimentary video call to learn how to manage difficult individual contributors.

Coach Dave


Dave Schoenbeck
Follow Dave