What Should a Manager Do When Employees Are Not Team Players?
Handling Problem Employees
Several managers have relayed stories to us about their employees’ lack of commitment and support for teamwork. Sometimes the employees are relatively new to the organization. More often than not, the employees they are describing have been with the organization or the department for a long time. Either way, when employees do not display behaviors that promote teamwork, there is a problem and the manager needs to address the issue.
Team members do not have to like teamwork. They do not even have to believe that the formation of the team was a good idea. But team members are supposed to do everything that they can, in their particular job, to make the team successful. That is their job.
Recently, we came across an analogy from Price Pritchard, a Dallas-based consultant, which makes a lot of sense. Imagine how long a football player would last if he said something like this, “That sounds like a mighty stupid play to me. The coach is stupid. Why should I help run it? I am not gonna run and block on a play like this one. I am gonna wander over to the sidelines, get me a few sips of Gatorade, take a breather, and watch these other dummies try to score. I’ll go back in when they are running a play I like. They never told me when they signed me up they’d be running this play.”
This sounds absurd, but it is difficult to move a team forward when we have several players moving to the sidelines because they don’t like the manager’s, or the team’s, call. Players like this make it tough to run a business. We encourage managers and supervisors to take a stand and address employees who exhibit behaviors that do not support teamwork.
Using these six tips will help managers and supervisors make a difference in building a high performing team.
Pay close attention. Praise and recognize those members who exhibit positive behaviors that promote teamwork. We also encourage you to coach and counsel team members who exhibit behaviors that undermine teamwork. We do not see teamwork as an option. Managers desperately need each person’s support. Managers and supervisors need people to get on the team and support the team’s decisions.
Face reality! Many managers and supervisors, when they see behaviors that undermine teamwork, make the decision to manage by “hope-and-hint.” When they see negative behaviors undermining teamwork, they hope it will not happen again. When hope fails, they get tougher and drop a hint. Managing by “hope-and-hint” does not work. Sit down with employees and explain that one part of the employees’ job functions is supporting the team. Demand commitment! If and when they are not supporting the team, they are not doing their job to the best of their ability.
Recognize there may be casualties. When organizations change, there are going to be some people who refuse to change and support the team. As a manager, you need to recognize that this is all right and may be a positive thing. Some people will feel so dedicated to the way we used to do things around here, that they will move from one department to another, or entirely quit the organization. Do not let their resistance to change undermine your commitment to teamwork.
Recruit new team members. New team members may help in building stronger teamwork among all team members. One reason new team members may be helpful in building stronger teamwork is they have no vested interest in guarding the past or old way of doing things. They find it beneficial to be focused on the future.
Re-recruit the cream of the crop. If the team does become dysfunctional with team members exhibiting behaviors undermining teamwork, it is important to go to your “stars,” the team members who do support your concepts or programs, and tell them two things. First, tell them how much you value their contributions and the gifts they bring to the team. Second, tell them you need their help in building stronger teamwork among some of the other players. Why do this? Because when the team is under stress, the problem employees never leave. It is your stars who go because they do not like the stress or stigma attached to working on a team that is dysfunctional… and a team where the manager does nothing about dysfunctional employees.
Show your passion. Indicate that you value strong teamwork with a sense of urgency. There is ample research that demonstrates that a slow change process is not anywhere near as successful as a rapid change process. If teamwork is needed, it needs to start today. Waiting for others to get mentally prepared or decide to be a team player wastes time and increases the chances of your proposed change not being fully implemented. Change, and change today!
When team members refuse to do many of the same skills we were taught in kindergarten, remember these six points. They will make a difference in helping you get your team back on track and focused on common goals.
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