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If you've got a staffer who isn't pulling his weight on team efforts, you need to intervene before his behavior has a negative impact on the productivity and morale of the group. Letting one person slack off while others work extra to cover his deficiencies can create resentment and infighting among the team, and it can make you look like an ineffectual manager.
Before you talk to the problem employee, gather enough evidence and documentation to support your claims of poor teamwork. Maybe you have written complaints from other staff members or you've witnessed missed deadlines and low productivity yourself. Write down as many details as you can to support your conversation so you aren't just giving the employee a dressing down for not working well with others. You'll be more effective if you can say, “John, you missed vital project deadlines three times in May.”
Arrange a time to sit down with the employee in private when there are no deadlines looming, and when you're not frustrated or angry about the situation. If the employee has valuable traits or skills he brings to the group, acknowledge those at the start of your conversation to demonstrate your faith in the staffer. “John, you always know how to get the team out of a bad mood when problems are looming, and we all appreciate that you can troubleshoot any computer problem that pops up. However, I have some concerns about teamwork efforts that are impacting your colleagues that we need to discuss.”
Detail each one of your specific concerns for the employee and explain how the problem negatively impacts others. “I understand you missed three planning meetings this month, and the rest of the group was in the dark about the progress of your work. Can you tell me what's going on?” Using this approach, you don't come across as attacking the employee, but rather, stating facts as you know them and asking for an explanation. The staffer may have temporary personal issues, a problem managing his own time or some other factor that can be addressed and resolved.
Allow the staffer adequate time to explain his point of view about his perceived lack of teamwork. Maybe he has complaints about excessive meetings cutting into productive work time, or perhaps meeting schedules conflict with other work responsibilities. He may also have some type of intergroup conflict with his teammates that needs to be addressed before the group can move on. Listen to what your employee has to say in his defense before developing a strategy for fixing the problem.
Reach a Resolution
After your meeting, determine the appropriate steps to get the team back on track. If the problem team member needs assistance with setting goals or managing his time, arrange help in that arena. If the team is being mismanaged by a group leader, talk to that person to streamline efforts. If deadlines are too tight or there’s conflict that needs to be mediated, handle it. Once the problem is resolved, ask for periodic updates on how the team is working together to ensure efforts are successful.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.