Don’t isolate a slacker; their views could help you get the team back on track

Try to get a colleague back on the team without causing resentment.

Try to get a colleague back on the team without causing resentment.


Do you work with someone who isn’t a team player? This isn’t just frustrating; it can affect your entire group’s performance. How do you work with this person in a way that doesn’t make you resentful?

1. Don’t jump to conclusions: Instead of assuming that someone is just a slacker or lacks commitment, do a little exploration first. The roots of the person’s behaviour may surprise you.

2. Start a dialogue: Even if you aren’t in an official leadership position, consider this an opportunity to practise your leadership skills. You might ask: “What else is going on for you right now?” This should help you see the experience from your co-worker’s perspective.

3. Invite them in: More serious problems arise on a team when members shun someone who isn’t carrying his or her weight. So take the lead and ask your colleague out to coffee or lunch just to get to know them better. Bring along a couple of colleagues to promote cohesion.

4. Revisit the mission: Sometimes a team member who is being unco-operative may actually help identify underlying issues. Use this opportunity to have a conversation with the entire team about what the group’s shared vision should be.

5. Clarify roles: Once you’ve had the conversation about mission, it’s a good time to clarify roles. Without putting your colleague on the spot, you can help clarify duties and deadlines so that he or she has a better understanding of what’s expected.

6. Identify new motivations: A team member might also find the work he or she has been assigned to be pointless and boring. If that appears to be the case, think about whether there is a more suitable role for this person on the team. – Copyright Harvard Business Review 2017