You are leading a meeting and need to have a detail handled. You ask the person taking notes to record a comment a team member just made. He declines, saying, “I didn’t write down your comments so I’m not going to write down his comments either.”
You think, “Huh?” Then, to keep the meeting moving forward, you simply start creating your own notes for future reference.
In case you’re not sure, that was an early warning sign that you may have a disgruntled team member.
Unfortunately, disgruntled team members can subtly appear out of nowhere! They are often unaware of their reason for being upset and so they project their dissatisfaction onto you. Left unaddressed, they will disrupt a team, diminish team members’ efforts and hurt the results of a project. Ignoring them isn’t an option.
Why Must They Be Addressed Now?
Creep Factor. Negativity expands faster than positivity. While it may start with subtle comments made by one or two team members, it can grow exponentially—even if no one understands what the real issue is. Other signals include disregard for the group’s (or company’s) rules, disparaging remarks or gossip, reluctance to share ideas, being late for meetings and assignment deadlines, etc.
Bias Barriers. Even when they’ve had awareness training about harassment, learning differences and life choices, team members often don’t know how to work with and through different perceptions.
Team Cynics. Your team cynics may be bored or don’t feel heard and will undermine you, the project or others’ efforts. They lack the appropriate communication skills to build agreement in a positive and profitable manner.
Avoiding the Inevitable. If you create ways to work around disruptive team members instead of addressing the issue, you will thwart the process, deplete everyone’s energy and blow the budget. Failure to effectively address issues now will sideline and potentially kill your career.
How Do You Address Disgruntled Team Members?
Voice It. There are times you’ll need to stop a meeting and voice the issue. Ask everyone for their input. Initially, they may deny there is a problem. Share your perception and wait it out. Don’t allow external blame or “everyone’s tired” to be the excuse. The core issue must be identified in order to transform it. Putting beautiful decorations on a mud pie still leaves you with a mud pie. Get rid of the decorations and dig into the mud to see what the real issues are. This may be messy … but doing it allows you to identify and address the necessary changes.
Hold Them Accountable. Integrity issues (lies, theft, mischief and gossiping) will sabotage the team and its goals. Taking a hard line will be unpopular; however, uncovering what’s in the “mud” will pay off in the end.
Stick with the Facts. Facts are important. Make sure they are accurate and share them. The team skeptic(s) will challenge you, and initially others may readily agree with them. Encourage everyone to share their point of view. While uncovering misperceptions, offer reminders about the facts and goals – this process will realign team members to get everyone on same page.
Ongoing Training. Team members today love to blame conflict on personality differences, believing it lets them off the hook … so they stop listening and fail to resolve the issue. Use qualified assessments to identify and talk through differences – we are all unique in our own ways. Team training should be an ongoing part of your team development process.
Review Project Scope. Team members will bicker when the project isn’t stretching their capabilities … mostly because they are bored. Delegate key opportunities, consider alternatives and think about monetizing the project in other areas of the company. Strategic visioning, true brainstorming and training (how to handle the technology, communication and people aspects of meetings) are required for each team member to interact, expand and excel.
Talk with Your Coach. As the leader, you are ultimately responsible for the project outcome and the team’s experience of getting there. Going it alone is not a good option! Get help now before you have lost the team, and their respect, forever.
Disgruntled team members can be a blessing if you are willing to dig into what’s behind their behavior and address the real issues.
©Jeannette Seibly, 2017
Need a speaker or facilitator for your company’s executive group? Have issues to address? Conflicts to resolve? Contact Jeannette Seibly. She will provide confidential, laser-focused coaching that works!
Jeannette Seibly is celebrating 25 years as a business coach, advisor and consultant. Do you have a project that needs outside intervention to achieve the intended results on time and within budget? Check out her website , or contact Jeannette for a free confidential conversation.