Working with someone who isn’t a team player is not just frustrating, it can also negatively affect an entire group’s performance, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article. Susan David, founder of the Harvard/McLean Institute of Coaching, and Allan Cohen, a professor of management at Babson College, provided the following strategies for working with someone who isn’t a team player.
1. Avoid making assumptions. It may seem natural to jump to conclusions about the reasons behind someone’s actions but, the truth is, you never really know why people do the things they do. Instead of assuming someone is a slacker or has a bad attitude, explore first.
2. Be open to talking. Rather than making accusations, ask friendly questions. Working with someone who isn’t a team player is an opportunity to practice your leadership skills and gain others’ perspectives.
3. Promote friendly group relations. Problems can arise when team members turn on a colleague who isn’t pulling their weight. To foster cohesion and discourage ostracization, consider taking your colleague out to coffee or lunch with a few teammates.
4. Focus on the team’s shared mission. When working with a poor team player, leaders should take the opportunity to “have a conversation with the entire team about what the group’s shared vision should be and the best methods for getting there,” according to David.
5. Define duties and deadlines. Sometimes, people who seem like poor team players are simply confused about what their role entails. Take time to review your expectations and your colleague’s responsibilities, which eliminates ambiguity.
6. Play to your colleague’s strengths. “People are highly motivated by not wanting to let their teammates down,” says Cohen. “Get them into the game, and they’ll go to great lengths to perform better for the team.”
—Adapted from “How to Work with Someone Who Isn’t a Team Player,” by Carolyn O'Hara, Harvard Business Review, April 21, 2017.