Motivating People who aren’t Team Players

One of the biggest challenges of a leader is having a direct report who isn’t a team player.  Having a person on your team who doesn’t buy into the vision of the team or the organization can be very frustrating.  In addition, having a person who does just the minimum is even more infuriating.  The easy answer is to just let them go or move them to a different department; but that isn’t the best solution.  We all know how costly it is to terminate an employee and then recruit a replacement.  Also we know that transferring an employee to a different department can set our team back and hinder us from achieving the results we desire; hence the need to know how to deal with individuals who aren’t team players.

Motivating People who aren’t Team Players:

Understanding is the Key

Since we can’t terminate employees who we don’t like or who we don’t feel is giving 100%, it’s imperative for us as leaders to understand why they are the way they are.  It’s easy for us to think that someone isn’t motivate or a team player because their lazy or a bad apple; but more times than not the employee isn’t a team player for a serious reason.  Typically they are operating and behaving in ways that make sense to them, based on how they see the world.  So as a leader it’s incumbent upon us to discover the reason why the employee is acting this way.  What you may find as the leader is something you never expected and sometimes you may discover something that will help you manage the team better or see the project in a light you never thought of.


As a great leader you have to know who your employees are, you need to know who your team is.  If you know your team, it will enable you to know what motivates them and drives them towards success.  If you know a persons’ drivers you’ll be able to push them speaking a language that connects with them.  As a leader it’s important to understand that there isn’t just one way to motivate people.  Sometimes an individual may be pulling away because they’re not motivated by the way you’re speaking to them.

Address Issues

The biggest mistake you can do when one or more of your employees is a handful, is to ignore it and pretend the situation isn’t there.  Take action especially if you suspect an employee’s behavior is due to a disagreement with another team member.  Defuse these conflicts quickly and privately.  When talking to a problem employee privately, let him know exactly what behavior is hurting the group.  Don’t ignore a conflict between an employee and yourself, if you do ignore it the issue could fester and become something much worse.  If an employee displays anger, take him aside.  Find out if there is a simple, correctable reason for this conduct.


Don’t Let the Inaction of a Few Impede the Accomplishments of the Many

It’s compulsory as a leader to get your team all on the same page in turn this will net the results you and your organization is looking for; however those that don’t want to be team players can stymie those results.  To be successful don’t let problem employees fade into the background and make an effort to let employees know they can come to you with problems if they’re afraid to raise them in front of the group.  It’s important that everyone is heard and that you understand every team member, so you can go to the places you want to go to.


5 thoughts on “Motivating People who aren’t Team Players

  1. OK, I am not a touchy-feely-groupy person. Never have been and never will be and probably will not be hired by anybody spouting group/manager/what is good for the company speak. I take part in groups, have led groups, and have even been a department manager. I hide my animosity well enough to maintain employment. To me “team” is a sports terminology word and I was always good at “individual” sports — not team sports where one melds minds with everyone else. I have taken who knows how many personality surveys and have always come up off the chart for introversion — not the life of the party? Well, I have done my share of public speaking, teaching and other tasks considered “social.” I consider myself a self-starter, well-educated, and somewhat egotistical. I am a tireless worker and have never let the organization down that I know of. BUT, do not ask me if I like teams nor expect me to answer whether teams for the most part accomplish anything really creative, different, progressive or timely. THEY DO NOT. They satisfy management, maintain the status quo so everyone is a happy little groupy. Companies make money, the boss maintains his power base and people maintain their jobs. And everything is just as mediocre as its always been.

    • Liz, I appreciate your comments from an independent worker perspective. I think it behooves leaders and managers that if they want to generate the greatest efficiency out of there team to understand the independent worker mindset; because not everyone is naturally wired to be a group/team worker. Just because someone is an independent worker as opposed to a group/team worker that doesn’t mean there a bad employee, it just means they operate in a different manner. And as leaders our job is to connect with our people where they’re at and motivate them from that position. Thank you Liz for sharing.

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