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Managing a disruptive team member

Managing a disruptive team member is a tricky business. They may be fantastic at their job, yet still manage to rub your team up the wrong way and behave negatively. They may gossip at their co-workers’ expense, or consistently undermine your authority. It may even go as far as intimidating colleagues, bullying, shouting and slamming doors – creating an uncomfortable work environment for everyone else.

Disruptive behaviour can take many forms – from the seemingly harmless to the downright ugly.

But what to do?

Here are our tips for managing a disruptive team member.

1. Listen

It’s all too easy to make up your mind about someone without finding out the facts. When managing a disruptive team member, it’s tempting to stop concentrating on them and avoid the negativity of the situation. But the best managers actually pay more attention when an employee is displaying negative behaviour. After all, the clearer your understanding of what’s going on, then the more able you are to remedy it. Talking to the employee in question allows you to identify any underlying problems causing them to behave negatively. If an employee feels like they’re not being heard, then their behaviour won’t improve.  

Invite the employee to give their point of view. Listen to the response without interjecting or disagreeing. This way, they’re likely to be less defensive and more engaged. Giving them a chance to speak shows that you respect balance and fairness. Their reply will also give a valuable insight into how they feel, making it easier to move forward.

2. Provide Feedback & Set Goals

It’s not pleasant giving negative feedback, but it’s an important part of employee development. It’s not reasonable to expect someone to stop behaving in a certain way, if they haven’t first been made aware that there’s an issue. 

For feedback to be constructive and to avoid the employee feeling personally attacked, ensure that the undesirable behaviours are separated from the person. Instead of criticising them personally e.g. “You are rude” or “You have an issue with authority”, focus on giving specific examples of behaviours they have displayed and explain why they have been good or bad for the wider team.

Then discuss what’s expected of them. Agree on specific goals so the employee understands what they need to do. This is important, because it allows improvement to be measured.

3. Explain Consequences

Make the consequences of not making significant improvements clear from the start. If a continuation of the negative behaviours will result in the employee’s dismissal, then let them know that. Honesty is a key part of managing a disruptive team member.

Once they realise the severity of the situation, it’s likely that they’ll be far more committed to improving it.

4. Follow Up

Don’t spend time and effort opening a dialogue with the employee if you don’t intend to follow it up. Regular follow ups are vital in sustaining improvements or recognising where they still need to be made.

Recognise positive progress. This will boost the employee’s morale and encourage them to continue their efforts. Conversely, the employee should be held accountable for failures to improve.

5. Be Positive

When managing a disruptive team member, the best managers remain positive. A negative outlook from a manager will prevent an employee from making the necessary changes, as they feel under constant criticism, and that any positives would not be noticed or recognised.

Put your initial opinion behind you. Shelve any frustration or anger due to the employee’s previous behaviour. This gives them the chance to start afresh. It’s certainly preferable for you, them, and the wider company, if they’re able to turn things around and avoid dismissal.

6. Be an Example

Lead by example. You can’t call out an employee for negative behaviours that you display yourself. People look to what you do, not just what you say, so be the best example you can be. Don’t gossip about your team members and don’t be negative about the company. This condones disruptive behaviour and creates a fearful and uneasy environment. If you respond rudely when challenged, then others will follow suit. Behave as you would wish others to behave, and people will follow.

7. Document & Follow Policy

This is incredibly important when managing a disruptive team member. Document everything. Every conversation you have with the employee on the topic should be recorded, and all key points should be written down.

Although the hope is that you’re able to work with the employee to solve any issues, you must be prepared if this isn’t the case. Follow policy correctly from the outset. Complete and file all supporting documentation throughout the process. You’ll then have the collateral to support your actions if the worst happens.

A disruptive employee is a problem that can be solved. But the process can be a stressful one. It would be preferable if we didn’t have to deal with such a situation at all, but in reality it’s hard to avoid. The most effective way to avoid a disruptive team member is to hire a personality suited to your company culture, but this can be incredibly hard to gauge at interview alone. Using Psychometric testing as part of the recruitment process will give you an understanding of each candidate’s behavioural style, and a better idea of their suitability for the role. After all, personality and attitude are as important as skill when it comes to finding the right fit.

At Headway Recruitment, we provide a psychometric profile for each applicant, alongside their CV. To find out more about the process, and how we could help you, please feel free to get in touch.

Mark Gill

By Mark Gill

Recruitment Director with a proven record of providing world class hires at all levels of office and management positions within the Leeds Bradford region. We use our unique Headway Recruitment Platform incorporating psychometric testing to find the top candidates. If you want access to the full local talent pool get in contact with the team at Headway. We help companies achieve growth through our unique approach. This ensures the candidates we place are the perfect fit. Companies are then best placed to get the best from each individual as they understand their motivating traits. Proud to be recognised as preferred supplier for several businesses in the Sunday Times top 100 firms to work for.
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