How to Build Respect in a Team: Dealing with Difficult Team Members

How to Build Respect in a Team: Dealing with Difficult Team Members

As founder of Beyond the Boardroom, a team-building company, Luke Talbot-Male has seen firsthand how important it is to have a super-team to achieve a goal. But sometimes that’s challenging — especially when it involves leading “difficult” team members. Here are just a few of his tips for handling those personalities with positivity and patience, and forging a relationship that earns respect and leads to success.

Gaining respect when you are handed a leadership role for your team requires a process that may appear to be difficult at first. This involves your ability to handle “difficult” team members whom you’ll encounter, especially if you are an inexperienced leader. Knowing how to manage your stubborn and cranky team members is a crucial skill that you need to learn to be able to bring an entire team together.

As the new team leader, most of your members look forward to the type of leadership that they will experience while being a part of your team. For you to be able to handle the team level-headedly, here are some tips from Beyond the Boardroom:

Be positive and stay cool.

Do not get swept up by the negativity. Maintain your cool disposition and do not respond with anger. Handle the situation with rationality; you won’t be able to solve the issue when you get frustrated. Think clearly and focus on the root cause of the problem.

Observe your team.

Identify the members whom you consider to be “difficult” to handle. You need to observe and listen to the things that they are being difficult about (i.e. client, project, task, or a particular team member) to carefully pinpoint the source of the problem. Take note of the things that they usually do when they become frustrated so in the future you will know how to handle them.

Have a talk with the team.

Carefully ask each member of your team if they can also observe the disruptive behaviors that you have taken note of regarding the “difficult” team member. This will allow you to gauge if you are butting heads with other team members. Always remember that having a personal bias over an issue is not a good leadership behavior. What you can do to resolve this is to evaluate your own behavior first, as a leader towards your team members.

Be available.

Team members with “difficult” behavior have grievances to air. Allow them to talk and assure them that you are listening. Ask them for suggestions on how you can help them resolve their issues because it affects the team’s work. Letting them know that you are available for them to help them improve their attitude and avoid grievances from ever happening again.

Work together.

Ask them for suggestions, and if their suggestions can impact the team, work together so that they won’t feel left out. The sense of responsibility you give them may change their outlook on the current status of the team and the projects you are working on.

Wait, and don’t forget to give gentle reminders and compliments.

The change will not occur overnight. Be patient and evaluate your “difficult” team member. Assess if the behavior will still persist, and ask them on what other things you can both do to improve the situation. If there are improvements, never forget to acknowledge their improvements and share compliments.

Do not give up on yourself, there are team-building activities that you can attend and learn from to improve your leadership style.

Respect is earned and given by your team when they fully realize that you are capable of leading them to success. Handling difficult members can be very frustrating, but yelling “You’re fired!” at them is not the sole solution. Understand that as an employee, giving full respect to a leader is difficult — but if you are up for the challenge, roll up your sleeves and start developing your team today!



Luke Talbot-MaleLuke Talbot-Male is the Managing Director and owner of Beyond the Boardroom, a team building provider in Australia that caters various team activities geared towards the development of functional super teams. Beyond the Boardroom has been in the team development business since 2005. Within the years he spent in the industry, Luke was able to create successful team programs that have given great impacts in the development of the company’s teams, which will surely benefit you and your business too.



Image credit: Unsplash


Enter A Comment

Stuart Hayes   |   19 May 2017   |   Reply

As Luke would know, in Australia we have very arduous work place laws that make it difficult to sack toxic employees, who can sour team dynamics. That’s why I recommend a thorough HR screening process that can pick up on the emotional aptitude of candidates.

Susan Mazza   |   19 May 2017   |   Reply

Do you use any assessments for emotional aptitude?

Stuart Hayes   |   22 May 2017   |  

I use Genos EI for senior staff, to get a sense of how often they demonstrate emotionally intelligent workplace behaviors and to start conversations with them about these. After that I have found heart based approaches are the most effective in helping employees transform.

Rebecca Elvy   |   21 May 2017   |   Reply

This is a great post! Thanks
Deliberately focusing on fostering team cohesion can be really challenging if you are a part of the team! So this is a helpful reminder.
The only thing I would add is to try and foster mutual appreciation between team members – if you can get your team to respect each others differences and genuinely see them as strengths rather than annoyances, that goes a long way too!
Thanks for the post!

Susan Mazza   |   21 May 2017   |   Reply

Thanks for bringing appreciation into the conversation Rebecca. It is vital to establishing mutual respect and is also a sign that respect is being created.

Ritesh Sharma   |   04 April 2018   |   Reply

Yes you are right about this topic, Respect at work is an essential necessity. Yes, it is same for both men and women professionals.
The fact is that we all want respect but when it comes to others, we try to evaluate them on various aspects,so kudos to you for bringing up this topic.Thank You.

Susan Mazza   |   05 April 2018   |   Reply

Thanks Ritesh!