How to (Professionally) Handle a Difficult Team Member

Legal support professionals need strong teamwork skills. On any project, they may consult both with other legal support staff and lawyers within their firm or department. They may also need to reach out to professionals in other fields, such as accountants, surveyors, or medical experts. Teamwork is key, and one difficult team member can make a project extremely difficult.

A “difficult” team member might:

  • Not show regard for other team members’ time, effort, or experience
  • Fail to do their fair share or to meet deadlines
  • Refuse to collaborate with other team members on some part of a project
  • Treat other team members rudely or aggressively, causing others to shy away from working with the “difficult” team member

Here are some tips for handling a difficult team member in a professional manner:

  1. Try to see the problem from the team member’s perspective. You don’t have to agree with the team member’s behavior, but practicing empathy will help you understand why the behavior is occurring. Is the team member going through a difficult transition? Do they feel overburdened? When you understand why the “difficult” behavior happens, you can more easily find ways to solve the problem.
  2. Build a rapport with the “difficult” team member. One-on-one discussions or team-building exercises can help. The goal is to connect well enough to discuss the “difficult” behavior without making the team member feel judged or attacked.
  3. Focusing on naming the issue and offering help. Never speak ill about a “difficult” team member behind their back, no matter how frustrated you get. Instead, point out the problem and offer a concrete way to help: “I see you haven’t turned in your part of the project on time. If I stay late with you today, can we finish it together?”
  4. If all else fails, talk to a supervisor. If you’ve tried everything and you still can’t solve the problem, ask a supervisor to step in. Ideally, you will take this step only if all your other attempts have failed.

At Kent Legal, our experienced recruiters help legal support candidates find employers whose culture matches their work ethic and personality, so they can focus on building a thriving career. Contact us today to learn more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *