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Leading an Employee Who Isn’t a Team Player

Leading an Employee Who Isn’t a Team Player

Leading an employee who isn’t a team player can be a challenge. My best executive coaching clients are committed to building a work environment of collaboration and teamwork. A work environment in which all of their employees work together to reach common goals. The challenge is when they have one employee who simply doesn’t share their team mindset.

That’s when I encourage them to step up and show some leadership. They need to proactively work to bring that employee into the fold. It’s critical to instill in him or her the central fact that, in your business, teamwork is non-negotiable.

As a leader, one of the most challenging situations you may encounter is an employee who isn’t a team player. Their lack of cooperation can hinder overall productivity and demoralize the team. However, with the right approach and leadership strategies, you can transform an unengaged employee into a valuable team player. Let’s explore some practical steps to effectively lead and inspire these individuals in an effort to foster collaboration and enhance team dynamics.

How to Transform an Unengaged Employee into a Team Player

Establish Open Communication

Begin by initiating an open and honest conversation with the employee. Take the time to understand their perspective, challenges, and any underlying issues that may be affecting their willingness to collaborate. Create a safe space for them to express their concerns and frustrations. Active listening is crucial here, as it shows empathy and builds trust. By demonstrating your genuine interest in their well-being, you can establish a foundation for positive change.

Clarify Expectations and Goals

Clearly communicate your expectations regarding teamwork and collaboration. Outline the benefits of working together and how it contributes to the success of both the individual and the team. Set specific goals that encourage cooperation and emphasize the importance of shared responsibilities. By aligning their personal goals with team objectives, you can motivate the employee to actively participate in team efforts and align their actions with the broader organizational vision.

Provide Support and Resources

Identify any barriers that may be impeding the employee’s ability to collaborate effectively. Offer resources, training, or mentoring opportunities to help them enhance their skills and address any knowledge gaps. Assign a supportive mentor or coach who can guide them through the transition process. By investing in their development, you show that you believe in their potential and value their contribution. This support will empower them to overcome challenges and become an integral part of the team.

Foster a Positive Team Culture

Create an inclusive and positive team culture that encourages collaboration. Promote a sense of belonging by organizing team-building activities, fostering social connections, and celebrating achievements together. Encourage open feedback and recognize the contributions of each team member. Emphasize the shared vision and values of the team and inspire a sense of camaraderie and collective success. By cultivating an environment of respect, trust, and appreciation, you can motivate the uncooperative employee to actively participate and collaborate.

Lead by Example

As a leader, your behavior sets the tone for the entire team. Demonstrate the values and behaviors you expect from your employees by being a role model. Show enthusiasm, cooperation, and a willingness to go the extra mile. Engage in collaborative projects, actively listen to others, and promote teamwork in your interactions. By leading by example, you inspire your team members, including the uncooperative employee, to follow suit and embrace a collaborative mindset.

Strategies for Employees Who Remain Uncooperative

If the employee does not follow the steps and continues to exhibit uncooperative behavior despite your efforts, it’s important to address the situation promptly and assertively. Here are some additional steps you can take:

Private Discussion:

Schedule a private meeting with the employee to discuss their behavior and reiterate the expectations. Be firm but constructive in your communication. Use specific examples of their uncooperative actions and explain how it impacts the team and the organization as a whole. Offer them an opportunity to express any concerns or challenges they might be facing.

Identify the Root Cause:

Try to uncover the underlying reasons behind their uncooperative behavior. Is there a personal issue, lack of motivation, or disagreement with team dynamics? Understanding the root cause can help you address the issue more effectively and provide appropriate support or resources.

Performance Improvement Plan (PIP):

If the behavior continues, consider implementing a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). This plan outlines specific objectives and timelines for improvement, as well as consequences if the desired changes are not made. Clearly communicate the consequences of not adhering to the plan, which may include disciplinary actions or termination if necessary.

Seek Mediation:

In some cases, it may be helpful to involve a neutral third party, such as a mediator or HR representative, to facilitate a conversation and find a resolution. Mediation can provide a safe space for open communication and help both parties understand each other’s perspectives.

Consistency and Accountability:

It’s crucial to ensure consistency in your approach and hold the employees accountable for their actions. Document instances of uncooperative behavior, discussions, and any agreed-upon actions. Regularly review progress and provide feedback, both positive and constructive, to keep the employee aware of their performance and the consequences of their actions.

Reevaluate the Fit:

If all attempts to address the issue have been unsuccessful, it may be necessary to reassess whether the employee is the right fit for the team and the organization. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, certain individuals may not be willing or able to change their behavior. In such cases, it may be in the best interests of the team and the employees themselves to explore alternative options.


Leading an uncooperative employee requires patience, understanding, and proactive measures. By implementing these strategies, you can nurture their transformation into a valuable team player, enhancing overall team performance and morale.

Remember, every situation is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Leadership requires adaptability and a willingness to make tough decisions when necessary. By addressing uncooperative behavior promptly and assertively, you can maintain a positive and productive work environment for the rest of your team while giving the employee every opportunity to improve.

The bottom line is that there will come a time when you have an employee who just isn’t a team player—and that’s when showing some real leadership will be necessary.

Dr. Rick Goodman CSP is a thought leader in the world of leadership and is known as one of the most sought after team building experts in the United States and internationally.

He is famous for helping organizations, corporations, and individuals with systems and strategies that produce increased profits and productivity without having the challenges of micromanaging the process. Some of Dr. Rick’s clients include AT&T, Boeing, Cavium Networks, Heineken, IBM, and Hewlett Packard.

For more information on Rick’s speaking programs, audio programs, and learning programs, contact (888) 267-6098 or, or visit

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