When you want a teammate to change, show you’re invested in their success rather than their failure.

When you notice a teammate doing something that detracts from the effectiveness of the team, you have a responsibility to say so.  How you provide the feedback, and what you do after you’ve delivered it, determines whether your teammate goes one of three ways:

  • Resists and never tries to change
  • Tries to change and eventually slides back into destructive behavior
  • Changes and sustains the positive behavior

Resist and never tries to change

If you deliver the feedback poorly, your teammate probably won’t even bother to change.  Make it:

  • Supportive rather than accusatory: Don’t think of it as “catching” your teammates engaging in bad behavior. Think of it as finding a specific example that you can use to help them.
  • Specific rather than vague: Make the feedback concrete. There’s nothing worse than hearing feedback such as “you’re so biased no one wants to listen to you.”  Instead, be clear about what you observed. “You had an important point in the meeting and when you provided three examples of why Molly’s plan wouldn’t work and no positive feedback, I think the team stopped listening. How could you present your case so the supporters of the plan are motivated to listen?”

Tries to change but slides backward

  • Offer to help. Just because you’ve given constructive, specific, and supportive feedback doesn’t mean your teammate will be able to sustain the new behavior over the long-term.  Don’t slash and dash; offer to help. “I know you’re interested in presenting a more balanced case, would you like to brainstorm about how you could structure your presentation for next week’s meeting?”
  • Keep it up. You don’t break your New Year’s resolution on January 2nd and you don’t slip up on behavior change right away.  You need to be there for your teammate down the road; when they do make the first slip.  That’s when some feedback and support works wonders.  “I know how hard you’ve been working on presenting a balanced perspective and I feel like it’s made a real difference. Today, there was a moment when you interrupted Molly before she could finish her point and that felt like you were less balanced.  How could you handle objections differently?”

Don’t slash and dash: offer to help

If all you’re looking for is evidence to support your negative assumptions about your teammates, don’t bother with any of this. But if you’re genuinely interested in changing your team for the better, you can provide feedback and support that will greatly increase the likelihood that positive change sticks.

Further Reading

What to Say to a Teammate who is Resistant to Change

Checklist for Effective One-Way Communication

3 Big Mistakes you Make when Trying to Influence

6 Responses to How to change a teammate’s bad behavior

  1. Margo

    It’s so much easier to do nothing or leave it to someone else to deal with – and then complain and/or use the poor behaviour as an excuse for poor performance. I really appreciate your point of view that all the team members have accountability to make the team better.

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