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3 Tips to Help Challenging Team Members in the Contact Center


You’re at your wits’ end; one of your team leads is consistently butting heads with you, colleagues, or other staff members.

You're flabbergasted; a team member consistently cannot meet expectations, and communication with her always degrades into some kind of misunderstanding.

You’re discouraged; a team member regularly fails to implement the tools or activities you’ve discussed to help him improve his performance, communication, or relationship with coworkers.

As a boss, it’s easy to just sign off on a poor appraisal or let the person go.

As a leader, you believe people are among the most valuable assets in your organization. You see potential and you want to build this person up to overcome his/her weaknesses and become a better professional.

What do you do when you don’t have a clue on how to help your team member? What do you do when all you’ve tried hasn’t worked? The number one thing is to keep trying. I encourage you to not give up.

Here are a few additional tips that I’ve also used recently; I hope one or two will help you:

Get personal

Get personal with your team member, in a good way. Schedule regular time to just talk. The conversations should cover work-related activities (challenges, successes, improvement activities, tips, etc.), but it’s more important to get personal. Talk about personal things that are important to your team member or affecting their performance.

  • If you don’t have regular meetings with your team member, schedule them.
  • If your meetings occur sporadically, increase the frequency.
  • Use casual meeting settings to encourage communication.

This goes a long way to show your team member your commitment to their success professionally and as a whole person.

Increase your investment

First, take time to identify their personality traits, recognize their strengths and weaknesses, understand their motivations and goals. Don’t just spend a few minutes once you receive a negative report on their behavior or only during your scheduled meetings.

Next devote time to research information, get help from experts and others, and think creatively, outside the box on how to leverage your team member’s strengths to impact them and the organization.

According to The Harvard Business Review, great managers discover and value what is unique about each person, even the eccentricities, and then learn how best to integrate them and turn each person’s particular talent into performance.

Remember mental health

Research shows one effect of the pandemic on the workforce is an increase in negative mental health. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce 2021 Report, employee engagement decreased by two percentage points from 2019 to 2020, and employees reported higher worry, stress, anger, and sadness in 2020 than they had in the previous year. In addition, from 2019 to 2020, negative emotions increased more for female employees than male employees, and more for employees who are younger than 40 than those who are 40 and older.

As leaders, we need to shine a light on mental health, as this could be the crucial factor in your team member’s resistance to improvement. Ask questions about her emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Don’t accept surface-level explanations or statements - dig deeper.

Mental health is a very private and sensitive subject for most people. Your team member may worry about negative perceptions, judgements, and prejudices. What’s a good way to get your team member to talk?

  • Be vulnerable about your struggles and tough times.
  • Share candidly about what you’re doing to stay healthy.

Then work together and put a plan in place to help her get into a more positive state of mind. This could involve activities like an early vacation, specialized shift schedule, a paid mental health day, and mental health awareness activities (stress reduction workshop, well-being day). The key is to move from listening to acting.

At the heart of these suggestions is a willingness to not give up, keep digging to identify the root cause(s), and to keep searching for tools to help your team member achieve success. It’s easy to give up. Sometimes, that may be the solution, but if you’re reading this, then you’ve seen something in your team member that makes you want to keep persisting. The secret is to look beyond the office environment; our employees need to trust that we, their leaders and managers, truly care about them as people.