03 May 2018


It’s likely that once in your new job you’ll want to waste no time getting everyone on board with your plans and changes. So what happens when people in your team won’t cooperate in the way you would like?

Words: Alice Hoey & Jeremy Snape

Although you as the manager will bear the brunt of people’s expectations, it’s worth remembering that the pressure to perform and turn things around will be felt by everybody in your wider team. Being in a tough, pressure-cooker environment tends to accentuate individual personalities, so you may find that some individuals step up to the plate eagerly while others moan, protest or disengage entirely.

Knowing how to manage each of these character types and help them to feel comfortable and confident in performing under your leadership is essential.

The last thing you need when you’re trying to lead a new group of people is to be told by one or more of your team that they simply won’t follow you. Although it might be tempting to make a show of force early on, remember that what you say and how you act in the first few days will speak volumes about who you are as a manager. First impressions stick, so tread carefully, showing empathy and understanding as well as strength and decisiveness. Demonstrate that while you won’t be walked over, you are also fair and act on consideration rather than impulse.

Whether you can try to work with someone who is resisting your leadership or let them go will depend on the individual involved and the situation – but the decision will need to be made quickly.

First, determine why they are acting in this way. Ask:
  • Do they fear change and, if so, why?

  • Do they not want to work under you personally or have they shown a similar disregard for managers in the past?

  • Did they have an affinity to the outgoing manager and, if so, can you get past that?

  • Are they feeling insecure about their own performance or the future of the team that they’re projecting onto you?
Look then at the individual’s place in the team, their past and recent performance and their potential. Ask:
  • Are they one of the central pillars of the group or is it maybe time to move them on?

  • Might it be worth the effort in the long run to work on your relationship with them or is now an opportunity to cut them loose and focus on individuals who are more motivated and driven?

  • What do your colleagues think of this individual? Is there a back story you should know about?


While some of the answers will come from talking to your staff, you will also need to speak directly and openly with the individual in question. Be frank and open about what you are expecting from them, being firm but positive.

Start with something positive, then give specific feedback or your core message, finishing with positive forward-thinking comment about their impact on the team. This enables you to be firm and to lay your cards on the table without appearing overly negative. For example:

“If there’s one individual I need on my side and performing their best it’s you.” Or “I believe you can be a central part of the team’s success in the future. You can help me to turn things around.”