To clarify, this is actually my senior project for my university so no changes could be made personnel wise. However, I'd like to apply this situation to a workplace setting, as that's what it is, more or less.

I am the team lead on a team of 5, myself included. We have a client that we are building an app for. Currently, we were designing UI and functionality and going back and forth with the client to get confirmation before we begin writing code. One team member seems to not participate much in discussions and planning, will agree to what we're saying, but then will randomly make some sort of declaration or contrary decision. Here are some examples of what I mean:

  1. During a meeting, we briefly discussed if we should dress business casually for a meeting. We decided not to. The morning of he messages us all and says, "We should dress business casual to impress the client" and does it, while the rest of us did not because we were already on our way
  2. We discussed migrating our database to a new platform and all agreed to do it. Then later that night he messages us with some sort of library to make the old system work for what we needed to. He sent it and ended the message with "Therefore, we should keep what we have". We looked at this, and it really wasn't practical or really useful for us, and told him we would keep what we discussed
  3. Tuesday, we had a meeting and were discussing our tasks. We had been working on UI designs over messages and he did not participate or mention anything. Suddenly, at this meeting, he just says "I worked on some UI designs". Nobody knew he had worked on them, and the designs were really weird? to be honest, however there was an aspect of one page that we all liked. Another team member redid our layout with this idea, and we all agreed. I guess the person in question didn't check our messenger, as today he saw it and got upset. "My design looks so much cleaner". We tried to explain that we would have to do way more unnecessary work, and the style didn't match the rest of the app. He simply responded, "well, we'll see what the client says"

In these three events, I see that he's not fully present at our meetings and not on our messenger to discuss these things. Then he presents ideas to us, despite us discussing otherwise, that aren't doable or practical, and seems to feel down when we turn him down. I get the sense that he may want to take a more leadership role in the project, but at the same time he's not participating as he could.

What can I do to better include this team member in my team and reduce potential for friction in my group - or otherwise handle this situation?

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    "However, I'd like to apply this situation to a workplace setting, as that's what it is, more or less." Honestly, no it's not - because in a workplace setting you have someone, your mutual manager, who has the authority to deal with a problematic team member. – Philip Kendall Sep 20 at 7:30
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    Because you said yourself: "no changes could be made personnel wise". In a real workplace, changes can be made - you fire the problematic person. – Philip Kendall Sep 20 at 7:46
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    I agree that this does not really seem applicable to a workplace situation. The answer in a real workplace for the same question will likely be totally different than how you deal with it in your (temporary) teammate for your school project. – Brandin Sep 20 at 9:21
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about an academic project, not a workplace situation. – Philip Kendall Sep 20 at 10:35
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    @PhilipKendall I disagree, I think this is very appropriate for workplace. For one, a university setting can be a work place too and projects like that are build to mimic real workplace situations (with varied success). How to deal with team members is very on-topic, and can be applied in the industry as well. – Helena Sep 21 at 8:59

There is no easy fix for this situation. Here are a few things you can try

  1. Establish clear cut rules and deadlines. e.g. the deadline for bringing in new idea's is say 1 day before presenting to the client. Do no entertain any request after the deadline, even if its better than before.

  2. Have an open discussion with the trouble making team member and let him know his behavior is not acceptable. Make sure the remaining team members agree with you or support you so that the trouble maker is isolated.

  3. When you discuss the behavior, focus on action and consequence and not on person. e.g. you could say, when someone brings in a last minute change, it causes team to loose focus.

  4. Work in iterations - that way, you have the option of saying - this is a good idea but its late for this iteration. We will consider it in next iteration.

  5. If he speaks out of turn in front of client, just politely mention that while this idea may have certain merits, its not the one team agrees at this stage. The client will see that there are differences in the team , but if other people back you, you will be able to steer. The person will also get a message that his idea's will be shot down. Give a formal written warning - e.g. We agreed before the meeting an approach and would like to stick to that approach. If there are any objections, they should be discussed with the team before hand and not in front of the client.

Bottom line, you need to deal this in polite but firm manner. A simple set of rules applied in same manner for all team members which are documented and published need to be there. The rules need to be implemented by you since you are the team leader. And rest of the folks have to agree to these. One outliner can be handled if dealt with firmly.

Chances are that this person may go behind your back to faculty adviser, in which case the documentation and set of rules will help you.


If we take your situation and imagine it took place in the 'workplace' rather than in an academic setting, the solution to this problem is rather simple:

The manager meets with the problematic employee, explains how he expects the members of the team to act and behave, provides the examples above where the problematic employee didn't act as he should, and tell the employee he needs to change. If change doesn't occur, the employee gets fired.

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    Brutal. But real (upvote). @dattebane This is what is waiting for you after you graduate. Half a century or more of it. Mwuuuuhahahahah!!!!! – Mawg says reinstate Monica Sep 20 at 14:27

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