I have already gone through How to deal with team member openly discrediting me across the company? How to deal with a team member who keeps making mild belittling insults in front of everyone? How to handle a dis-agreeing team member?

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Current situation is:

  1. I have team of 5 people under me, me being QA Lead in an IT company.
  2. I have only been with this company for 6 months and working like a horse, day and night. Company and Customer both praises/admires my work and quality.
  3. One of the team member has been here for 5 years and in the same position for those 5 years, has strong gut feeling that they won't fire him.

He simply doesn't follow whatever you say to him, this sometimes causes problems ending up complaints from customer. What I tried?

  1. Talking to him one to one so that he know, that I knows the best and its benefit to both company and him that we discuss and then do things.
  2. Talked to him in presence of Manager (my senior) and made him understand that he has to follow me.
  3. Giving him bad appraisal score.
  4. Also tried being nice to him.
  5. Try to boycott him by not giving any work to him, but that backfired on me.

In all above situations he instead of taking feedback or listen to us he finger-pointed us. Finally he is still in company, got good appraisal score. What I got is, that being a experienced person I can't handle team or I don't know team management.

Please suggest how can I fix this?

  • 1
    You have a team member who is five year old?
    – gnasher729
    Sep 4, 2016 at 12:16
  • 1
    It kind of sounds like the management doesn't back you over him, maybe they believe that he is clearly valuable and worth dealing with whatever quarks he has, and that you should just suck it up and deal. Who knows though, its hard to guess what's going on behind the scenes when reading a situation posted in a forum. Sep 4, 2016 at 16:27
  • 2
    I am myself an experimented QA engineer, and I would be very upset if a manager would try to teach me my job, or let me without anything to do. And if he "tried to be nice with me", right after mistrating me, I'd just put him in the "pathetic manager" drawer. I can(and did) accept real critics upon performance or priorities, but this way of dealing with a skilled subordinate is just unacceptable. We are autonomous and responsible professional(like most professionals, by the way).
    – gazzz0x2z
    Sep 4, 2016 at 16:35
  • 1
    VTC unclear since you don't actually specify your goal and I can't find a clear question other than the off-topic "how do I fix this?". You need to define what a "fix" looks like to you in this situation.
    – Lilienthal
    Sep 4, 2016 at 19:14

4 Answers 4


If I understand your situation correctly:

  • someone is not following your instructions, even when that causes problems for the team and your firm
  • your manager is aware of this
  • none of the things you have tried have magically worked the very first time you tried them, whether half heartedly or well
  • your flailing on this matter is starting to affect how you are perceived within the company

If I was you, or if I was at your elbow and my job was to make you better at this, I would ask

  • why doesn't this team member do what you say? Is it because he thinks you're wrong, or just because he doesn't like being told what to do?
  • is there a specific pattern of problems? For example does he never follow the plan? Or just sometimes? When he doesn't, is it that he runs out of time and takes shortcuts? Is it that he does it the "old way" and isn't following your new process? What specifically is happening that causes problems with customers? Not just "the team member didn't follow my instructions."
  • is there a mitigation available to you for this behaviour? For example, if you are doing web development and he tests only on one browser, can you assign someone else to test on other browsers? If he consistently delivers a few days late, can you adjust the workplan so that the project will be on time even if his part is late? If he doesn't spell check error messages or other user-facing text, can you assign someone else to do that?

I am not saying at this point to start doing the mitigation thing. I am asking you to think of it. Then you can go to your manager and say something like this:

I know you're aware of the ongoing situation with X. I'm been doing some retrospectives and it seems the problem boils down to [your specific observation.] I've tried a lot of things to get X to stop/start doing that, without success, and his good review makes it clear to me that the firm isn't going to insist on it. So I was thinking that [mitigation technique - eg we could have Y do ABC after X is finished with a piece of work.] This isn't ideal, but it should keep the customers happy while letting X work as he prefers.

Your manager may say "good idea!" or "what? X is not that special. Make him do the right thing!" or "Maybe for 6 months, but X has to come around" or something. But the two of you will be discussing the very specific issue (test deficiences, schedule slips, sloppy text) not the general "he won't listen to me!" and you'll be talking about what to do about it. Your next steps will depend on what your manager wants, but it won't be continuing to thrash around as you have been doing, trying "no work for you" and random "being nice" without a plan or target.

  • As a mitigation plan we prepared a weekly review sheet and shared with him but he said we should have been there when I he was doing incorrect. But I think what he was asking is not possible neither expected to provide to a person who has 5 years experience.
    – paul
    Sep 4, 2016 at 12:49
  • No, I don't mean a plan to make him do it differently. I mean a plan to have the project succeed even though he won't follow your instructions. Such as planning from the beginning to have someone else do the part he refuses to do, or planning from the beginning for a week's gap in the schedule after his part is due, so that if his part is late the project won't be delayed, and so on. A plan that does not require his co-operation but still gets you to your goals. Sep 4, 2016 at 12:52
  • this is what I meant not giving him work, thanks. That worked but he was caught watching youtube/fb in office and for this pulled my mistake that I was not assigned any work.
    – paul
    Sep 4, 2016 at 13:00
  • 4
    Getting someone to do some small part of his work after he considers it finished is not the same as not giving him work. Let him do for you what he is good at. As a team lead, ensure that your project gets everything it needs, even if it doesn't all come from him. Until you grasp fully what his strengths are and what specifically he is leaving out, you will not be able to lead the team to a successful completion of the project. Sep 4, 2016 at 13:07

To me, there are a number of red flags here:

  • You come across as thinking you know better than this staff member and aren't willing to discuss things: "that I knows the best", "he has to follow me". Being a team lead is about persuading people that you are the lead, not just asserting your authority.
  • Not giving him any work. Did you seriously think that this was the practice of a good team lead?

While there may be problems with this team member, I think the first thing you need to do is to take a good hard look in the mirror at your own behaviour - at the moment, you don't sound like someone who I'd want as a team lead in my organisation.

  • 11
    You were trying to help that person by boycotting them and giving them no work? That makes it look like you behave like a child, not a team leader. And you need to realise that your management knows - they know you damaged the company by giving a paid employee no work to do, and they know that your appraisals are petty and unreliable, that's why they did override them.
    – gnasher729
    Sep 4, 2016 at 12:30
  • 1
    "Take a hard look in the mirror" means that if you want to know whose fault the bad situation is, you look into the mirror, and you see the face of the person at fault - your own face.
    – gnasher729
    Sep 4, 2016 at 12:35
  • 1
    @paul: if this staff member has been underperforming with a number of team leads for a number of years, why is he still employed? Sep 4, 2016 at 12:38
  • 1
    @paul:Also it is obvious you haven't really talked to his previous TLs. Why not?
    – smith
    Sep 4, 2016 at 13:08
  • 2
    @TomTom it's a problem because managers/team leads like that drive good employees out of a company. If you treat your staff like drones, then drones are all you'll have. Sep 4, 2016 at 17:23

You have a performance problem. I take it, the performance problem is that he refuses to comply with the team requirements as set by you, leading to low quality deliverables that result in customer complaints about the quality of the team's work.

  1. You don't seem to have put down in writing - not even in emails, the deliverables you expect from him and by what deadlines. Absent this documentation, when things go South, it's a he-said she-said situation that's challenging to sort out. As your manager, I'd have no trouble laying the responsibility for the situation at your door and your days as my team lead are numbered in the single digits.

  2. Your personnel situation, if unresolved, inexorably leads to someone's termination or demotion. You're the team leader, you are accountable for the team' performance. It is your responsibility to make it easy to trace a performance issue from the actions that told the subordinate to take to the fact that he did not take them. If you fail to do so, as your manager, I'll hold you directly accountable for it. Of course, if he turns out to be right in his objections and you are wrong, it is incumbent on you to make it easy for the management to trace it just as easily.

This process of documentation is meant to protect you as a team lead - you want to come across as transparent to your management and unambiguous to your team, with clear lines of expectation as to what's supposed to be delivered and when, and in what shape. As long as you are the team lead and the accountability for the team's performance falls squarely on you, you have the right to insist that things be done your way - Your management will make you pay a price if you insist that things be done your way and you are dead wrong.

Forget about not assigning any work to him - you're acting like a five-year old and you are dodging the issue, which is that he is not performing in a way that helps the team. Failures to address the issues won't reflect well on you as a team lead.

You have a personnel performance issue. You engage the management - you want to come across as methodical, logical and relentless. Most of all, the management agrees that you are making sense. You engage him - he may not agree with your expectations, but he knows exactly what they are. You document everything. Eventually, something is going to crack.

  • @All I think I got the answer, which mix of all answers, except the one which has the highest votes (Seems like the person I am talking about is currently with them)
    – paul
    Sep 4, 2016 at 13:55
  • The last paragraph gets my vote, unfortunately he really should have persisted with that from the start, but better late than never.
    – Kilisi
    Sep 4, 2016 at 14:08

A couple of points in addition to the other excellent answers.

Firstly you are going to have to have a frank discussion with him where you get him to talk about what he sees as the issues (with you and with the work) and how best to approach them. If you've got to the point of worry about paper trails etc you're on a downward slope and you need to reset your relationship with him. The only way to do that is to sit down and talk and build up some trust between the two of you. It won't be an easy series of conversations and will involve admitting where you've got things wrong but without trust between the two of you, one of you is going to end up being pushed out of the company.

Secondly, he's been there for five years and should know what he's talking about. Try and take advantage of that by using his knowledge and strengths. eg don't tell people what to do but put problems to the team and get them to talk about how they are going to get them fixed on time. As well as giving members a bit of control it also puts quite a bit of peer pressure on people to deliver what they said which can help control difficult to manage people.

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