Every new hire represents an adjustment, both for your new teammate and your existing team. New teammates may struggle to adjust to new processes and personalities, resulting in arguments over the “right” way to do things. If you’re dealing with an argumentative team member, you can address the situation proactively and productively. Here we provide a few helpful hints on how to get along when there are differences of opinion.
Acknowledge Your Own Feelings
When a teammate’s attitude rubs you the wrong way, take a moment to name how you’re feeling. “I feel angry.” “I feel frustrated.” “I feel undermined.” Naming your feelings has two benefits. First, it clarifies how you’re responding to a situation. Second, it places some distance between your rational brain and your emotional brain – giving you a choice which to follow. Naming the feeling can also help you spot concrete ways to address it. If you’re feeling undermined, for instance, consider pairing up with a teammate who offers more support.
Take Nothing Personally
Treat interactions with your teammates as opportunities for curiosity. When your teammate argues or is disagreeable, examine what they’re saying for evidence about what matters to them or what is bothering them. Remind yourself: They’re not arguing because you are the problem. They’re arguing because something else is the problem. It’s not (always) your job to fix that problem, but knowing it’s there can help you focus on the work rather than the interaction.
Getting curious can often provide an opportunity for clarification. Misunderstandings happen all the time; communication can clear the air quickly.
Develop Behavior Norms With Your Team
When a team shares clear expectations or “norms” on how to behave, even argumentative teammates begin to realize they won’t be effective unless they follow the norms. Norms may include approaches like “one person speaks at a time,” “we avoid personal comments or attacks,” or “when discussing strong feelings, we use ‘I’ statements.” Acknowledge that team members will disagree. Discuss and model ways to disagree effectively. When team members can have respectful conversations that focus on the issue at hand, they can produce better results than they can from constant agreement or constant fights.