As the principal partner of Solutia SDO, Jackie Clark has had a direct role in managing the people behind the technology that’s transformed businesses across Canada. When IT projects stall, this seasoned leader, who’s had a front seat watching tech transform business in Canada, knows how to manage people to get projects running again. This bi-weekly column is for leaders working on enterprise-wide projects searching for insight on navigating the issues and pain points that hijack success. We’ll be sharing the most common questions Clark hears from her clients and her responses to them. Do you want your project management problems solved? Leave a comment with your question or  Tweet Jackie @sdosolutia.

I’m dealing with a challenging team member and the team is pushing me to fire him. They are ready to walk. Problem is, she does great work. What should I do?

“Teamwork makes the dream work.” We’ve all seen that on a wall somewhere or another, right?  Unfortunately, people being people, dreams don’t always come true.

There’s lots of advice out there for managers struggling with team conflict. Here’s my reader’s digest version.


Make sure you have your facts straight and that the team members who are complaining aren’t actually the problem. Identify the behaviors, the impacts, and the full picture of the situation.


Meet one-on-one with the difficult team member ASAP to talk about the complaint. Don’t mince words. Focus on their behavior and the impact it’s having on the team.


You’re a Project Manager. It’s not easy for you to STOP TALKING. But it’s important to listen to each team member’s side of the story. Keep an open mind, give them time to talk, and use active listening skills.


Decide if the person driving everyone nuts is a jerk or basically a nice guy that, for whatever reason, doesn’t function well in the team.

Implement. Monitor. Escalate.

Put an action plan in place. If he’s a jerk, it’s pretty straightforward – give him a deadline and some clear instructions on what he needs to accomplish by that date and clearly explain the consequences. Even if they are really good at what they do, unfettered jerks will take your project down.  Dealing with a difficult team member who is not a jerk is trickier and requires more time and effort to figure out and solve the problem. Ask the team member if they have any ideas so they are invested and not sitting on the sidelines waiting for you to work your magic. Work together to come up with ways to fix the problem.

After all of this, if it’s still not working remove the obstacle to success.


You’re not alone in dealing with challenging team members. Our very own SNC Lavalin real-life drama kept unfolding in Ottawa before our eyes for months.  Did Justin Trudeau do the right thing for the good of the team? You decide since it’s a good case study in handling conflict.