Bad teammates – How to identify them
While I’ve mostly worked with lots of great people, there are a few notable bad exceptions that ended up being pretty crummy. In some cases, it can be hard to spot them at first. Some of these bad teammates may even be your friends. It’s important that you identify these bad apples as soon as possible and deal with them appropriately. I’ve made a list of things that I’ve observed that may be signs that you are dealing with a potentially bad teammate.
Bad Work Ethics
I’m specifically talking about amount of work hours and amount/quality of work produced. When one of your teammates works a lot less than the others, or produces lesser quality work, it weighs down on the team. When working indie full time, make sure you identify core work hours or a clear time system and that you respect it. Some people will be tempted to come in late, leave early, take an extra day off, because they are leading the “indie life”. It can be frustrating for the whole group in these situation, creating tension and diminishing motivation.
This is especially difficult to deal with when working part time. In those cases, it’s important that everyone set their expectations on the amount of time that can be given for the project. If some people cannot follow up on their promises, it’s probably best they leave the project, or get less revenue or equivalent. On the other hand, you will often find one person that will want to work more than the others, because they are very motivated by the project. That’s OK, but it must be clear to them that the others can’t necessarily follow that pace.
It can be super annoying, but if you feel someone is not working enough (or hard enough), start writing down their hours or contributions. You can then use this information to see if your suspicions are correct. Another way to deal with this is ask everyone to log their hours in a tool.
People with Double Standards
I’ve seen people who want to apply rules to the group, but don’t follow the rules themselves. Maybe they’ve noticed that another colleague is often on Facebook, but they themselves are often on YouTube. They want to confront these people with the problem, when they are a part of the problem too. These people are problematic not only because they can potentially cause tension between teammates, but also because they think they are excluded from the rules somehow. And when someone thinks they are above the rules, bad things happen. I find this behavior is often associated with someone that has a superiority complex.
Bad Diva Behavior
Speaking of superiority complex, this one is a classic problem in the games industry. Divas think they are the center of the world and that they are better than everyone else (sometimes at everything). If one of your teammates is constantly boasting about their qualities and work, or worse, putting down other people’s work, you’re probably dealing with a diva.
This can also manifest itself in more subtle ways. Subtle divas will try to delegate boring tasks to others because they think they are above these tasks. Or they might say they are not motivated by certain decisions/tasks and will justify working less efficiently because of “motivation problems”. In some cases, I’ve seen people who said they were unmotivated because some people did not look at them during the morning stand-up meetings.
A good dose of confidence can be good for business types, presenters or lead positions, but taking it too far is problematic.
Titles Over Responsibilities
Many times I’ve seen people come talk to me about their team and have over-the-top titles for some of their team members. I’ve seen one guy say he had a producer and an executive producer in his team of 5 people. Although the previous situation is ridiculous, I’ve seen many people insist that they have “big” titles when their actual role on the team was not that important. In some cases, it might be OK to give yourself a relevant title if you actually have the responsibilities for it. Titles are meant to represent the fact that you are responsible of something (important). The problem is when someone says that they are CEO, but just draw or code in their corner all day. Usually these bad teammates are just interested in looking good and might be associated with any of the previous behaviors.
I also have a pet peeve with people who say they are CEO of their one man “studio”, but that’s another subject!
The ugly part is actually dealing with these bad teammates. This is never easy whether you’re in a professional setting or a more laid-back indie setting. It can actually be harder in the latter case.
I think the best thing to do (in both cases), is to actually sit down with the concerned individual and tell them how their behavior is problematic. This can be done one-on-one or with a small group, depending on the situation. Stay calm and try to explain how the behavior is causing trouble and how you’d like it to change.
If the person doesn’t listen or denies the problem, you may have to let go of them sooner or later. Getting stuck with the wrong people can be very problematic down the line, so it’s often better to get rid of them, rather then letting them weigh you down.
I know I’ve regretted not “firing” someone in the past, and it’s not likely to happen again.
In the end, you should listen to your instincts. If you feel something is wrong, then something probably is. It’s important to identify these things early on, so that you can deal with them quickly, before it’s too late. Oh and I know, I missed an opportunity by not naming a sub-header “The Good” to complete a perfect sub-header combo. But that’s OK, at least I got the bad and the ugly in there!