Dealing with a disruptive team member and turning him/her into a more productive member: using Option Solving?

I was involved with a group of department leaders not so long ago and they raised what seemed to be a common and perplexing issue to all of them: dealing with a disruptive team member who undermines team spirit. None of the department leaders could easily move any such person out, owing to the nature of their organization, so finding other options became important to them.

Interestingly enough, their inclination was to take a punitive stance toward a recalcitrant person: although after some discussion, it was seen as better to challenge the individual concerned with an opportunity rather than discipline him/her. Disciplining people seems to be our traditional instinct where, more often than not, that will make matters worse rather than better. It is far better to offer people opportunities to win their cooperation rather than try to knock them down a notch.

With this thinking in mind, we developed a suitable question –starting with What, since that connects us with our intuitive mind for an opinion – which included three considerations: out of a total of six. We took the most crucial 50% of our consideration listing: see our Latest Example. Note: Finding the right question is key to obtaining an optimal option solving outcome.

This question then prompted two yin and yang “bookends,” which created a framework as well as got the group’s creative intuitive minds churning. These turned out as, “Make him a group leader” and “Don’t bother to try.” Although both were options, you will see in our Latest Example why these were unacceptable off the bat.

Challenged by these two bookends, fresh ideas/options started to flow. You will see in our example that the group ended up with seven plausible options: one of which was “Role to promote the group externally” – Option B. We normally aim for at least five, so as to stretch our creative capabilities, but in this case the energy developed in the room of eight people was such that it increased this number to seven. So far so good.

Now I introduced emotional distancing by covering up the option solving picture to allow some time to pass for the group’s intuitive minds to subconsciously consider the seven, while we talked about other issues. We did take a break and talk about other matters for about 15 minutes. At that point, the picture was uncovered and participants were requested to absorb it quickly, without due analysis, and then intuitively and confidentially make their choice from A-G.

Although there were some outliers, the group did make an overall choice and seemed pretty satisfied with the outcome, because it had considered all its options…doing that gave it peace of mind. The group then opted to consider Next Steps rather than continue with a Peel the Onion exercise. Once those next steps were fleshed out the group members seemed pretty much ready to go: with a look of relief across people’s faces as they sought to handle an issue that had been bothering them for ages.  

If you have an example of your own, please share it with this blogger, through the COMMENTS area.  Thanks Option Solving. (NOTE: Next posting in 2 weeks: “Dealing with a sudden surge in course members.” Let’s have your COMMENTS or go to to connect with the blogger.)


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