How to deal with a condescending team member

What should you do if you’re running a team where there’s a steady influx of new members of staff, but also one or two team members who’ve been around for much longer who insist on patronising the newer staff members? 

This is often the downside of long-term team members

On one hand, good for them, recognising that they’re not into climbing the greasy pole and are happy where they are. On the other hand, this choice can be detrimental to team dynamics, particularly if they go into patronising mode. Which often, unfortunately, they can do. 

Your responsibility as their manager

As their manager you need to realise the problem that their condescending behaviour is causing  and provide them with clear guidance as to what is expected of them in their role. In particular, if they’re telling other people about out of date practices that needs to stop. They’ll need some job-specific training to bring them up to date on what’s expected of them.  

You should also consider sharing the feedback that others find them patronising. You may choose to phrase it differently so that it’s a less inflammatory expression you are using to describe their behaviour (‘talking down to others’; ‘putting them down’). Be ready with evidenced examples that you have witnessed. And, if you both decide they should still play a mentoring role, then some training on how to mentor would be a good idea, too. 

How much impact is this having?

If they can’t bring themselves to change, you may need to look more seriously at the role they play. Is this condescending attitude very small, relative to the benefits they bring and you are prepared to tolerate it for their usefulness? Or is it a big problem that means you need to find a way to enter a more formal personal development process? Time will tell!

Three resources to help with a condescending team member: 

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