I put the finishing touches on this week’s edition of Teammate Tuesday from the confines of my hospital bed while I waited to be wheeled away for gallbladder surgery.

A few months ago, I experienced the first of what my doctors later determined to be gallbladder attacks. The attacks began with a sharp pain in my back that gradually spread to the upper right side of my abdomen. The pain was accompanied by a spike in my temperature and intense nausea.

After enduring several subsequent attacks, with the most recent resulting in a trip to the emergency room, doctors decided that the best course of action was to remove my gallbladder.

I’ve been thinking about how my gallbladder problem mirrors the issue of handling a toxic teammate.

The gallbladder is basically a hollow organ that stores excess bile, a sort of digestive lubricant. Most of the time the gallbladder lies dormant like a deflated balloon. But between meals, it fills with bile and temporarily grows to the size of a small pear. The gallbladder has a purpose, but it’s not an essential organ. The human body can adapt and function perfectly fine without it.

However, when the gallbladder malfunctions the human body is thrust into turmoil. If not dealt with, toxins literally spew into the rest of the body. I can attest from personal experience that a malfunctioning gallbladder equates to complete misery. How can something so small and nonessential create such a disruption in harmony?

The misery caused by a malfunctioning gallbladder is a lot like the misery caused by a malfunctioning teammate—even a nonessential teammate.

Occasionally, teams have individuals who become, for whatever reason, disgruntled. Maybe they don’t like their role. Maybe they feel underappreciated. Or maybe they’ve become unable to operate within the boundaries of a team-first culture. As their malcontent grows, so does the probability of them disrupting the team’s functionality.

The disruptions they cause aren’t always proportional to the individual’s prominence on the team. Disgruntled benchwarmers can be just as disruptive as star players. Malcontent receptionists can be just as disruptive as top sales representatives.

When my gallbladder first started to malfunction, we tried to manage the situation with medication and diet. We made an honest effort to correct the malfunction without taking extreme measures. Ultimately, our efforts failed and surgery became our most viable solution.

When a teammate is malfunctioning, you need to follow a similar strategy. Do your due diligence and make him or her aware of your perception of the toxic behavior. Explain why the behavior is unacceptable. Be clear about the alterations you expect. Provide the support and encouragement needed to make the necessary alterations. But understand that those steps might not resolve the problem.

Comparable to my gallbladder situation, sometimes removing the malfunctioning teammate from the team is the best course of action.

This is not a decision that good teammates arrive at lightly. Take solace in knowing that if you’ve exhausted your other options removing a toxic teammate is your way of prioritizing the interests of your team. Your decision is your way of showing how much you care about your team.

As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.

Lance Loya is a leading authority on the good teammate mindset. He is a college basketball coach turned author, blogger, and professional speaker, who inspires TEAMBUSTERS to become TEAMMATES. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or through his weekly Teammate Tuesday blog.


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