What to do when a team member is not contributing?

Have you been on a team where Someone is Not pulling their weight?

What to do when a team member is not contributing?
It is a tricky situation and also a tough interview question to face.
Let us dig deeper and learn how to answer it smartly!

Almost every interview has a question related to teamwork. According to the Queen’s University of Charlotte, about 75% of employers consider teamwork very important. And the reason is simple, that is, teamwork boosts the workflow and the productivity of any organization. 

Let us dig deeper into this tricky but important sales interview question on what to do when a team member is not contributing or not pulling their weight. Here is how we will cover this important interview question.


1. Why is the Interviewer asking this question?

2. How to prepare for this question?

3. How to answer this question?

4. Similar Questions

5. Mistakes to avoid while answering

Now, to prove yourself as a team player, you need to showcase your empathy toward team members. And the very common question to judge so is, have you been on a team where someone is underperforming? And the preparation and final answer to such a question cannot be general. You need an out-of-the-box strategy to answer such behavioral interview questions. 

To frame this answer in a positive light, you need to ask some questions to yourself. In this article, you would find this extraordinary strategy to prepare an effective answer.

Why do interviewers ask – What if your team member is not cooperating?

Interviewers seek an answer where the candidate gives an example of his/her efficiency and convinces them properly. For any kind of entry-level or supervisor position, this one common question based on teamwork experience is asked to the interviewee. According to the position, the interviews wants to see different qualities in the candidate.

For an entry-level position, the interviewers want to know if you can take initiative and do not overstep a certain boundary. On the other hand, for the supervisory level, they may want to see if you can handle a team with empathy as well as can take further steps towards the disciplinary actions. 

What if your team member is not cooperating? What can you do?

You need to adapt or practice some professional behavior to deal with such a situation where any of your team members is not pulling their weight. According to BIT.AI, 86% of employees cite workplace failures due to team members’ lack of collaboration. 

1. Be Collaborative

Open and honest communication improves collaboration in a professional workplace. Collaboration is important to carry out any workload in time. Only one person cannot drive the whole team unless everyone shares their ideas, brainstorm together, and put fair input.

As time-management expert Elizabeth Grace Saunders told HBR, breaking a large assignment into smaller parts can boost productivity, team morale, and effectiveness.

Communication skills and teamwork experience play a critical role to be collaborative. Having each other’s back in a team is beneficial for everyone in the team. Collaboration is a key channel to have clear expectations from each other’s and it solves the problem of biased work input.  

2. Try to take an Initiative

Sometimes, an initiative needs to handle a balance in the team for the sake of everyone’s effort. If you can take an initiative to make a balance between the team, it will improve your relations in the team. Also, your acceptability will increase. To take an initiative to find out why someone is not pulling weight, or why underperforming, you need to take an initiative to talk. This is the primary step to balancing team collaboration. Also, to take an initiative, workplace management is another crucial skill. For any position in a company, a potential initiative would increase team efficiency along with a better image to a higher authority. 

3. Be a Solution Seeker

Develop your diverse solution thinking ability to brainstorm in difficult situations. To be a solution seeker you need to assess yourself with some questions. 

Did you have a one-on-one conversation with this team member who is underperforming in the team?

Were you able to explain how you felt about the work culture or the current project?

Did you work together to find a way to solve the problem in time and progress together?

To find all the answers you need to take an initiative at the right time and communicate well. It’s not about working for your team member but let him find the will to work. 

4. Keep Positive Approach

To complete all the requirements till point 3, your approach needs to be positive and empathetic. According to the leadership coach and former U.S. Navy SEAL Jocko Willink shared, you shouldn’t pre-assume they are lazy but consider that they have something going on in their life that is interfering with their work. You can have an informal conversation to find out the real problem. Make sure you don’t rush to understand the problem and then find a proper solution. A positive approach would help you to keep yourself stress-free from the workload. 

5. Apply Brook’s Law

For supervisor-level positions, where you can make the team all by yourself, make sure you don’t add new people in the middle of a project. According to Fred Brook, a new member in an existing team takes more time to complete a project than estimated. This is because, he/she needs to understand the whole project, communicate with everyone, and finally they can put their efforts. 

How to Answer – What to do if a team member is not contributing?

For any behavioral question in an interview, you need to be particular about your answer and supporting explanation.

To address the problem, you need to ask three questions to yourself beforehand as follows;

Is it my patience?

What are my mediation skills?

What is my ability to demonstrate leadership and influence in the team?

Related Read: How to Answer “Are you a team player?

Answer For Entry-level Position

In my last job, we had to work in a team to complete a project in a month. After a week, I can observe the design team is not working according to the deadlines. 

So, I went for lunch breaks with the key designer and said that our tech team cannot complete the website without their designs. So, she informed me that there is a contradiction between two people with the final design. 

So our team decided to have an informal team meet and then we consulted with the designs. Finally, the problem was solved and we as a team could complete the project in time.


1. You need to help someone and ask for help from them for a balanced collaboration.

2. You cannot create any toxic work environment.

3. You cannot overstep any limit but showcase your concern. 

4. Use any automated tool (e.g. Trello or Slack) to communicate and help each other. 

If you don’t have any past work experience, try to recall examples from your school or college where you had to work in teams. Prepare the answer in STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method for an impactful explanation.

Answer For Supervisor-level Position

As a supervisor, I would like to help the employee and understand his problem. If they continue underperforming, then I have to take disciplinary actions according to the company policy. In my last job, I had to give one of my subordinates a warning notice with a written document of his performance for the last six months. 


1. Form an effective team with the highest productivity. A group of 6-10 people works most effectively in the organizations. 

2. Assign mini-deadlines or milestones to have stepwise progress on a project. 

3. A warning is the second option. The first option is to manage the team as a mentor and understand their problems. 

Google Scholar and professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business advised that a team has to be team-oriented, learning-oriented, and systems-oriented. 

In simple steps, there should be a suitable work culture where employees can be comfortable communicating. In the next step, the members would learn all the key points, deadlines, and roles. For a system-oriented team, the members have to keep focus and can address any problem to overcome together. 

You need to emphasize your course of action to balance the team efforts instead of a tattle-tale of when you said the lazy person that he/she is not pulling their weight. Also, don’t say that you directly went to the manager o supervisor to solve this problem as it shows that you have no regard for his/her time.

Common Questions on How you collaborate with team members

1. Can you effectively work with others on a team project? Do you have any experience?

2. Does your working style have a proper balance?

3. Explain to us what conflict-resolution skills do you have?

4. Tell me what is your background in resolving teamwork issues? 

5. How do you manage when someone is underperforming even after a one-to-one conversation?

6. Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a co-worker and how you dealt with it finally?

7. What will you do to balance a team even after getting tags like ‘Bossy’ or ‘Arrogant’? 

8. Will you overstep limits to manage teamwork when someone is not working necessarily?

4 Mistakes to Avoid when talking about your team member not contributing

1. Don’t criticize anyone while answering the question. It is already inevitable that someone is not pulling their weight. You can’t judge them isolated of showing empathy while answering. It would showcase you as a petty person. 

In our team, one member was too lazy. He never responded in meetings, didn’t communicate properly, and always got late to complete his portion of work. Our whole team was suffering from his poor activity. “

2. In your answer, you should not speak about your conversation with the person or your step to discuss it with your supervisor. But you need to showcase how you could able to manage the situation on your own with the skills mentioned before. 

I observed one of our team members is not attending the online meeting on time and not giving daily updates. So I talked to our team lead and explained how our team is lagging for just one person.”

3. Never be a pushover. You cannot earn any credit by saying that you took the extra work to finish the assignment on time. I will only reflect that you are lacking conflict-resolution skills and cannot be a team player. Your answer should contain a positive solution to solve the problem of equal input in a team.

I thought it would be better if I complete his portion of work to complete the assignment on time. It would take much time to make a conversation with him and figure out the problem.”

4. The worst part of an interview is to say, I don’t have any such experience. Your lack of experience won’t be entertained by the interviewers. If you don’t have any professional experience, frame an answer from your school or college experience.  

This is to say, behavioral interview questions can only be answered when you have those skills in real. So it is always better to develop skills before you apply for an interview and prepare for a perfect answer. You can make up a story if required, but the skills mentioned in that story need to be real. 



[Must Read before Next Interview – 20 Strong Examples of – Tell me about yourself for Fresher Sample Answer ]

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