Many of you are asked to take a leadership role in leading a team, whether it’s for research, administration, or even clinical. It is easy to feel unprepared for these roles, and there are many pitfalls waiting to sabotage your team’s productivity. The ALiEM Faculty Incubator has created a series of 10 case-based teaming problems to provide you with evidence-based advice and solutions for tackling some of the more common problems encountered in our professional team experiences – including the wayward collaborator!

Case 8

You are writing up a case series with a group of colleagues and divided up the work. Although you have taken the lead, 1 of your collaborators keeps making changes to other parts of the project. She disagrees with the format you have chosen and refuses to stick with it.

What strategies can you use to approach this colleague in a manner that is both constructive and non-threatening?

“I see, I think, I wonder”

The “I see, I think, I wonder” model of feedback can be used to both share your frustration and constructively inquire about the nature of the problem.1

I’m frustrated by my colleague’s unexpected changes. I don’t know why she’s doing it. What’s up with that?

I see

Start with the objective “camera check” – what data did you see or not see? This gives your colleague a chance to share something you may have missed.

“I noticed that you changed multiple parts of the project.”

I think

Discuss your perspective in a direct but respectful way, focusing on the work, not the person.

“I’m frustrated because I thought we agreed on a format and assigned clear roles. The changes you made are making it harder for me to complete the work.”

I wonder

Do you best to turn your frustration into curiosity in order to learn more about her perspective.

“I wonder what your thoughts are on this. I’m hopeful that we can streamline this work together.”

“WTF?” to “What’s their frame?”

The shift from “WTF?” to “What’s their frame?” is tough.2 Through curiosity, we can leverage accountability and psychological safety to learn and improve together.3

Conflict is an expected part of group work. We can address conflict more effectively through open communication, mutual respect, and creativity to devise a mutually beneficial alternative.4

Once I know where my team member is coming from, how do I move forward?

  • Discuss your shared goals. Mission clarity is imperative. Can a compromise be reached?
  • Create a specific timeline for task completion.5
  • Assign specific tasks to avoid variable interpretation.
  • Schedule regular meetings to ensure that everyone can share their opinions, create clear objectives, and reinforce the overall mission.6
  • Reflect on whether my team members’ talents and tasks are adequately matched to increase productivity and satisfaction.7

These strategies of mission and role clarity speak to the importance of open communication and developing trust among team members. This is essential in a time where we are increasingly working in virtual teams.

Case Conclusion

You schedule a team meeting to review the project and allow everyone to voice their opinions on how it has progressed so far. You are surprised to hear that the member described above had previously received feedback that they weren’t taking enough initiative, and she didn’t realize that her actions were perceived as being disruptive. By avoiding false assumptions and exploring the true nature of the problem you were able to solve the conflict and move forward with a successful project.


  1. 1.
    Rudolph J, Simon R, Dufresne R, Raemer D. There’s no such thing as “nonjudgmental” debriefing: a theory and method for debriefing with good judgment. Simul Healthc. 2006;1(1):49-55.
  2. 2.
    Rudolph J. Jenny Rudolph: Helping Without Harming.; 2017.
  3. 3.
    Edmonson AC. The Competitive Imperative of Learning. Harvard Business Review. Published July 1, 2008. Accessed September 13, 2018.
  4. 4.
    Ferrazzi K. How to Manage Conflict in Virtual Teams. Harvard Business Review. Published November 19, 2012. Accessed September 13, 2018.
  5. 5.
    O’Hara C. How to Work with Someone Who Isn’t a Team Player. Harvard Business Review. Published April 21, 2017. Accessed September 13, 2018.
  6. 6.
    Andriopoulos C. Save Your Next Staff Meeting From Itself. Harvard Business Review.  . Published August 6, 2014. Accessed September 13, 2018.
  7. 7.
    Rimm A. Use a Task Map to Improve Your Team’s Performance. Harvard Business Review. Published February 27, 2014. Accessed September 13, 2018.
Simiao Li-Sauerwine, MD, MS

Simiao Li-Sauerwine, MD, MS

Chief Academic Officer,
ALiEM Wellness Think Tank 2019-20
Assistant Program Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
The Ohio State University
Shannon McNamara, MD

Shannon McNamara, MD

Assistant Professor
Department of Emergency Medicine
Mount Sinai St. Luke’s West;
Emergency Medicine Simulation Director
NYU Langone Health
Christopher Lloyd, DO, FACEP

Christopher Lloyd, DO, FACEP

Associate Residency Director
Director, Medical Education
Doctors Hospital/Ohio Health Emergency Medicine Residency
Christopher Lloyd, DO, FACEP

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