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The Best Ways to Manage a Selfish Employee


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

There are a lot of challenges that come with the territory of owning, running, or managing a business. At every level, disciplines, challenges, and hurdles face those who find themselves in a place of authority. Everything from the budget to the quarterly reports and the day-to-day operations can be on a business leader’s plate. For smaller business owners or department managers, dealing directly with employees is a considerable part of their workload. 

As long as businesses are run by humans, interacting with people and guiding them to success will always be a significant factor. While people are always going to be a business’s greatest asset, sometimes employees can pose significant challenges for management to overcome. This is particularly true of employees that don’t share a team-based mindset.  

“Successful businesses are built off of teams, not individuals.”

-Bradley Hall, CEO of SONU Sleep

Dealing with an employee that lacks a team-based work ethic or is selfish can be hard. Here are some of the best ways to manage these employees and help steer them toward success.

“Success is empty if you arrive at the finish line alone. The best reward is to get there surrounded by winners.”  

Howard Schultz, CEO, Starbucks

No One Left Behind

One of the first steps to dealing with a selfish employee actually has nothing to do with the employee. While there is a freedom to discover that an employee doesn’t belong on the team, or would be better off in another work environment, how you approach decisions like this is important. Dealing with a selfish employee takes a good amount of personal inventory to do well.

The main thing that you and your management team want to do is take on the mentality that your employees matter. Yes, the success of the business is very important, and sometimes that involves letting people go, but true success should promote everyone. This means that an effective management method is giving every employee the opportunities and chances they need to be successful. 

“Give your employees the benefit of the doubt, and practice seeing things from their perspective. Even if it doesn’t change the outcome, it fosters the kind of environment that gives your team the chance to succeed.”

-Michael Fischer, Founder of Elite HRT

For some employees, it may be easier to label them as a ‘problem’; however, taking time to see what is going on and investigate their situation is important. Not only does it show your employee and their fellow employees that you care, but it gives them a chance to point out anything that might be wrong. Being willing to hear criticism or recognize problems that employees point out is a great way of building team morale. Taking on a mindset that puts the needs of a selfish employee first is not easy, but it’s a necessary one. 

Build an Environment of Equality 

“One way to help guide employees that may struggle with being selfish is to emphasize equality in your departments.”

-Alan Ahdoot, Founder and Partner at Adamson Ahdoot

This means that certain expectations and even workloads should be equally shared among all employees. If you are a leader, then leading by example in these expectations is key.

By creating environments that don’t lend themselves to favoritism, you are helping to promote an environment that encourages teamwork and mitigates reasons for selfishness. This can be hard as it’s very normal to play favorites in the workplace. Recognizing how easy it can be to do this will help you and your management teams create systems that ensure favoritism doesn’t happen. 

Team Work is Worth Focusing On

​“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”

Michael Jordan

Teamwork is something that should not be expected to just organically appear. Certain combinations of personalities can make it easier to achieve, teamwork is a goal that should be regularly invested in. The ability to bring people together and create a culture of teamwork is not something that happens passively. It takes a lot of intention, guidance, and hard work.

“Finding ways to connect with your employees that promote teamwork is a human process, and it takes time.”

-Patricio Paucar, Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer at Navi

While there will always be employees that may need to find employment elsewhere, just because an employee shows selfish tendencies doesn’t mean they are a total loss. To build a team means that you take a special inventory of each player. Getting to know your employee on a personal level inside the workplace can help them feel a sense of ownership and value. 

One practical way that you can help selfish employees feel like they are part of a team is to bring them tasks that naturally emphasize their strength. Chances are, an employee that is known for being selfish will have a bad reputation with other employees. If this is the case, then it can be a struggle for other employees to treat them with respect. By getting to know these employees, you can find out where their strengths lie and utilize this to the benefit of the team.

By delegating tasks that highlight a skill, competence, and importance to the team, you can give challenging employees a chance to see that they do matter. Positive enforcement of their skill and their impact on the team can help to win them over to a more team-based mindset.


Managing with a selfish employee can be time-consuming and even a drain on your resources. This is something that takes a certain amount of self-awareness and determination to succeed. While it’s always possible that a team needs to let go of someone who doesn’t seem to be a good fit, there is a lot to do before that point.

Learning your employee’s strengths, implementing team-building exercises, and leading by example in team-based work culture, are all effective ways to help influence employee behavior. Finding ways to successfully manage employees so that everyone can make it to the ‘finish line’ is a deeply rewarding accomplishment and well worth the effort. 

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