The Negative Informal Leader…

by | Jan 12, 2023

If you’re a leader, you’ve probably experienced this…someone on your team who is constantly negative—who is regularly disagreeable, goes contrary to what you’re wanting or needs to be done, resists change…and often influences others to feel the same way.

We call this a ‘negative informal leader’…

You may feel frustrated because of the energy this person and situation requires from you at every turn…AND you see the negative effect it has on the team.

The reality is, this person is actually a LEADER. Even if they don’t have a title, they have influence.

And you’re having to contend with the fact that this person has a following and is leading part of the team away from where you want and need them to go.

So how do you turn the situation around?

1) Get curious not furious – ask questions, discover the REAL reason for the employee’s dissatisfaction or hostility…it’s often not what it ‘appears’ to be, or even what the employee initially says it is – it’s usually something a bit deeper.

2) Map a path forward with the employee – look for ways to address issues and concerns as well as leverage the employee’s strengths. Getting them engaged as a contributor is an important goal.

3) Build strong relationships with all employees on the team – spend more time with each of the other employees, one-on-one, so that you know their individual opinions and to ensure no one is inadvertently being pushed around by a stronger personality.

4) Clarify boundaries – decide the boundaries that are appropriate for communicating disagreement within your team (things like body language, tone and volume of voice, type of words/language allowed, etc.)…keeping in mind that while disagreement and conflict can be healthy and is important for growth – it needs to be balanced with respect in its delivery.

The ultimate goal is to turn around the negative, informal leader so that they become a contributor and advocate. Coaching UP is almost always the best first step. We’ve seen this strategy work time and time again.

If you’re interested in learning more about how we partner with our clients to transform leaders from ‘boss’ to ‘coach’, let’s connect and chat about your team.