Earlier this week, I brought up (once again) the oft-discussed subject of workplace negativity, specifically the various tactics that negative people use to create conflict and friction in the workplace. Previously, I’ve discussed how defensiveness, stalling, disrespectfulness, ranting and gossip are common methods; but I promised that today I would discuss one final extreme tactic – sabotage. Basically, sabotage is a desperate and final way for a negative person to try to regain power over a situation where he or she thinks they have lost control. Sabotage is usually used by someone who has tried a number of more subtle ways to get others to change a decision or direction of a program. At this point, the saboteur is desperate or frightened about the future of the situation and is acting in a “last chance” frame of mind. How do you get past this? Well first, understand that usually, the person is missing or lacking some important information, and is operating from a position of incomplete knowledge. Then, be aware: pay attention to other signals that a person is unhappy with a situation or decision. Give the person the opportunity to share his fears and concerns, letting him know that you value his opinions. By letting him feel heard, you may be able to avoid the sabotage altogether. However, once the sabotage has taken place, be firm and clear about the inappropriateness of the situation. If necessary, start managing this as a performance issue. Set clear consequences for any future sabotaging behaviour. It is absolutely critical that you be firm and direct. If it makes sense, you can also set up a future communication plan with the person as a means of addressing her fears and concerns before she acts out on them. But above all, deal promptly and decisively with the situation, and be firm and direct.
Have you faced a situation of sabotage from a negative person? Would love to hear what actions you took (without giving away any confidential details of course). It’s first-hand information like yours that will help us all learn to become better leaders, so I hope you’ll share.
P.S. Dealing with workplace negativity comes up a lot on my blog; because leaders are constantly asking what specific things they can do to avoid negativity or at least limit it from spreading. Here are several previous blog posts that offer tools to deal with workplace negativity.