There are certain behaviors that I don't want on my team or in the organization I help lead. In fact, I don't think these behaviors belong in any organization that has a commitment to health. However, many leaders think that they simply have to put up with these behaviors. You don't! And, in my view you shouldn't. 

These behaviors have nothing to do with professional competence. They do have to do with Emotional Intelligence and the culture of the organization. The health of the organizational culture, however, is not only key to the success of the organization but to the happiness of one's staff. This is why I am so sensitive to these behaviors and will do everything I can to root them out.

People who forge unhealthy alliances with other staff

When I hear negative comments around common themes from different staff I usually pay attention because they often emanate from a single source who has forged alliances with others and shared their negativity. I call these the "voice behind the voices" and their influence through these alliances can turn otherwise happy staff into staff who develop a chip on their shoulders around some issue. This is a cancer to the organizational health.

Those who don't buy into the mission of the organization

Mission and vision is everything. If staff don't buy into them, they are actually working at cross purposes with everything you are trying to accomplish. Those who are not going with you are an anchor creating a drag on your progress. Even if they are competent, they are not contributing to your forward progress.

Those who love to throw water on ideas or conversation

These are the folks who have the ability to shut down discussion. They may be cynics, they may not like the ideas of others. Why they do what they do is not the issue. That they do is the issue. These can be supervisors or staff but they keep others from engaging. Anyone who has the ability to shut down discussion with words or attitudes squashes creativity, engagement and motivation.

Professional critics

There are individuals who see their contribution to the human condition as that of pointing out what is wrong and what should change. What they don't often do is to offer solutions. And often, their criticism is subtly directed at certain individuals - often leaders. While there are many issues that need to be tackled, the end result of the contribution of professional critics is to create a negative culture, rather than a positive culture that seeks to solve problems. While these individuals often think they are doing an organization a service, they are actually doing a disservice.

Personal agendas

Individuals with personal agendas are toxic because the motivations behind their behaviors are hidden rather than public. Personal agendas may be around organizational direction, is often around power and influence or it may be something else. The salient point is that their intentions are hidden and therefore one is not able to address it as an issue. This creates confusion at best and conflict at worst. There is an agenda behind the curtain that is hidden.

None of these behaviors will motivate your staff or contribute to forward momentum to your mission. On the contrary, they will be a drag on the organization and will rob you of cultural health.

How does one deal with unhealthy individuals who fit these or other unhealthy categories?


First, it is critical to have a defined culture as your preferred or stated culture should rule out unhealthy behaviors and give you an objective standard to call people to live up to. A good description of your preferred culture should rule out behaviors that are problematic.

Second, it is important to be clear with your staff both on your preferred culture and those behaviors that are not OK within your organization and why. Culture is something that must be created. We ignore it at our own peril and it should be a constant discussion.

Third, training in EQ (Emotional Intelligence) can be very helpful. Each of the dysfunctional behaviors here are also EQ issues. The better the combined EQ of the staff the fewer problematic behaviors will be present.

Fourth, when you have staff members who are repeat offenders of one or more of the behaviors above, you have to have direct, candid and clear discussions to help them understand that their behaviors are not acceptable. 

Fifth, where coaching is not working, it is often time to move an individual off your team or your organization. 

Remember. When it comes to your culture, you get what you create or allow.

  • Feb 19, 2021
  • Category: News
  • Comments: 0
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