Bad Teams Turned Good: How to Overcome the Team Saboteur

You know better than anyone the frustration of having bad teams in turmoil … dealing with petty personal agendas … getting everyone on the same page … and motivating team members to work together. It’s enough to make you wonder how the powerhouse teams ever make it work.

Oftentimes communication is the number one culprit to these feelings. Misunderstandings lead to conflict. A lack of information leaves people feeling in the dark or confused. In short, bad communication plummets morale and can turn even the best teams into bad teams.

As a manager or team leader, occasionally you come across people for whom no amount of coaching or communication seems to help. These are your team saboteurs. These are people who want to derail the team’s game plan. Don’t let them! And don’t let them get you off your game.

Got a few team members dragging everyone else down? Here’s what to do and how to communicate:

Team Saboteurs—What and/or Who Could Derail Your Efforts

  • Seem to always take a contrary point of view
  • Repeatedly vote against items the rest of the team supports
  • Are naysayers who are usually pessimistic
  • Frequently miss or arrive late for meetings
  • Are disruptive
  • Fail to follow through on assignments in a timely manner
  • Refuse to learn or try anything new
  • Exhibit any one of dozens of “Negaholic” behaviors

Short of Firing or Transferring Saboteurs, What Can You Do?

  • First, confront the person one-on-one or in the presence of an HR associate
  • Consider giving the person a special role or responsibility on the team
  • Limit the saboteur’s participation in meetings, if necessary
  • If needed, assign the person to his or her own tasks on which to work alone
  • Turn the tables—assign the person to list all the positives and a different team member to list all the negatives of the particular proposal

Surprise Saboteur of Bad Teams—Artificial Agreement

You might be surprised to learn that a team that always agrees on everything and gets along may not be the most effective one.  The best teams argue all the time. HOWEVER … they argue within the framework of collaboration. Teams that never argue viewpoints or opinions have what some people call artificial agreement. Mostly, it describes a group of people that tends to be dominated by one person in the group and is almost afraid of speaking out.

Nothing affects employee morale more insidiously than persistent workplace negativity. It saps the energy of your organization and diverts critical attention from work and performance. As a manager, supervisor or team leader, your job depends on identifying causes of negativity and taking care of the problem before it causes irreparable damage. So don’t let team saboteurs ruin your success and your future!


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jeffrey K.

    I just got done dealing with someone like this on my team. Giving him work to do by himself for the good of the project worked well. Plus, the team leader bent over backwards to praise him. Good article!

    1. Dan Rose

      Thanks for the kind words, Jeffrey. I’ve had to use a few of these myself during my career. It’s always hard when one or two people don’t feel it’s worth their time to be on a team. But, it can be overcome. Thanks for being a reader of our blog!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.