"We've had a lot of emails about our "Losing the Locker Room" episode. Most of them were about negative employees that are lobbying against you. One of the emails said this -
'I've got a cancer growing in my locker room. A bad apple sabotaging everything I tried to do. He's not a performance problem, and he's one of my more tenured employees, so people listen to him. What do I do?'
I thought I'd share this email because it's a common problem.
- I like her "bad apple" metaphor because even though an apple gets bruised, you don't throw it out, or at least not right away. You see what you can do with it first, and that's how you want to treat people.
- The cancer analogy works, too, because the disease can spread quickly, and if it doesn't respond to treatment, you have to remove it.
If you're losing the locker room, yes, you probably have some bad apples, and they ain't helping. They're working against you, but they're a symptom and not the cause of your problem. Remember, leaders that won't listen, face reality, solve problems, or make tough decisions tend to lose the locker room. And a bad apple is a sign that you're losing the locker room. But it's not the reason.
You see, bad apples are leaders too. They're just leading people in the wrong direction. If your team has stopped listening to you, they started listening to your bruised, bad apple, and that's how the cancer spreads. So what do you do?
- Set your bad apple down and hear them out, because their bad behavior can be nothing more than attention seeking behavior. So give them some attention and listen.
- Bad apples are usually skeptical critics, so they tend to be very open, and they'll tell you about the problems and frustrations your team is commiserating about. Skeptical critics develop leadership clout because they're experiencing the same problems everyone else is. They've got all the answers, and they're always pointing out in action or indecision.
It's easy to sit in the stands and be judgmental, and that's all they're doing. But their co-workers are starting to follow their lead, and that's a problem. Remember, when you're losing the lock room, there are two life rafts. You're in one and your team's in the other. You want to puncture your life raft and jump in theirs, because that's the only way you can show them what you're made out of.
The best way to discredit a skeptical critic is to prove them wrong. The bad apple is telling their coworkers what you're made of, but they're going to lose their leadership clout when you prove them wrong. So your team has some questions and some concerns about you as their leader. They're not sure if you really get it. You can fix problems or make tough decisions. It's not the end of the world, and it's fixable. You're losing the locker room. But you haven't lost it yet!
The more you engage with your team, the more you solicit feedback, ideas and solutions, the easier it is for them to make up their own mind about you. And then they begin to judge the skeptical critic.
Listen, people don't want to follow skeptical critics. They want to follow their leader, their manager. But you've got to give them good reasons to do it. The key to their success runs through you the manager, not the skeptical critic. Most people know that they won't always like what you have to say, and you're not always going to have the answers they want. But the more you engage, the more they're going to trust you.
And they'll be more willing to work with you."
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