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What if an Informal Leader isn’t on Board?

Question

What is the best way to deal with “informal leaders” in a work group who are continuously negative, especially regarding “upper management”? These are the same people who will write letters and send petitions to the top leaders in the organization when they do not get the answers they want from their immediate supervisors.

Answer

I believe that “informal leaders”—often individuals who allegedly “represent” others’ concerns but have no official job title to do so— succeed because formal leaders give them this power. My suggestion is to always inform high and middle performers about information first. In essence, freeze out the low performers with isolation. Also do not allow anyone to identify concerns by using words like “people,” “staff,” “anonymous,” or other such vague words.

People can speak only for themselves, which is why anonymous letters or unsigned petitions should be thrown away. (The exception: if an ethical issue is raised, address it.) Same with petitions. If the petition has no name, then throw it away. As morale keeps improving, negative individuals will stand out more and more, creating pressure to get on board or leave the organization.