Team Saboteur

Occasionally on a team will be a person whose priority is not success of their team but rather only themselves.  As a result of their focus they sabotage the team in several ways.  They can interfere with the reaching of team goals, they can damage reputations of others, or they can destroy the morale of the team members.  How does this happen?

A team saboteur can attack the success of the team in the following ways:

  1. Personal goals come first.  They are interested in reaching their personal goals ahead of the goals of the team.  Completing tasks for the team are second priority to doing the things that will advance themselves.
  2. Taking undue credit.  The team saboteur will take credit for the team’s, or others, work as if it were their own.  They will find opportunities to present information to key people as if it were their work and minimize the efforts of the rest of the team.
  3. Place blame.  These people will find ways to place the blame for problems or failures on others.  Often this will be done quietly, one-on-one with people outside the team.  They like the phrase “I was concerned about this but Joe pushed for it”.
  4. Complain and backstab.  During one-on-one meetings with the boss the saboteur will complain about the others on the team and backstab them.  They undermine the credibility of their teammates by airing complaints and criticisms.  This may even carry over to speaking badly of the boss to other leaders in the organization.

All of this negativity will add up and over time erode the effectiveness of the team.  As a team leader it is important to be on the watch for this type of behavior.  If you see someone who seems to be heading this direction you must head it off before lasting damage is done.  To stop this from taking over the team hold each member accountable for team goals, address personal issues between team members quickly and fairly, be neutral when someone is complaining about others, and model the behavior you want from the team members.  Leading by example and holding the team to high standards of collaboration and performance will go a long way towards stopping the team saboteur in their tracks.


Filed under Leadership, Team Building

3 responses to “Team Saboteur

  1. You’re so right on about this Carol. It usually doesn’t take too long to peg this type of player and where you have a true team environment they are toxic. Occasionally you can turn this type around and they can be a valuable assesst, but if not you really need to let them go or the team as a whole will suffer.

  2. Carol,

    I completely agree that managers need to address this type of behavior. In most jobs, a big part of being a high-quality employee is getting along and working well with the other members of the team.

    Have a great weekend!

    • Greg,

      This can be such a problem for managers. First they have to be aware it’s happening and then they have to deal with it. In tough times it’s hard to cut staff even when they are toxic.

      Have a great Monday.

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