How to identify and deal with dissenters

Skilled employees who cannot help poisoning the very roots of the organisation’s value system need to be identified before they can influence others

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There’s always that one person in a team who is an excellent performer but has unpleasant habits. It is typical of such people to oppose management’s decisions for no apparent reason, point out issues in literally everything, and at times, even instigate colleagues against others. Their stellar report card often makes them immune to sacking. They are pleased and appeased, despite their effect on the team. This only fuels their attitude further, turning it into a significant personality trait.

However, HR practitioners believe giving such people a leeway just because they have proved their mettle at work is not the right approach. It will eventually backfire and affect the organisation itself. Also, good performance isn’t only about delivering results. Good performers are all-rounders, who not only exceed expectations at work, but also have a good personality. Terminating them should be the last resort, because at times, people do things without knowing the consequences.

“Such people go by several names — corp-crawlys, gnomes, spyder, and so on. Mostly, they comprise tenured people with shallow knowledge, attention and credit seekers, and employees who have hit the glass ceiling in the organisation.”

Praveer Priyadarshi, former CHRO and now an HR consultant

The problem

Former CHRO and now an HR consultant, Praveer Priyadarshi reveals that such people go by several names — corp-crawlys, gnomes, spyder, and so on. Mostly, they comprise tenured people with shallow knowledge, attention and credit seekers, and employees who have hit the glass ceiling in the organisation. Typically, they have good interpersonal skills. Alternatively, they have a victim mentality, and are able to get into the good books of influential people in the organisation, which gives them protection from action. It allows them access to information, which they use as bait in their conversation and are able to influence the emotions and behaviours of people.

“They are very active when the organisation goes through transformation or change as that is when people are impacted and these corp-crawlies can visibly see the impact of their instigation. Their success for them lies in them not being identified and they get protected by vested interests and at times their own effort of self-preservation,” Priyadarshi points out.

Pradipta Sahoo joins Suryoday Small Finance Bank as CPO“In public sectors, people who indulge in such activities are mostly aligned to unions. In the private sector, many people do it to get noticed. Some people also have a bad tendency of loose mouth.”

Pradipta Sahoo, HR advisor & consultant, Bank of India

Performance is an inclusive term. Mere high productivity without the right behaviour is in essence bad performance. Hence, it’s wrong to treat them as good performers.

Pradipta Sahoo, HR advisor & consultant, Bank of India, feels that nothing can be worse than to see good performers exhibiting such a personality trait. That’s because, many juniors look up to them and this propagates a wrong value system.

He is of the opinion that performance can’t be an alibi, and organisations should get rid of them. However, it’s not so easy. The dissenters can also be innovative in damaging the organisation.

Further classifying these dissenters, Sahoo, says, “In public sectors, people who indulge in such activities are mostly aligned to unions. In the private sector, many people do it to get noticed. Some people also have a bad tendency of loose mouth.”

They can be spotted through their conduct while in group meetings or how they respond to various initiatives of the organisation.

Being strict and stringent will definitely help to keep a check on their behaviour, but the key is to impose this strictness in the beginning itself, when they start to develop this toxic trait. The longer they are provided a space to behave this way, the tougher it will get to correct their behaviour.”

Minakshi Arora, head – strategic human resources & global talent acquisition, Trident Group

The probable solution

However, Sahoo advocates that before junking an employee, coaching, counselling, training, performance improvement plan (PIP), and so on should be tried in earnest. An organisation should segregate the anarchists from the dissenters. In case it’s not possible, then they should be dispensed with, lest they corrupt others and spoil the work atmosphere. Such types of employees mostly hamper teamwork and are value destroyers.

“I have seen many such performers, who, when counselled about their behaviour, take it as cultural mismatch and quit voluntarily. I think that’s good,” Sahoo recounts.

Minakshi Arora, head – strategic human resources & global talent acquisition, Trident Group India, believes such behaviour should be nipped in the bud. First of all, such employees must be called out for their behaviour at the very start. Their behaviour must not be encouraged by their seniors. If the situation persists, they must be counselled with the help of a committee so that they don’t feel targeted. “Being strict and stringent will definitely help to keep a check on their behaviour, but the key is to impose this strictness in the beginning itself, when they start to develop this toxic trait. The longer they are provided a space to behave this way, the tougher it will get to correct their behaviour,” Arora opines.

Priyadarshi is of the opinion that to manage such situations, it’s important to have very robust lines of communication ensuring that the loop is closed. Appraisal should be based on performance and behaviour. Rewarding good behaviour and censuring the undesirable should be the mantra here, according to him.

Just as a festering wound has the ability to get more infected and become chronic, these attention-seekers have the tendency to grow more harmful. Hence, the sooner they are spotted, the better, so that they are unable to cause any damage to the organisation.

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