How to Protect Employees from the Anti-Leader

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    This is a tale of the anti-leader…

    If only this were a fairy tale, it would begin “Once upon a time…” but it is not and has to begin and end differently. Hopefully, with some proactive training we can help employees to not get into this situation, and provide help if they do.

    Keep in mind that no matter how dreary this sounds, there is hope. Of course, timing is everything, I know, and I’ll get to that.

    I have recounted this view in other blogs, probably in snippets, most likely incognito, but let’s look at leadership (and its antithesis) and the training of an outgoing employing. It’s impossible to know, no matter how much human resources and leadership on this end know what lies in the position ahead.

    Leadership may even know the other leadership where the transfer is taking place and are personal friends; he or she may trust the other implicitly. Even if it is a shift from headquarters to a regional office or vice versa, regional to another regional office or to another company, it may not matter. Why?

    • Because dyads aren’t always successful.
    • Because personal agendas exist.
    • Because the leader’s vision has become disrupted.
    • Because the newcomer is perceived as a spy.
    • Because the newcomer doesn’t fit exactly now as the leader’s “opposite” thinks he or she should be.

    This is a tale of the anti-leader, and as horrible as it sounds, he or she is the worst a leader can be to this one employee, assuming the leader is fair and reasonable to the other employees and doesn’t set them up to fail, but rather to succeed.

    All fairy tales begin once upon on a time, but how do nightmares begin. With a leader in charge, your heart soars and you feel like you can do anything. In business and military terms: “someone has your back.” With the anti-leader, the opposite is true. You feel that the person who should be supporting you, even mentoring you, grooming you for better things, is undermining you. So, it’s once upon a horror–a long harrowing tale–especially if you aren’t independently wealthy with a family and you need the job.

    Unfortunately, there may be nothing you can do unless you have made friends and in-roads in other agencies. So, the best bet is to find another job where the leadership does see you as part of his or her vision, but that, too, is harder than you think. At first thought, you would think the anti-leader would want to get rid of you. The anti-leader is in your eyes–not his or hers. The anti-leader may feel in all honesty that you do not fit in, that you are incompetent based on his or her preconceived notions (the vision or future hiring plans), but as a leader refuses to dump you on some other agency by saying you have “a personality conflict, but that you are capable.”

    You become ostracized in the unit. No one will talk to you–at least no one you can trust.

    No, remember the anti-leader sees him or herself as a real leader who would tell the “truth” as he or she sees it, insisting on working it out in his or her unit, per HR and Union directions. Pardon the cliche: you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Essentially, if you have not made those earlier in-roads I talked about earlier, you will face re-training, demotion, humiliation and any other form of redress the anti-leader can do, consciously or subconsciously, to force you to leave on your own, but at no expense to his or her own reputation.

    Sometimes, private calls or office visits, become very personal with no witnesses present, where his or her fears of your reaction to her actions or his or her sentiments about not wanting to supervise you become blatantly clear only to you. You become ostracized in the unit. Either intentionally or not, the word leaks out that you are persona non grata. No one will talk to you–at least no one you can trust. You continue down the road to despair. If you stay too long your health suffers–depression, psychosomatic illness, a weakened immune system, predisposition to other illnesses, etc. It’s the same with any stressful situation over time. If you’re young enough, you quit and take your chances; it may be too late for your family anyway. If you’re old enough or have resources enough, you retire. For employee health reasons, it is a serious problem.

    It may not be a great move for the transferred employees financially (the employee already has questionable side), but the right of return to the previous station upon request would remove a tremendous burden from the employees. Initially, they won’t feel the need for a return and they’ll fight to fit it, but it is oftentimes a losing battle, and that employee could be an asset elsewhere, and by no means should that be not an option to save the company money. The idea of preventing an employee going “postal” aside, the company is better served offering an escape plan to the employee; keeping a disgruntled employee in a place that only magnifies an issue of alienation and distrust is not good for the company or organization, its mission or the people involved. For both parties, antagonist and protagonist.

    What can we as trainers do?

    1. Educate Human Resources on this issue. Then HR can help during the checkout process. There should be an escape hatch.
    2. Include in the exit instructions or training, information about this particular phenomenon, emphasizing, of course, that the escape clause isn’t always needed, but to ensure unity and human dignity is necessary. It seems to happen more often when the employee is reassigned rather than recruited. How rare is the phenomenon? I don’t have statistics. They would be difficult to compile with any accuracy, but it seems to me even one employee caught in this phenomenon is bad enough.
    3. We need, of course, to make our leaders aware of this so they don’t become so wrapped up in their vision or possibly their egos that they fall into this category with even one employee. Not all employees are stellar, but there is a place for everyone. Leaders help employees succeed, and when they get off-track they get them back on. Great leaders don’t assume at the beginning their workforce is flawed.

    This commentary is my opinion alone and The Free Management Library is not in anyway responsible for its content. I have written several articles of a similar nature. I tend to look at training, the workforce, business management, leadership and communication from a slightly different perspective than you might expect. I published an ebook called The Cave Man Guide to Training and Development in which I explain my reasons for looking at training and development in a different way. I look at it from the outside looking in, from the worker side, from the management side, from the trainer’s, and sometimes from the psychological side. I encourage others to talk about what they think about certain aspects of training on this website as long as they keep it generic. We’ll link to their site, and I hope you will comment here.

    Take a peek at my site and you’ll find out more. By the way, I have an e-novel, In Makr’s Shadow, published by Amazon. It’s a scary look at what the future could be like if we stopped talking to one another and let the devices take over.

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