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Thursday, October 15, 2015


Almost all organizations, no matter how small or how large, have some members who are subversives.  These characters generally operate at levels a little more egregious than simply being resistors or recalcitrants.  Subversives are the folks who actively and intentionally attempt to undermine and derail processes and/or other people in the organization.  

Motivations for subversive behavior vary, but among them are jealousy, fear, ambition, laziness, and disdain.  Whatever the motivations, subversives usually rely on organizational secrecy, miscommunication, and privilege as the transmission vehicles of their toxins.

While dealing with subversives is one of the most challenging (and discouraging) tasks of leaders, here are a few simple modes of operation we can use to make the work of subversives very difficult:   

  • Model and insist upon transparent communications within the organization, both vertically and horizontally.  No secrets!
  • Have conversations about organizational challenges in open forums, where all members are invited to listen and all members have a voice.
  • Confront subversives directly with the evidence of their duplicity, as often as that evidence emerges. 
When we keep the work of the organization fully in the light of day, the subversives have a much more difficult time enacting their dastardly deeds. 

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