Sometimes the most destructive team member can actually be the one who doesn't come across as being difficult. They seem pleasant, calm and cooperative while, in the background, their subtle and insidious strategies of control, manipulation and negativity fester and often go undetected.
Many leaders will sense that something is wrong with the way this person operates, but it is often hard to pinpoint or expose them as they cover their tracks well. Some things to watch for (but don't get paranoid about) are team members who:
- want to get into new people's ears early with subtle criticisms on the overall leadership of the organization.
- share items "for the good of the team" that should have been kept confidential.
- may seem to get along with people, but have no close connections.
- seem to be undermining leadership and casting questions about leaders' motives and integrity.
- seem to be always involved in "meetings after meetings". They might not say much at the team meeting, but then hang around talking to people after the meeting to stir the pot.
- save their ammunition for larger meetings when they should have talked about it with you beforehand or fire others up with angry issues and then disappear when those issues are raised.
- are good at manipulating others (puppeteers) and try to fly "under the radar".
Over time, many team members and leaders will become suspicious and wary of them and they can be spoken to when there is direct evidence of their behind-the-scenes destructive work.The difficult thing as a leader is knowing when to confront them, as a lot of wisdom is needed if it is to be effective.
Right now, if you are feeling that someone is trying to manipulate you, just remember that the puppeteer is only influential on the puppet if the strings are in tact. It is in your power to cut the strings and refuse to be a part of their game.