Don’t Let an Arsonist Burn your Company Down

You’ve probably heard this leadership quote before:

“If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time”

This comes from Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

While most leaders understand this basic principle, they forget about another.

There are some employees who don’t care about rowing – they just want to drill holes in the bottom of your boat.

Yes, I know it’s hard to believe but…there are certain toxic personality types who thrive on chaos.

There are certain toxic personality types who thrive on chaos. Click To Tweet

Pete Havel, author of The Arsonist in the Office, calls them arsonists.

Who are office arsonists?

According to Havel, “An arsonist is somebody who has a little bit of power that has the ability to use that power against the organization.”

These are people who are wired differently than everybody else.

Arsonists in the traditional sense are motivated by finances, ego, desire for attention, adrenaline rushes, hero complexes, or revenge.  Arsonists in organizations operate under the exact same motivations.

So, how do you deal with these toxic employees?

The same way we dealt with a fire on a submarine.

Let me explain.

fire on a submarine is one of the most dangerous things that can happen.

Smoke can quickly fill compartments and asphyxiate sailors. The heat and flames can spread to weapons, volatile materials, and critical systems creating catastrophic damage.

A fire can quickly destroy a submarine if not extinguished immediately.

That’s why we were trained to ignore our natural instincts to move away from the fire and, instead, run towards the fire to put it out as quickly as possible.

In the same way, you can’t ignore a toxic employee.

You can’t turn a blind eye and hope the problem gets better.

You need to confront the issue and deal with the toxic employee before they get out of control.

You need to deal with toxic employees before they get out of control. Click To Tweet

Because just like a fire on a submarine, a single toxic employee can destroy your culture and your organization.

Don’t believe me?

Listen to my interview with Pete and you will hear a cautionary tale of his experience in a company that let a toxic employee run wild.

It didn’t end well for him or the company he worked for.

So, if you really want to lead your company well, get everyone rowing in the same direction AND deal swiftly with those employees who are trying to drill a hole in your boat.

Deep Leadership PodcastI talk about this issue in a lot more detail on the latest episode of the Deep Leadership podcast.




P.S. If you like this leadership concept and you want to learn more, get a copy of my latest book – I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following. It’s filled with 23 practical ideas like this on how you can become a more effective leader.

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