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Karin’s Leadership Articles

3 Troubling Troubles of “Troublemakers”

by | Jan 30, 2013 | By Karin Hurt, Employee Engagement & Energy |

The troublemaker. You know the type. He’s the noisy one. He ALWAYS has an opinion. He has no filter. Sometimes he raises his voice. When you see him coming you may find ways to look busy and avoid the conversation.

When no one is looking you may even mutter some choice words under your breath.

Most teams experience a “troublemaker” from time to time.

The Trouble with Troublemakers

I’ve found 3 troubling troubles with such troublemakers. What have you found?

Trouble #1: They Create Negative Energy

Unchecked troublemakers may create a negative drain on a positive team. They can dominate meetings. Others may try to stand up to them for a while, but give up when it just eggs them on.

Trouble #2: They Bring Out the Worst in Your Leadership

After a while these troublemakers may wear on you too. When you are under pressure, you may lose patience. You may stop listening. You may react in a negative way.

Trouble #3: They May Be Right

These “troublemakers” may be loud and frustrating, but they are often right. The real trouble is they are often worth listening to. Beneath all that noise and confusion, are often salient concerns worth checking out with the rest of the team.

Tips for Taming the Trouble

Here’s some techniques that I have found worthwhile. What would you add?

  • Validate their feelings, ensure they feel heard
  • Take it offline, don’t engage in debate in front of the team
  • Schedule private time to hear their ideas
  • Give them a specific, productive role on the team
  • Keep them challenged
  • Recognize their successes
  • Provide space to talk about other issues they may be experiencing
  • Talk with them about what would help them skip to work
  • ???

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. ecdingler

    Keep in mind that 99% of my team is between 18 and 21 years old, I’ve had a few troublemakers make it onto our team. When we don’t catch this during our interview process, it’s on us. What I’ve found works, is first to have an open and genuine conversation with the person. They either don’t realize what they are doing, or they struggle with wanting to react and be different. So, we develop some kind of signal. It can be a phrase I say, taking off my glasses….whatever they think will help them. Again, this sounds a bit childish…but I’m working with younger people who appreciate the coaching.

  2. letsgrowleaders

    Eric, thanks so much. I love the idea of a signal, I imagine that could work in some other contexts as well.

  3. Business Coach Steve (@SteveBorek)

    Many times when someone’s angry, they’re looking for their voice to be heard. Other times my intuition says there’s something going on in their life that has nothing to do with me or the team.

    Give em some lovin. Everyone is goin through somethin.


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