Managing "Rogues"

Controlling Disruptive People


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Learn to understand "rogues" and help them channel their creativity.

It sometimes seems that there are three types of people in the workplace:

  1. The highly self-motivated – people who work hard and exceed expectations because that's their nature.
  2. The noncommittal – people who do the right thing if managed reasonably well.
  3. "Rogues" – people who won't do what's expected, and seem to do the minimum necessary to keep their jobs.

We've developed solid systems for retaining self-motivated workers and for inspiring noncommittal workers. And we have HR policies for people who can't or won't do their jobs. But how do you deal with people who perform usefully, but cause trouble in some way? This is a significant challenge. And although you may not have many rogues in your organization, they can impact how others work and harm the efficiency of your team.

Understanding these people and having strategies to manage them will improve your managerial effectiveness, and it will remove a serious source of dissatisfaction for your team.

To better understand rogues, let's start by defining them. Dictionaries use terms like unprincipled, unreliable, mischievous, and dishonest. In the animal kingdom, rogues separate themselves: they live alone and behave unpredictably.

Rogue workers meet both of these definitions. They can be described using any number of other terms:

  • Poor work ethic.
  • Negative attitude.
  • Insubordinate.
  • Lazy.
  • Destructive.
  • Unmotivated.
  • Wasteful.
  • Egotistical.

Roguishness varies from person to person. Some people try to find ways to cut corners and avoid requirements anywhere possible. The phrase "that's not in my job description" is a classic favorite of rogues. They also like "I'll have to put you on hold" and then promptly disconnect the phone line. A rogue might undermine authority and look for ways to cause problems for his new manager, or she might be the executive who continues to charge the company for expensive meals and unnecessary business trips, despite organizational cutbacks.


We're not talking about criminal behavior or gross misconduct here. If you see either of these behaviors in your team, you should immediately speak to HR or the police, whichever is appropriate.

Restricting Rogues With Work Systems

The behavior of rogues, and the severity of this behavior, may vary. However, the basic strategy to deal with rogues is fairly universal. Your systems need to be strong enough so that one person isn't able to hurt an otherwise productive team.

Systems aren't the most glamorous part of working life. Many systems are outdated and redundant – that's why people ignore them. That's also why rogues are often able to do what they do, and why they get confronted only when the consequences of what they do become significant.

The best place to start managing rogues is by completely reviewing your system of checks and balances. This means that you can stay informed of what's really going on in your team and your company. Consider the following:...

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