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There are “Leaders” and there are “Followers” and then there are…

Time to Read – Until you do something about them

There are “Leaders” and there are “Followers” and then there are…


A brilliant word thought up by Jon Kidd, our NL Sigma specialist.

Leadership is behaviour, not a position – we can all behave as leaders, and when others do, we follow.

And then there are those that do neither – always a problem, never a solution. Always a complaint, never a compliment. Always a victim, never a hero.

Wallowers – The word sums them up completely.

The sort of people who suck the very lifeblood out of you. Picture the scene – it is Monday morning, and you are on your way to the coffee machine. Standing next to the machine is a The Wallower King. You have been seen, it is too late to turn around, and besides (you lie to yourself); surely it can’t be that bad.

And then you ask a very silly question – in a bright and breezy way, you say “Hi Wallower”, sorry, “Hi (name), did you have a good weekend?”

Why would you ask that? You know full well what the answer will be…and here it comes…

“No, I had a dreadful time – I had a terrible headache and as if that wasn’t bad enough the weather was too cold to do anything and there was just nothing decent on TV and my mother in law came round and my wife sneezed all over me and has probably given me flu and that was just on Saturday. On Sunday…”

And by the time they have finished (usually as long as it takes to press 99 – decaffeinated coffee, extra white, no sugar), you have had the very lifeblood sucked out of you, while Wallower just wanders looking for their next target.

As you read this you may be smiling, pondering on some specific names and people who come within this category. Smile no more – they are the disciples of doom – and gloom, they are a virus, and they must not prevail.

What to do with Wallowers:

1.     Check they are not behaving as they do due to loneliness – involve them, give them a standard to live up to, ask them for their greatest skill, idea or passion.

If that doesn’t work

2.     Ask them their opinion about something that you know they know something about, in front of others (witnesses – Wallowers wallow in telling people you ignore them). If they say they do not have an opinion say “if you did have an opinion, what would it be?” If still nothing, then

3.     Get rid of them – and that is your outcome, make it a true decision and work out the “how.”

You have to follow these three, before these unhappy individuals who skulk around in corners, moaning behind our backs, form a powerful, collective force of negative energy that will have serious consequences on your customers, morale and profit.

With my love and best wishes



16 Responses to There are “Leaders” and there are “Followers” and then there are…

  1. Wallowers is such a love lovely word to describe these people…as you say…get rid of them!

  2. Great stuff. I think 1 and 2 are definitely worth a go, I have never come across those 2 ideas, thank you 🙂 As for no.3 I know of an organisation that got rid of the Wallowers (they called them ‘drains’ = same thing) and just kept the ‘radiators’ and then saw its performance soar.

    The worst wallowers are the ones who constantly BMW(‘Bitch, Moan and Whine’) but then DO NOTHING about what they want to change because they lack the desire or self-esteem to expand their circle of influence into their circle of concern. Very draining. Right, no point me moaning about them…

    Which all goes to show that your people’s attitude, rather than your people per se, is your greatest asset.


  3. Great article, and it shows that it is the people in a company that can make the difference between an enjoyable place where everyone is having fun and a dull office where everyone is whinging and complaining but not actally getting anything done. I worked in a place where I saw the sentence “If you enjoy your work, then the customer will enjoy their visit. Be positive and professional at all times”. Such a great sentence which applies just about, if not, everywhere you can work. This kept customers continually visiting our company and enjoying their time there.

    This also applies to shops you visit, if the shop assistants are complaining and being surly then it detracts potential sales whereas shops like Lush which everyone is happy and enjoys what they do makes you want to visit there again, just to say hello to the people there.

  4. I love this NL week DT!
    I do like to have compassion first…why are they like it, do they need help…but…if it’s just wallowing, then yes I would say adios!
    Negative feeling spreads and I have friends who have gone into a new workplace and felt that if they don’t join in the moaning they are not able to fit in, being that I surround myself with positivity!, my friends are those that will make a positive stand and change the tide…but it’s not always easy!
    I say – Don’t swallow the wallow, spit it out!!

  5. I agree that negative people are a real drain.
    get rid of them!
    Great piece of writing as ever and extremely thought-provoking.

  6. Followers can be wallowers too, as can leaders. If they get into a rut and lose their drive.
    Having that spark and ensuring it stays within you is the key.
    Then you will always have the passion to make things work.

  7. Thank you for such a positive response to an article about such negative people! – a few additional thoughts…recruit for attitude 1st, skill 2nd?…don’t be scared of taking on the wallowers in employment tribunals (as opposed to rewarding their behaviour with big pay-offs)…everyone has glass half full moments, this is about dealing with people for whom the glass isn’t even in the room…David x

  8. Good articles deserve good comments, David.
    Thought provoking and so true.
    Why are there people who simply want to drag others down?
    It makes no sense in life nor in business.

  9. Agreed – some great thoughts. Here’s another one…are Wallowers born or made? IMHO, they are most likely made as a result of poor management, weak leadership, failed change. – or a combination of the above. They justify their wallowing by pointing at the tarnished campaign medals of disaster proudly displayed on their chests. And of course, they are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to be awarded your campaign medal too, to add to their collection.

    Don’t provide them with that opportunity. Engage with them, win them over, get them to be part of the success you will create, and they will be your biggest advocates – for ever!

  10. There is not an office in the world that doesn’t have one of these life-sucking creatures, it is just a sign of the times.
    Although it is easier for a business to wheedle them out these days down the disciplinary route.

  11. The convo at the coffee machine can be different too.
    Try these:
    “How well are you today”
    “What was interesting in your weekend?”
    “What’s the best things thats happened today?”
    “What’s exciting you today?”

    Sends em off on a transderivational search for good stuff.


  12. Wallowers always think the company owes them a favour too.
    They just need to be removed as quickly as possible before they bring the rest of the workforce down to their level.

  13. As mentioned above, enjoyed the article but it must be said there are plenty of leaders who are equally a drain on their businesses. They take liberties at times and think they are indispensable when in fact they are not.

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