The vocal minority is the bane of every dynamic leader’s existence. While 98 percent of your organization might be content, it’s usually the discontent 2 percent who make a lot of noise. You cannot lead any type of business, church, or group without having push-back from a few people, sometimes even a single unhappy person. While every case is different, I have learned a few lessons with dealing with the unhappy vocal minority.
Don’t underestimate the power of emotions. Anger, frustrations, outrage, and shame are powerful motivators. People who are emotionally charged lose perspective. What was once an annoyance suddenly becomes a cause worthy of their personal crusade. I have seen otherwise reasonable people hurl vicious personal attacks, most of them untrue, when they become emotionally charged by an issue.
Don’t overestimate your ability to appease them. Conciliatory leaders tend to want to spend time with their detractors and reason them back into a resolution. In my experience, that seldom works. Often the emotionally charged are also unreasonable and will continue to sabotage the process.
Don’t let them grow. Much like a cancer that spreads to nearby cells, unhappy people attract more unhappy people and will recruit those whom they can influence. Once you realize that the emotionally-charged situation is not going to be resolved by reasoning and dialogue, cut your losses help them find the exit door. If the vocal minority has more staying power than you do, send out your résumé and pack your bags. Your days are numbered.
Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Know your audience and prepare accordingly. There’s nothing more damaging for a leader than to to walk in a leadership ambush. Understanding the dynamics of the issues and the players involved in a potentially emotionally charged meeting will help you navigate a tough crowd.
If you don’t effectively deal with the vocal minority, you will eventually lose your supporters who will slowly back away from your leadership. This becomes a leadership death spiral where the longer you cater to the detractors, the more you ignore those who need you the most.
Have you ever dealt with a vocal minority? What happened?