Total Business Magazine

Managing Mutiny in the Workplace

By Natasha McCreesh, Founder of Business Coaching and Mentoring Business PIP to Grow Strong


I sincerely hope that you’re not reading this because you have a mutiny on your hands, but if you are, the good news is it’s not too late to create a turnaround.

Let’s be clear, the best way to manage mutiny in the workplace is to avoid it. Mutinies take up your time and energy, most damagingly, they take your eye off your market and your growth.

There are early warning signs that a mutiny is brewing. Looking out for these signs and addressing them swiftly can be the key to prevention before needing a cure. Get smart at noticing signs of dissent, rebellion or passive behaviour. As you notice them act swiftly, and cleanly, before mutiny hits.

Here are just three possible signs of mutiny that need managing fast, consider what others you might be noticing and how you could deal with them,


Being challenged negatively in front of colleagues or clients.

Ask to speak with the challenger alone, be open about what you have noticed. This can be done without conflict simply by stating, “When you challenged me in front of X, I got the sense that you had something more that you wanted to share with me, what would you like to me to understand?”

Once they open up to you, be sure to pause before responding, the acronym WAIT is a useful pause mechanism – What Am I Thinking? Check in with yourself, if you can respond positively, and with thanks, then do so immediately. If you are challenged by their feedback, buy yourself time to reflect, process and respond constructively.

It is also important to set boundaries around how you deal with conflict, if you find yourself constantly being challenged hold a team training session, facilitated by an independent provider, on how to have difficult conversations. You could also use it as an open session to air concerns and agree positive ways forward.


Whispers in corners following a meeting or fresh silence when you walk into a room.

Bite the bullet and Invite each team member or your managers to a personal one to one, be open that you have sensed all is not well and that your absolute priority is to understand and to address their concerns.

Encourage them to share their number one concern and how it is affecting their happiness at work.

Listen, be open and curious. Most importantly don’t feel obliged to respond immediately, thank them for being open and commit to a time frame in which you will respond.

Always respond! Even if the outcome isn’t what they hoped for, if you can demonstrate due consideration of their concern, they will feel heard. The choice then becomes theirs as to whether they want to remain in the organisation.


A sudden increase in sickness and absence, lateness or time off for appointments.

Take a look at your return to work process, are you having one to one conversations with someone when they return to work? Ask open questions about how they are feeling, ask what could be triggering their ill health and be curious as to how you can support their wellbeing.

Act quickly on lateness as this becomes infectious and/or demotivating for others in the team. Seek to understand the lateness and create agreements that can be monitored and followed up on, with rewards for the turnaround and agreed actions for failure to meet the agreement.

For positive engagement and turnaround, it is vital that, in all conflicts, reasonable agreements are made, rather than expectations set. If the employee is seeking an agreement that cannot work for your organisation, then an honest conversation about their future at the organisation can begin.


But what if I’m experiencing a full-on mutiny right now?

When large scale mutiny does strike, it is possible to create a turnaround and manage yourself and your team back to connectedness and productivity.

The way to do this is to firstly acknowledge the crisis situation by doing something radically different. Shut up shop and get everyone to an offsite meeting, this action lets everyone know that you understand it’s serious.

Use this space to reconnect the team with your organisational purpose, vision and values.

Ask them to share with you where the disconnect is, where have they lost faith, where did you go off track?

Take time to understand what’s changed for them, their motivational drivers, their values.

Agree a way forward, accepting where you have lost sight of your original purpose or are acting in opposition to your organisational values.

Be honest if the purpose has changed, not everyone will want to sign up to it, but at least they know what they are being asked to sign up to.

Make a commitment to follow up with actions and finally, if you can’t change the people, change the people!

  1. sexed says

    There’s defіnately a lot to know about this topіc.
    I like all of the points you have made.

  2. Roxine says

    Does it matter if the mutiny is as a result of loss of faith in the manager?

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