Sometimes It’s OK to Be the Bad Guy at Work

Whether it’s a movie, television show, or book, you rarely root for the bad guy to succeed. But unlike fictional tales of good vs. evil, bad guys are sometimes necessary in the real world — especially in the workplace.

We’re not talking about the bad guy at work who steals office supplies or who’s rude to coworkers. The acceptable bad guy in the office is the one who is willing to take an unpopular stance for the good of the company.

Imagine your coworker has developed a plan to obtain more customers. Everyone seems to be on board with and excited about the coworker’s strategy. But, having seen this strategy tried before at a previous job, you know it’s destined to fail.

In order to save the company from an unsuccessful plan, you may have to become the bad guy. Here’s how:

 

Be a good bad guy.

When approaching a coworker, make sure to do so with respect. Highlight the aspects of the plan that you like first, and then express your concerns. Make a case for why you think the plan will be unsuccessful and try to get your coworker on the same page as you.

 

Focus on the company.

When you take an unpopular stance for the good of the company, your coworkers may think you’re doing so to benefit yourself. Make sure to present your idea as the best option for the company. Explain how your idea will benefit everyone and how the popular decision could be detrimental to everyone.

 

Don’t throw anyone under the bus.

Any plan or idea in the workplace originated from one of your coworkers. Even though you know a popular idea could hurt the company, whoever came up with the plan thinks it’s genius. So when you’re criticizing the plan by taking the unpopular stance, you’re ultimately criticizing them.

Be careful not to lay blame on any one person. If you’re quick to throw someone under the bus, you’ll be seen as a traitor by your coworkers — and that’s not the type of workplace bad guy you want to be. Instead, give ownership of the plan to everyone, highlighting your concerns and providing suggestions on how to improve it.

 

By taking the bad guy role, you’re taking a risk. But as long as the unpopular stance you’re taking saves your company from failure, everyone in your workplace will thank you in the end.

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