Sad but True

You’ve got a group of senior people sitting around a table. Almost all of them are really committed to the task at hand – let’s say they’re trying to figure out the future of their organization. But there’s just one person who, for whatever reason, is not buying it. Maybe this person is afraid of change, or angry because he isn’t in control of the outcome, or pissed off at her boss. it doesn’t matter: that negative energy can completely derail the meeting…and the overall effort.

I had this experience recently, and it was exhausting: it was like walking through quicksand. Every 45 minutes or so, the person would say something that somehow denigrated the group’s work, or questioned the whole purpose of the session, or surfaced difficulties without being willing to suggest solutions. As a result, I had to do twice as much work as usual to keep the group focused, hopeful, moving forward.

And when it was all over (the session was successful, thank goodness), I asked the CEO whether this was normal behavior for this person. She sighed and said yes. I asked why this person was still at the company. I got the stock answer, which is generally: they’re-really-good-at-what-they-do.

I shared my opinion, which was this: no matter how technically skilled this person is, and no matter how effective at getting things done…this person’s behavior, and the impact of that behavior on the team, will make it much harder for the organization to achieve their hoped-for future.

It amazes me that senior executives keep such employees on board for months, sometimes years. Do they not see the enormous negative impact these folks are having? Do they not understand that this kind of destructive, anti-team behavior can literally keep their companies from succeeding?

Oh for the day when more managers adopt the no-asshole rule. It will really help make work work better.

Posted in Work

About Erika Andersen

Over the past 30 years, Erika has developed a reputation for creating approaches to learning and business-building that are custom tailored to her clients’ challenges, goals, and culture.

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