Why Didn’t Someone Every Tell Me?


“I don’t understand why the manager lets Warren get away with behaving like he does,” one friend said to another after a particularly stressful team meeting.

“I know.  Warren is arrogant and downright rude.  His report did have errors in it and when someone called him on it, he starting ranting like a spoiled child.”

“It’s not the first time.  He has a history of bragging, not delivering and then shutting people down with his anger.  I think some people are afraid of him.”

Warren had been on the team for a year.  In his first two months, Warren caught a design error that saved the company considerable time and money.  But he had no other notable successes.  His team behaviors, which  were never great, worsened during the last six months.

Eventually, the manager called Warren into his office, and after listing several incidents of bad behavior, said, “Warren, your early performance showed promise.  But the team can no longer tolerate your disruptive behaviors.  I’m letting you go.”

Warren, looking like he had been betrayed by his only friend, first flashed rage and then in a downtrodden voice said, “You are firing me for that?  Why didn’t someone every tell me?”

You Can’t Make a Silk Purse Out of a Sow’s Ear


A vice president presented the following challenge to me, “I have an excellent division manager who knows our product and strategies better than anyone I’ve seen.”

“I anticipate a ‘but’ coming,” I responded.

“Yes, his people skills are among the worst.  Customers love him but he berates and embarrasses staff.  He is very argumentative with me and the president.  His vocabulary is filled with demeaning curse words.  Many have complained and three long-time, high-performers have quit.”

“I assume that you have talked to him.”

“Yes, many times.”

“So you want me to coach him on his people skills?”

“That’s right.”

“His behaviors are so hard-wired, he is very likely incapable of making significant, lasting improvements in his ability to work with people.”

I continued to explain that no matter how good you are at coaching, you will not likely convert a narcissistic-neurotic-whining-argumentative employee into considerate-cooperative-respectful team player.

When dealing with extremely disruptive people, my experience suggests that you have two choices.  One, put up with them the way they are; or two, remove them.

The “silk purse, sow’s ear” proverb—meaning that you are not likely to convert unrefined, dirty and base behavior into refined and desirable—apparently emerged in the mid-1500’s.  Some still don’t get it.

 

When the Voice in Your Head Says “Retreat,” You Should Probably “Charge”


“As I was walking into the office,” commented a manager, “out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Cade (a long-time team member) entering through another door.  I’m sure Cade saw me, but I pretended that I didn’t see him and hurried off.”

The manager feared that Cade was frustrated and communication would likely be unpleasant.

At the end of the previous day, a customer and Cade got into a snit about a delivery issue.  After the encounter, Cade criticized his manager to several peers.  “I should never have had to deal with this.  The boss misled the customer and I’m expected to clean it up.”

The manager admitted, “I was concerned about the customer but I had other commitments and just did not want to deal with Cade at that moment.”

Awkward encounters are challenges for most us.  We know we need to have a candid conversation.  We rationalize our decision to postpone as in, “I had other things to deal with.”  “That’s not how I wanted to start my day.”  “I thought I should let things cool down a bit.”

So when the voice in your head shouts, “retreat,” it is likely a signal that you should charge into the fray.