Do you allow obtuse, stubborn staff to wreck havoc?

  • Sally is rigid with long-term customers even though she has the power to be flexible and make modifications.
  • Paul is accusatory to other departments’ managers, making erroneous assumptions based on little information.
  • Bill doesn’t carefully read emails so asks the same questions again and again, doesn’t respond to colleagues’ direct questions, and flames them about things that were covered clearly if he’d taken the time to read the communication.
  • Laurie insists the customer service reps communicate only by text because that’s easiest on her, even though it is much easier for them to communicate by email.
  • Fred stubbornly requires that other managers give him what he wants the way and when he wants it, without any willingness to discuss what would work for both parties.
  • Sue Ellen gets defensive when anyone suggests a way to accomplish a task that is different than hers, repeatedly citing that any “reasonable person” would see that her way is the only way that makes any sense. She has determined that she is the sole arbiter of reasonableness and is not willing to discuss any other options.
  • Justin has no concept of “win/win.” He only sees “win/lose” and will do nearly anything, at the cost of relationships with customers and coworkers, to ensure he is the one who wins. No one wants to work with him, let alone be around him.
  • When Theresa finds folks aren’t agreeing with her, she makes up what she says the dead founder would have said to do, even though she barely knew him.
  • Jeremy argues that he is right even though others who are more level headed disagree. He will not back down.
  • Marilyn cheats on her expense reports and when asked for receipts and explanations, gets defensive and seems incredulous that she isn’t trusted. Only under duress and many requests does she produce partial documentation.
  • Simon drags his feet on his part of a project. When cost overruns are certain because of the slipped deadlines, he accuses everyone else of being the problem and says they should be liable for any overage.

Do any of these sound familiar?
These people are wrecking havoc in your organization. They may be costing you customers and/or valuable employees. Their insistence on their way being the only right way is not only off-putting, it’s infuriating to those who have to work with them.

They’ve gotten away with it for so long because they may be the one with the most knowledge in an area, they’ve intimidated their boss, they’ve threatened a grievance or law suit if disciplined, or they are related to someone at the top.

Not only are they dangerous to the health of your department or business, but they can be literally dangerous if they work in a safety-critical area. I know someone like this who works as a nuclear power operator, in charge of monitoring the machines that determine if the reactor is running properly. Because this person displays all the behaviors listed above, I wouldn’t want to live near their reactor, as they so frequently misunderstand common communication I wouldn’t trust them to interpret internal communication properly.

What do you do with people like this?

  • Don’t put up with their bullying and rigid behavior. Nip it in the bud. Don’t let it go or they will think their behavior is acceptable — meanwhile they’re alienating your best customers and staff.
  • Don’t give into their demands, as that just reinforces that they are “right.” They don’t understand that acquiescence isn’t agreement. Be professional but firm.
  • If the behaviors don’t change (don’t plan on them to, as they see nothing wrong with how they’re acting), do what you need to move them on. You can’t afford them poisoning your business. Make sure to do everything by the book as they will come back to haunt you if there were any missed p’s and q’s.
  • Give your other staff training on how to stand up to overbearing, self-righteous people. Of course, you can’t exclude them from coming, but they will get nothing out of it and may try to belittle and bully the instructor!