Sep 4, 2010
- Office Nut Cases: A Field Guide - (part 1)
If you’ve been around an office for any time at all, you’ve run into one of those certifiable nut cases who makes you (and everyone around you) miserable. Not to worry. Identifying a nut case is half the battle, because then you can avoid, ignore or neutralize. Knowledge truly is power.
NUT CASE #1: THE SUPER-ACHIEVER *
Super achievers must excel at everything that they do… to the point of obnoxiousness. Not only do they achieve every conventional measure of career success, but their families must look picture perfect. “Happy” is not a word used by super achievers; the only word that matters is “successful.”
Super achievers see themselves as special and they want to be treated as such. They continually inflate themselves often at the expense of others. Super achievers hate criticism and will endlessly defend, explain or justify in order to prove that they are right and others are wrong.
If the super achiever is a peer, no matter how competent you are, you’ll walk away from an encounter needed to shake off an uncomfortable sense of incompetence. If you report to a super achiever, one of two things is bound to happen. Either you will sit at the feet of the star or you will be constantly told that your ideas are second rank. If you oversee a super achiever, expect underhanded maneuvers to get you fired.
Super achievers breed fear and resentment. Everyone begins to guard ideas and an uncomfortable sense of paranoia grows. Initially, a super achiever will charm certain individuals who look as if they can be the best stepping stones. But over time a slew of bruised egos accumulate and by the time the rest of the team what realizes what has happened, the super achiever has been promoted.
NUT CASE #2: THE REBEL *
The rebel is a born fighter. Their animosity is almost always against authority figures, social protocols, or company rules and regulations. Rebels come in wearing jeans on a Tuesday when the casual day is Friday. They miss deadlines or arrive late to work just to prove they don’t have to follow the rules.
Rebels do these things because they thrive on negative attention, seeing it as the only way to get noticed. Rebels often strike colleagues as emotionally closed and hyper vigilant. Rebels claim to strive for change yet they have not done their deeper homework. They will take on a cause without really understanding the implications of their actions.
If you have a classic rebel on your team, watch out! About the only thing he or she loves more than throwing gasoline on a smoldering fire is getting others to do the same. The moment rebels hear of discontent, they will go to great lengths to convince others they should go to HR or get legal advice.
Most companies cannot tolerate rebels for very long which is why rebels are often sent to communication programs or anger management seminars. Rebels also get fired or quit their jobs, typically leaving with a tremendous amount of fanfare. Rebels are willing to prove a point regardless of consequences and this can easily damage communities, teams and companies.
NUT CASE #3: THE PROCRASTINATOR *
Procrastinators always say yes to deadlines but fail to follow through. They then become indignant or evasive when held responsible. As deadlines approach, procrastinators cannot be found by cell phone, e-mail or carrier pigeon. When the work is finally turned in, procrastinators often go on multiple mini vacations to “recuperate from the stress.”
While perfectionism plays a part, most procrastinators lack self-confidence and are unsure whether they can actually complete a task. There also appears to be a link between impulsiveness and procrastination. Impulsive people tend to value living in the moment and thus attribute no real meaning to deadlines.
For businesses the cost of procrastination includes time spent counseling tardy employees, making sure the postponed work gets covered, managing disappointments and handling the conflicts that are bound to occur when teams are waiting for a solitary individual to produce his or her part of a project.
Procrastination costs are hard to measure as one can hardly plot out all the possible alternative scenarios and all the missed opportunities. One thing is certain, a procrastinator on a project virtually guarantees that it will either be late, or that other people will end up doing extra work in order to get it in on time.
NUT CASE #4: THE OFFICE CLOWN *
Office clowns are extroverts who love to divert others with their jokes and witty banter. They know every detail of a trivial issue and give their own two cents just to get a rise out of their colleagues. Often the jokes are offensive insensitive and downright embarrassing. Clowns can get folks involved in a contest of one-liners that may begin in good taste but end up as HR nightmares.
Office clowns often display an uncanny ability to break up a tense situation with a joke. They can pick up on the unsaid anger in the room and become heroes by speaking the unspeakable, even if it’s not productive to focus on that aspect of the situation.
Having a sense of humor is certainly not the same as being an office clown. Research indicates that laughing benefits the immune system and activates endorphins, the good stuff that makes us feel more contented.
However, coworkers sense that office clowns aren’t just trying to be funny and that there’s something else going on. Privately most coworkers regard office clowns as bozos, smart-asses, and motormouths. Not surprisingly, such clowning can be subversive rather than helpful, giving rise to shared negativity rather than anything constructive.