Saturday, July 12, 2008

OFG IV: Not nice. Really not nice.

Ouch! That last comment so chapped my...oh, yeah. PG. Gotta keep that in mind.

Today, the OFG recommends some proven strategies for dealing with complete and total...dang, heading down that "rated R" road again.


Hi, everyone! Hope your weekend is off to a great start.

Today, I am going to address an issue which came to the fore only yesterday when someone where I work--a very high-ranking someone--was suddenly gone. This someone was renowned for his ability to make other people regret he was alive. Heck...he sometimes made people regret that they were alive.

From my team’s viewpoint, his specialty was to request help (always with at least four exclamation points, and always with the words, "crisis" and "emergency" worked in somehow, along with subtle hints that we were failing him already, even as he was about to ask for help) via email, and then deny us access to his computer when we rushed to his aid. Too busy...come back later.

For those of you who have worked helping other people, you completely understand already. For anyone who has not, imagine someone calling you in the middle of the night, creating all kinds of tension and distress as the caller blurts out a few sentences which make you wonder who has crashed/died/collapsed, then saying, "oh...wrong number", and hanging up. No apology, no hint of remorse.

This person has been pulling this same nonsense for about eight years. I have no idea what happened which caused his plug to be pulled, but my team and I held a very quiet little celebration. It is the same celebration we hold every time someone who is rude and inconsiderate of us as individuals and of our time which we owe to the company we work for, is asked to leave or decides to leave before the asking happens.

We have enough class to avoid rejoicing in anyone losing their job. I don’t wish ill on anyone. At the same time, we honor and value each other enough to know that our lives just got a teeny bit easier, and our ability to help others a bit more robust. We are a team, and that's my single-greatest joy in coming to work every day: working with my team.

So, this tale is a bit about business life, and a bit about our lives outside of work. As it turns out, this type of person, an obviously very unhappy person, infects not only the workplace, but the personal lives of millions of us.

A friend of mine, Dr. Robert Sutton, is Professor of Management Science and Engineering in the Stanford Engineering School, where he is Co-Director of the Center for Work, Technology, an active member of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, and a cofounder of the new Hasso Plattner Institute of Design.'s kind of amazing he finds time to exchange emails with me, but he does.

Bob wrote a book, a book which won the 2007 Quill award for best business book, a book which I will represent cleverly so that you can figure out the name while I maintain my PG rating. The No-Azzhole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't is the title, or really close to the title. This is far from Bob's first book--he has written or cowritten three other books, all of which I found to be valuable reading. It is fair to say his business books got me interested in the category.

Bob delivers an entire book full of stories about difficult people, tales of those who have survived contact with same, and really good advice for anyone currently dealing with such a person.

He is a scientist, is Bob, and most interesting to me are the studies he describes which calculate the cost to businesses which tolerate this kind of behavior, particularly from high-ranking executives.

These bad actors are not just a pain to be around. They are hugely costly to businesses. The one who was just escorted out the door at the company I work for was responsible for really talented people deciding life was too short to deal with him every day. They now work elsewhere. He polluted the work environment with stress, disrespect, and an unwitting ability to make people avoid him whenever possible.

The OFG knows good stuff when he sees it, and here is some good stuff from Bob (some from his book, some from the readers of his blog, and some stuff he has come up with since the book was published last year) on dealing with these people.

ESCAPE IF YOU POSSIBLY CAN. That's his number-one bit of advice. For the times when escape isn't feasible, at least not right away, consider Bob's top tips.

The bottom line for today is, don’t allow really unhappy people to color your wonderful life with their palette full of blacks, grays, and hateful orange jagged lines. It is perfectly alright to feel badly for them, but don’t get sucked in. They truly are human black holes, and they suck energy, excitement, motivation, and zest for life right out of anyone within their influence. Bob is right: if you are around one, escape any way you are able.


Olivia said...

Nice to see another installment of the OFG, Rick.

I don't get the part about the last comment, though...I must have missed something. I am known to be slow in getting jokes, though, especially racey ones!

What would make a GREAT OFG post is one about handling the energy-suckers, the negative vampires in non-workplace life. Those that are much harder to escape and are unlikely to disappear. Say, family members. Ones that are unlikely to disappear...

Peace and love,


Rick Hamrick said...

An expression for something which really gets one aggravated is that it chaps one's butt--I suspect the origin is probably from the days where people were horseback a great deal, and having that part of you sore and chapped was particularly inconvenient and uncomfortable--although the word actually used is the same one I was avoiding using later in the post. The part right before "...hole"--part of the title of Bob Sutton's book.

It is kind of silly to be avoiding it, as I have used the word elsewhere in this same blog, although only in combination, not as a pejorative. But, it is good practice once one decides where the line is, to avoid crossing it. And, for OFG posts, I have decided there won't be words your 4th-grade teacher would have found upsetting, although there will almost certainly be hints at things she would. That's my definition of PG!

As to your suggestion for a future OFG post, I'll take it under advisement.

Thanks, Olivia.

Olivia said...

Oh, I see, Rick. I'm just a l-i-t-t-l-e bit slow there. Of course, now that I see it, it's obvious. Thanks, O