Everyone Is Trying To Keep Me From Getting to the Top
When sitting in the office one day, I overheard a conversation that disturbed me greatly. An employee was discussing the multiple ways management was trying to keep him from getting promoted in our organization. The information seemed to have a flavor of truth but was certainly not as extreme as this person believed. He pointed out how the last person promoted was not as qualified as he was, and that he did not get the advancement because he didn’t socialize with the “upper” management. He said this made him very angry and he would find a way to get back at the people for not recognizing his talents. He further elaborated on the many others who were always trying to take his current position from him as well.
The co-worker confronted the person with a reasonable question. What is the evidence that supports your belief that these people are all out to get you? The response was a rather curious one. He stated that he overheard two other support staff discussing the President’s selection of the next regional manager being a “neat person” and one whom he finds shares the same business goals. Once again the co-worker confronted this person regarding the relevancy of his conclusion (that this must have meant that he was not the one the President was referring to in this discussion). “I just know him”, the (now angry) person said. “I know he likes and talks to ____, who always ‘sucks up’ to him”. I know they left work together last week. They looked at me, when they passed by me in the hall, and though they said ‘hi’ to me, they started to laugh immediately after they got out of the door”.
What is going on here? In the story above, the person is feeling overlooked for a promotion he felt he should have received. However, he could not even imagine that there may have been many reasons for the decision to promote someone else. Why did he also believe that his present position was in jeopardy?
The evidence he used to validate his case of being overlooked was extrapolated from comments made by other people that had nothing to do with the decision nor was he specifically identified by anyone in the conversation. He just made assumptions based on his own fears, anger, frustrations etc.
Have you ever known any individual in your organization who constantly believes others are against him, or someone is trying to get something he wants? Of course you know employees who have tendencies to think this wa. Many organizations have at least one person like this. So what?
Individuals who portray characteristics such as above discussed can be extremely destructive to the organization. They
- Misrepresent comments that others make (due to their reading things into something, that are not really there)
- Initiate false rumors (that they most often really believe)
- Tend to only listen to the negative (out of context) parts of a conversation
- Constantly dedicated more effort to controlling the attack on them, then focus attention on their job
- Incite anger and distrust in management (with little to no evidence)
- Make conclusions rapidly without checking for accuracy
- Are tense and easily irritated (often believing that others intentionally doing something to “get them” or make them “look bad”)
- Are unforgiving
- Seldom confide in, or share with, another co-worker, even when the information is important or needed for normal or necessary organizational operations
Beware! Even if only some of the above listed traits fit an individual in your company you need to pay attention to the potential risks to the company (and you). You will often find it nearly impossible to get your work done satisfactorily. Do you have enough, or the right, information? Did the person tell you everything or did they withhold something to get back at you? Do they attack you behind your back, because they believe you slighted them some situation?
What do I need to do?
If you are in a position where you are responsible for managing this person
- Be clear and direct regarding any requests you make
- When a task is completed, tell them you appreciate it
- Do not assign them to leadership roles
- As much as possible, do not have them work on critical projects
- Do not have them work in teams with people they see infrequently or do not know at all
- Never share information or comments of a personal nature
- Never offer advise regarding there work unless you are clear as to the reason for giving the advise (and frame it as positively as possible)
- If they appear to be unclear about any assignment you give them, make them repeat back what they understand this to mean
- If their behavior is negative or others complain about them keep a record (being very specific, include any witnesses) This behavior will likely continue and even worsen at times
- If you ever get to the point of termination be prepared for a reaction (directly or indirectly aggressive behavior will be the result)
- These individuals CAN BE DANGEROUS!
- Call in consultants as necessary to take some of the pressures and attention off of you, and to help direct anger away form the company, you, or co-workers.
This of course is a very difficult person to contend with in a work environment and you will seldom see more than the “tip of the iceberg” until much damage is already done.
In most cases, however, you may have to learn to live with them as an employee, and limit as much destruction as you are aware of, or hear about, until something surfaces that will permit you to take more decisive action.
This is one of the many personalities we have to learn to deal with in the work setting. Learning how to identify the specific personality and what has to be done to manage this person appropriately, is of critical importance. Remember to look deeper when trying to figure out why a very good strategy is not working with a particular individual especially when many others seem to be responding well to it. It could be a unique personality that has to be handled in a non-standard manner.