Work with anyone like this? Here’s how to handle the situation.
There are people — employees, bosses and high-level government leaders — who just can’t utter the words: “I was wrong, let’s fix it.” This holier-than-thou personality defect may be the result of how the offender was raised, whether he or she possesses an innate proclivity to “deny, deny, deny” or, perhaps, it’s simply a case of a missing or malformed gene. Another possibility is the disrupter is just a natural born jerk.
Whatever the cause, how to work with or for anyone with this intolerable mindset gets down to the role he or she plays in your organization. If it’s your boss, my best advice is to pick a time of your choosing and bail out, but on your terms. The reality is that changing someone at the very top is most times an exercise in futility and a frustrating undertaking. If it’s a politician, there is hope, as he or she must re-up either every two, four or six years depending on the seat held.
The good news is that if the bad actor reports to you and exhibits more good than this particularly troublesome flaw, there is a possibility that his or her behavior can undergo a major adjustment with your prodding. If this is the case, it’s time for a heart-to-heart utilizing the scared-straight method favored by juvenile authorities for early offenders.
When pursuing and implementing this method, it’s no time to sugarcoat the situation. Instead, be prepared to present indisputable evidence of the transgressor’s offenses, including dates, places and, most importantly, the adverse effects that this behavior inflicted on the organization.
Occasionally this in-your-face encounter jolts the transgressor to change without requiring a time-consuming and painfully long runway. At the very least, it gives the employee food for serious thought and, if you do it right, will cause well-earned and deserved indigestion as he or she ruminates on the case you presented.
Warning: don’t make this first session a debate. Get straight to the point, have every fact and pertinent statement on the tip of your tongue, and move deliberately through your monologue. When done, ask that the employee not respond immediately, but instead ponder what was asserted and schedule a follow-up meeting within the next 48 hours to work out the next steps, if there are any.
You will know within that time frame if your efforts hit pay dirt because either the transgressor comes back with an acknowledgment and plan of how to improve or returns with an O. J.-type defense that disputes everything said and proclaims, “the glove doesn’t fit, so you must acquit.” If the latter occurs, pretend you’re holding a hand grenade and simply pull the pin and end this constant source of distraction and impairment to future progress.
The bottom line is that when someone always thinks they’re right, and evidence most times unequivocally proves they’re wrong, the choice is simple: Fix the problem or remove it. Business is already challenging enough without this type of added distraction.
Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax and in 16-years, as CEO, grew the retailer to sales of $5 billion in 1,000 stores worldwide.