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Wally Bock

Some years ago I had an absolutely superb numbers person who worked for me. She could crunch numbers. She loved finding the answer or the patter in mountains of data. The only problem was that she was borderline dysfunctional. People hated to work with her.

At one staff meeting someone suggested, jokingly, that we should "just slip work under the door and communicate with notes." It was an aha moment.

After some massaging, that's essentially what we did. The analyst performed superbly. We got the benefit of her brain power. We just stopped expecting her to be a social being at work.

We could have gone on expecting the analyst to change. But, thanks to a wise staff member, we changed our expectations and behavior and everybody benefitted.

Steve Roesler


Ya see, that's exactly the point. You allowed her to do what she did well and changed your expectations.

What prompted the post was a string of situations in different companies where those who should know better would actually promote these people while continuing to ruminate over their lack of people and management skills. In almost every case the individual was, in fact, a business savant in a particular discipline. The idea of slipping paper under their doors would have been a good solution.

The real issue is a common human frailty: we attribute all kinds of positive characteristics to people who are "smart". Not a very smart thing to do.

Thanks for the real-life example.

Rodney Johnson

Oh the challenge of the problem employee. What makes the challenge worse yet is that the individual was incentivized around the stuff you liked - adding to the problem. In my book, Without Warning, I state that problem employees are the Number 1 reason behind Silent Problems in an organization. Everyone else is expected to look the other way or tip toe around the situation, while the problem just gets worse. I love this quote from Lee Thayer, "People will rarely trade a problem they can't stand for a solution they can't live with." It's here where leaders get stuck.. They can't stand the problem, and at the same time, they can't see how their business would work without them in their position. And while they're performing, they're also robbing from the remainder of the organization.

Steve Roesler


Isn't the human condition fascinating? And I like your take on "Silent" Problems as well as Lee's quote.

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