Over the past few weeks I have had particular reason to reflect on the very great impact that people in the wrong job have on their workplace. Over the years I have worked in close quarters with colleagues, who for various reasons have clearly been a ‘square peg in a round hole’.
There are all manner of reasons why people end up in the wrong job, fortunately some people recognise this for themselves or are helped to see the truth and do something about it, but others for a variety of reasons do nothing. This doing nothing is what interests me.
The colleagues I’ve known have all, in their own way been in ten different kinds of pain on a daily basis. Sure enough this is terrible for them, to watch it etched on their faces, to see it in their reactions to the day to day challenges of work but also the normal mundane stuff, and this is where the impact on colleagues really takes it’s toll.
Snap decisions, inappropriate over reactions to minor difficulties, too focused in the detail that is not their job but others, appearing vastly busy and over worked whilst achieving nothing, overly eager to please superiors to the detriment of the work and colleagues, a bluntness and perhaps even nastiness that leaves others not wanting to deal with the individual. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it in any way proven by research, it is just some of the behaviour I’ve witnessed in some of these people.
When someone is behaving in this way, colleagues find that they too have to behave in a different way. They actively manage each and every interaction with this colleague. They measure and assess how every single transaction and event in the workplace will be received by this particular colleague, and if this person is senior to them, what the resultant impact back on them might be. This colleague becomes bigger than the work itself.
We’ve had a tendency in recent years to seek out a psychological answer to addressing the impact that people like this have. With Coaching, Developmental Training, Psychological assessment to bring the individual to a level of self awareness, and hopefully a position where they will see the misalignment and are spurred into action.
What worries me though is that people in these situations are either not willing or able to be brought to a position of self awareness, or are in such pain that even though the truth is there staring them in the face, they believe that there is no way out, that the risk of doing something different is too great.
As a result of tough economic times, is our patience, our willingness to try to intervene with people who behave this way run out through necessity? Why wait for tough circumstances, why have we been so willing tolerate such behaviour? It suggests a degree of laissez faire in better times that is frightening, what might we have achieved if not so smugly comfortable and could therefore quietly tolerate?
Are we going back to a greater requirement for difficult conversations? This is my fear, after heading so far down the supportive, developmental road in some respects, are we adequately equipped any longer to have the difficult performance management conversations and for the sake of recovery and improved governance that we all keep hearing and talking about, do we have the time to wait for enlightenment?
Jane Pound MCIPD, CMIIA.