Sep. 07, 2017 by Robyn Porterfield, Managing Principal; and Bob Rose, Principal; Rose Porterfield Group

When Tough Personalities Lead to Tougher Decisions

When you reach the C-Suite, you may be able to realize the dream of building your own team with employees you’ve carefully selected. If this happens, congratulations and good luck! However, it is more realistic you will inherit some within an organization whom you didn’t select and may not have hired at all if given the opportunity.

If you’re not careful, that dream may turn into a nightmare.

Luckily, some of these employees are easy to identify. Though we will use names in our examples, we have found through the years that none of these personality types are unique to gender or ethnicity. Mary could be John or Chin or Juanita.

Mary the Cynic

Mary is a good friend of the board chairman, which is too bad because she not only sees the glass as half empty, she knows that even that half-glass will evaporate quickly and feels obligated to tell everyone. Every new program is a “silly waste of time” or “has been tried before with little success.” Procedures are impediments. “That’s a waste of time” is her mantra. She’s not a bad person, she’s just…well, she’s just Mary.

Bob the Bully

It could be, and sometimes is, Betty the bully – but we’ve found this type is more likely to be a man. Bob is very knowledgeable of his business and industry in general. Usually, Bob is a friendly guy, but when he doesn’t get his way he yells and uses minor profanity  directed more often at women in their 20s and those in lower levels of the organization than with his 250-pound peer who won all-conference honors at left tackle. But Bob is able to admit when he is wrong and always apologizes in a lighthearted, jovial way. He’s not a bad person, he’s just…Bob.

Susan the Protector

Susan’s priority is taking care of “her people.” To Susan, her team’s happiness supersedes her organization’s health. If asked, she would surely tell you that a happy organization is a healthy organization, but in meetings she often reminds others that her team is over-worked and uses this argument to avoid taking on additional tasks. Susan is greatly admired by her team for being their protector, even if that means profit gets neglected. She isn’t a bad person either, she’s just…Susan.

Why are these personalities so difficult to manage?

If you remove Mary from the organization, you might anger the chairman, and she is often right that things aren’t perfect — some of the programs implemented in the past were indeed wastes of time. But, like someone who ignores all of an organization’s problems, Mary’s negativity won’t lead to improvements, and there is no doubt her approach lowers morale.

Bob’s knowledge would be difficult to replace, and speaking up and being direct is a good thing — isn’t it? But being aggressive and profane is not. It can be abusive, ethically questionable and it can get the organization sued. Bob’s behavior is both unprofessional and unacceptable.

While many of her colleagues would be happy to see Susan go, her employees would be near mutiny if she was asked to leave. But while she makes her team happy, she often does so to the detriment of everyone else. Why must the organization suffer so a select few employees can remain content?

The odds that you will inherit all of these personality types are low, but chances are good you’ll manage at least one. You may have to make some painful decisions and balance positive and negative consequences before finally realizing and unleashing the talent and potential of your team.