Wait, I’m the Problem Child?…Now What? Part 2

In Part 1 I highlighted what some have realized when they come to terms that they may be a problem person on their team. Maybe you’ve had the difficult conversation with your manager and you’re now wrestling with the feedback. Everyone responds to this type of direct feedback on performance in any number of ways. Some are more productive than others.What type of person are you?

Misfit: Maybe you’re just not in the right organization or in the right role. It’s not the right fit and you feel like you’ve been forcing it for some time. You’re misfit for the work or the organization. This happens all too often. You’ve known it for a while and it’s impacting your performance. You’ve just not been very motivated to do something about it. You’ve coasted with relative disinterest in your work and your team. You’re waiting for something to move you and this is your opportunity. You can quit quietly and go your own way. You don’t cause a scene and you may be able to talk your manager into calling it a mutual parting of ways. Either way, you’re out the door and on to discovering your new thing, your right fit.

*Note to managers about the Misfit. This is a change they need. They may have sat on their laurels for a while, but leaving this role is best for them and best for your team.

Combustible: No one tells you you’re not right for something. You’re the reason this company, division or department is as good as it is. You’re easily offended by negative feedback and you’ll quit and figuratively attempt to burn the place down on your way out. If your manager is short sighted enough to let you stick around for more than 15 minutes you’ll do your worst to turn your team, clients or vendors against them. That’s right, you’re in charge here. While this approach may feel good in the moment as you’re protecting your ego, in the long run you’re causing irreparable damage to yourself. If you’re this self-focused then please slow down enough to know that the only person you’re going to damage is yourself. You may not do the work to change in this role, but at least leave quietly for your own sake.

*Note to managers about the Combustible. They’ll need a swift exit. You’re doing yourself and your team a disservice if you allow them to stick around and inflict damage. Talk with HR in advance to get the support you need.

Subtle Saboteur: You’re one of the most dangerous types and you know it. Sure, you’ll play along. You’ll agree to change your behavior and you’ll bend to your manager’s request only to buy yourself time so you can inflict slow damage inside the organization. You’re not unlike your combustible counterpart, you just do it with less noise. Where the combustibles are like bombs going off, you’re like a slow gas leak. You cause as much damage, but you’re really hard to detect.  So, you can stay in your role and make it even more difficult for everyone around you before you’re forced to leave (if your manager’s worth their salt they’ll have you leave sooner than later). You really should quit if you’re going to do this. The time will still come, but you’ll have done some damage in the process. You’re just a wolf in sheep’s clothing or a combustible disguised as compliant.

*Note to managers about the Subtle Saboteur. The more specific and measurable the performance plan the better able you are to gauge commitment and progress and identify a subtle saboteur in the process.

Survivalist: You can’t afford to be out on the street so you need to comply. You don’t necessarily like the work nor do you like the people, BUT you need the job, you’re in a tough spot. You want to buy time to find another job. It’s usually finances that keep people in this situation. You need the money to survive and the thought of bailing on it is completely disrupting. Ok, that may be the case, but you’re showing up to work in a way that shows your distain for the work and the people and it’s clearly impacted your performance to the point of your superior bringing it up and letting you know your job is on the line. It’s time to get in gear. You needed a job and this one was offered to you. You chose to take it. It was your life situation that led to you needing this particular job. That’s not your organization’s fault so quit treating the people around you like they forced you into this. You have a choice. Lean into this opportunity and change your behavior. That behavioral change will be a transferable skill for you in the future anyway. And, while you’re doing that hard work of change at work, begin to get your financial affairs in order so you can set up to make an occupational leap in the near future. Meet with a financial coach or try something like Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and get ahead of your finances so you don’t stay stuck forever. You’re a survivalist and you can do the work to improve despite the circumstances. Along the way be thinking about the type of work you want to do while you’re becoming a person whom others would want to work with.

*Note to managers about the Survivalist. You may have an opportunity to coach them in the direction you need them to go for a time. Keep an eye on their performance and have open discussion with them. You may find an opportunity to help them find another team or organization while they’re making the changes you need to see. This can be a win-win.

Icicle: You care a great deal about your work and the people with whom you work, but this feedback is paralyzing. It’s shaken you deeply and you don’t know if you can face your boss, team or clients again. You’re full of self-doubt. You’re not sure if you can get back on track or what it means to make changes. You never meant to veer off course or to be disruptive. You just got so busy and life took over. You’re stuck, unsure if you can step up and face the feedback again. You have a difficult road ahead. It’s not that the work of change isn’t possible, it’s that you’ll have to face your fears throughout the entire journey. If you don’t step up to make the necessary changes you’ll likely lose your job. If you stay frozen, you’ll miss the opportunity to rebuild trust and grow in the organization. You’ll need to let your manager know you’ll need overt support through the process. You’ll want to express your care for the work and your team and be very clear that you want to make changes.

*Note to managers about the Icicle. Be proactively supportive. They’re not self-cleaning ovens like others you work with, but they are very capable of making the necessary changes. Give them the attention and support they need and they may just surprise you.

Contritionist: This is a manager or coach’s ideal individual. You’ve chosen to genuinely take in the feedback, work with your manager or coach and work to make changes, build or restore relationships and tell a new story of yourself in your organization. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, but it is possible. You like the work you do and the people you work, but you’ve run off course somewhere along the way. The feedback you’re receiving from your boss is especially difficult because you do care about what you do and the people with whom you work. If that’s the case, it’s time to step up. Pride will battle you for a bit. Who are they to tell me that I’m not cutting it? Who are they to decide how I should behave? If you’re a top performer (and you know it) pride may be your biggest hurdle. Who are they to get in the way of me hitting my numbers? Don’t they know this is part of the package? They get my numbers (creativity, innovation, etc) and my personality is part of the package.  Your organization may have tolerated you because of your numbers for some time, but they’ve hit their limit. You’re now being called to a new reality. You’re being asked to step up or step out. Channel your strong, driven personality and put it to work in changing your behavior and you’ll be able to change your story.

*Note to managers about the Contritionist. They really do want to do the work to right their course. So, be present, be specific and offer direct feedback. Coach them along the way and offer resources where you’re able. You may find an entirely new level of contribution from this individual.

Who are you and how will you respond?

2 thoughts on “Wait, I’m the Problem Child?…Now What? Part 2

  1. Jeff Johnson

    Great insight into feedback response types. A few years ago I was faced with some not-so-constructive comments via the 360 feedback process my company made available. I hand picked a group of 7-10 peers/stakeholders and feedback was anonymous except I was able to determine where the comments came from based on the content. The unconstructive feedback didn’t destroy me, but I did internalize it quite seriously. I spoke with a trusted colleague about it to help me process things and was able to be talked down from the proverbial self-deprecating ledge. Since then, I’ve been on-the-fence with 360 feedback thinking that it could be so much more effective if respondents were coached on how to give constructive feedback so the language is less damning without losing its message. Additionally, those soliciting/receiving feedback could benefit from coaching on how to best receive the feedback in a healthy way keeping a right perspective such that it helps to challenge and edify versus tear down and defeat.


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