Why We Have So Many Problem People in the Workplace

Discussion point

Problem people can only survive in a culture where manipulators, liars, oddballs, and others are permitted to exist. In virtually all these corporate cultures the problem people are not only tolerated, they are actually rewarded for their difficult behaviors. With Yvonne, we had created her problem performance by giving her a promise only to silently renege. We had created a “Dissenter”, someone who dissents in every decision because they want to prove they have better ideas or protect themselves should an idea not work. Even if the idea they dissented works, they can claim it only worked because their dissention surfaced shortcomings in the idea.

In retrospect, we realized we had actually been fueling Yvonne’s behavior by rewarding her for it. When there was an unpopular task that had to be done, we would bypass Yvonne because we did not want the confrontation. If she reported late or took a long break, we said nothing because we did not want the confrontation. If she decided she wanted a vacation when we were already shorthanded or busy, she got it because it was not worth fighting about. Yet when it was time for raises, she got the same raise as the people that were working smarter, harder, and faster. I have witnessed this same type of treatment of problem employees at company after company.