Within any organization, you’ll find two categories of people.
First, you’ll be surrounded by a majority of co-workers who produce results.
Second, you’ll encounter a minority who believe their job is to keep the first group from doing theirs. These people resemble Barney Fife, the bumbling deputy who—when given a badge—overcompensated for his latent insecurities by flaunting his authority.
In the workplace, it’s always frustrating to be around insecure individuals who demonstrate the following characteristics:
- They know how, but not why. They’ve been given tasks to perform, but they cannot connect their work to the organization’s mission.
- They are inflexible and controlling. Too often, they resort to bullying. Their directives are intended to enforce compliance with arbitrary rules. They never ask, “What can I do to help you?”
- They fail to see the big picture. With blinders on, they focus on creating and enforcing rigid policies without considering the ripple effect upon teammates, upon other work processes and ultimately upon the customers we all serve.
Sometimes these villains are created by systemic breakdowns. More often, though, they are self-appointed. At various times, you’ll find them in every profession and in every department, including the following:
- Marketing and Communications. Communicators who believe they must control the message are naive and obsolete. In today’s 2.0 world, our job is not to stifle, censure or muzzle communications, but rather to join and influence conversations.
- Information Technology. Security of data will always be important. Some IT professionals, however, are so uncreative that they overlook what we can do with technology. Instead, they obsess over what they believe the rest of us must NOT do. Carried to an extreme, these IT curmudgeons would probably be happiest if we never turned on our computers, thereby avoiding the evils that lurk in cyberspace.
- Fundraising. In the nonprofit world, donations represent an essential form of revenue. A minority of fundraisers, though, can become so preoccupied with hitting their “sales targets” that they subconsciously believe the organization’s primary mission is to raise money. That mindset prompts them to see the work of others as orbiting around them and their mercenary endeavors.
- Human Resources. Why can’t HR professionals trust their colleagues to make good hiring decisions? I question policy makers who insist that only HR people are qualified to make job offers. In that spirit, why not require that all marriage proposals be made only through lawyers? After all, in both cases we’re dealing with legally-binding human relationships.
- Legal. The best way to work with lawyers is to understand they’re not trained to say, “Yes!” They look for risk and then advise clients using various shades of “No.” I value legal counsel in an advisory role, yet I wonder about a minority of legal experts who appoint themselves to be the final authority in the decision-making process.
- Finance. Money should always be viewed as a means to an end—a currency that helps an organization fulfill its mission. Accountants who fail to connect their work to the company’s mission tend to become enforcers and controllers (pun intended).
An organization’s success requires teamwork among a diverse, collaborative workforce. Only by working with—rather than against—each other will we produce results that will have a meaningful impact upon society.
As I see it, we have two options. We can either produce results, or we can obstruct the progress of those trying to get things done.