-- Pig wrestling is alive and well
Leadership can be difficult. We know this to be true. It's incredibly situational, no "one-size-fits-all," and right when we think we've got it all figured out... Boom! We throw people in the mix and screw it all up.
Sometimes, it can get downright scrappy. Mal-intentioned employees (fortunately they are few) can sometimes make our lives difficult. And they do it on purpose.
We don't have to tolerate that, you know. To borrow a phrase from an old movie, it may be time to stand up and say, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"
Now, to be clear, I'm not advocating irrational, brute force leadership as a normal course of business leadership. No, I'm talking about identifying those mal-intentioned employees mentioned above, then purposefully interrupting their efforts.
Who are they? C'mon, you don't really need me to define this, do you? You know who they are as you're reading this. You know them by name, and you're nodding your head... but, this is a written newsletter, so let me offer a few descriptions. There may be more, but my experience reveals at least these three:
1. Purposefully marginal. You know these. They'll always do most anything you ask of them. Then, they stop. They do precisely - and only - what you specifically ask or require.
Not one iota more.
These folks are downright irritating, and like jell-o when you try to confront their behavior. You've got to be clear, have specific examples, and then be prepared to outline what your expectations are going forward in future, similar situations.
In other words, start defining your expectations as more than simply the tasks that escape your lips.
As vague as it sounds to you left-brainers, "Do what you know I mean, not just what I say," is a reasonable communication. Have that talk. Today.
2. Malicious compliance. These, too, are a proverbial pain in our collective organizational derrieres. They will accomplish a task, job, operation or process exactly as described by some formal procedure, a supervisor, instructions, or accepted precedence, even when they know it's wrong, not working, problematic, or will somehow cause harm to the organization.
You'll hear, "...but that's what he told me to do," from an experienced, ten-year employee. Or even better, "My job is to follow the procedures; it's your job to make sure the procedure is correct."
To be sure, these folks are intentionally malicious and should be dealt with promptly.
"John, if I told you to follow a process that you knew would cause you personal harm, would you do it?" His response, of course, will be some version of "no." Follow that with "I expect that same diligence when I ask you to do something that, due to your circumstances, knowledge, or experience, know will harm this organization in any way."
Then, enforce it. Religiously.
3. Pig wrestling. No, this isn't the workplace equivalent of Saturday night mud wrestling on some obscure cable channel. Nor is it an activity where jell-o, whipped cream, or oil is involved.
No, Pig Wrestling happens when an employee (usually of the #1 or #2 above ilk), doesn't want to do something, and uses a valid topic to make an invalid argument.
"Oh, I can't do that, it's unsafe." There's the pig...
"That will take too long; we'll have to work overtime." There's the pig...
"Have you checked with Carol? She won't want us to do that." Carol, in this case, is just a pig...
Don't fall for it. Don't wrestle those pigs. When you do, the pig wrestling becomes the focus, not the task, process, or effort that prompted your order in the first place. Keep your response simple (assuming, of course, that it really is "safe," etc.).
"It's unsafe." You: "No, it's not. Go ahead and do it."*
"We'll have to work overtime." You: "No, we won't. It's easily finished in regular hours. Go ahead and do it."*
"Have you cleared that with Carol?" You: "We're good - go ahead and do it."*
* Feel free to explain further if you feel it's warranted, but end any explanation with "Go ahead and do it."
Don't wrestle with these pigs. You'll lose, and you'll just have to wrestle 'em again later.
These mentioned above are intentionally and purposefully problematic. Don't confuse them with minor performance/behavior challenges, or with those well-intentioned employees who experience momentary lapses.
These folks mean to do what they're doing. Let's put a stop to it.
One of my client's leaders was lamenting one day that they are trying really hard to better intervene when these intentionally obtuse ne'er-do-wells rears their heads. She said, "We're trying to enforce this sort of stupidity, but they keep outsmarting us."
Sadly, most of us know exactly what she means.