Posted in practice on July 30, 2014 9:36 pm EDT

Three Hard Hats

Rebels, Competitors and Believers all need each other to make an organization successful.











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By Christian Doering

George is a brilliant designer. He believes that he can solve problems that seem insoluble to “ordinary” people, and he’s justified that self-confidence on numerous occasions. But George is also very difficult to work with. In meetings, he’s bored and distracted: and that’s on a good day. On a bad day, he’s angry and disruptive, seemingly for no reason. When he forgets a meeting, which is often, he frequently gets a pass, just because things run more smoothly when he’s not in the room. When he ignores decisions taken in the meeting, George’s standard excuse is that he wasn’t informed (reading memos is for “ordinary” people). Needless to say, George is kind of a “secret weapon.” After a few disastrous encounters, everyone’s decided to limit his actual client contact to … well, zero would be ideal, but that’s hard to achieve. No problem for George. “Without me, this place would have crashed and burned long ago,” he thinks. But when the “secret weapon” misfires, everyone else has to pick up the pieces.

… most of us are so identified with our own way of seeing things that we regard people with divergent points of view as sub-human Neanderthals.

—Christian Doering President, Me, Ink.

Julie, on the other hand, lives for client contact. She is all about getting new business, and no one is better at making rain. Julie is a big thinker, always on the lookout for acquisitions, joint ventures, and mergers—anything that will make the firm, and her theater of operations—larger. But Julie can also be tough to work with, and for. She likes to play the game her way, even making up the rules as she goes along. Funny thing, those rules always seem to give Julie the advantage. She can be arbitrary and very demanding. “Whatever it takes” is one of her favorite lines and she expects everyone to give whatever she promised in order to win a deal. Behind her back, people complain about her fast and loose style of “management.” But Julie’s relationship with the owners is rock solid. In fact, Julie dreams of being an owner someday, and running her own show. “Without me, this place would be dead in the water,” she thinks.

Sam has no such dreams. He is a regular-as-clockwork type of guy, who just wants to put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Sam has read the employee manual cover to cover and believes in every word. He gets upset when George takes an unscheduled personal day, or when Julie disrupts his carefully planned work schedule with an emergency project or presentation (if he’s around, George loves the excitement of meeting an unexpected challenge). Sam just wishes everyone else would follow procedures: life would be so much simpler if people did what they were supposed to do instead of what they feel like doing at the moment. Behind his office smile, Sam is a bit resentful, too. He sometimes feels as though all his hard work and the extra effort that it does take to do things the right way is overlooked. “Without me, this whole place would fall apart,” he thinks.

Prehistoric knowledge in today’s workplace

These scenarios are adapted from Neanderthals at Work, by Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D., and Sydney Craft Rozen. Published in the previous century (1992), it’s definitely prehistoric in “business book” years. But I found it educational and useful ever since my late father recommended the book to me (that was also in the previous century). So I’m going to share some of it with you now.  continued >>