Nobody Likes the Critic

Mar 05, 2001

What is it with some people? We have all had the opportunity (or misfortune) to work with a man or woman who finds fault with everything and pours cold water on every hot idea. These people think it makes them look smart to show you why something won’t work. Every time they open their mouths, they demotivate someone or offend someone. At best, they are time wasters. At worst, they sap the energy of everyone who comes in contact with them. It’s especially annoying when this person is one of the principals, and the comments come in a meeting with a lot of other people. You know who I am referring to. He opens his mouth, and the rest of you heave a collective groan. Let’s face it, these people can be a real pain. But that said, they aren’t easy problems to solve either. In many cases, these folks do have some unique skills that the company needs. But something has to happen. You can’t go on! So what can you do about them? Here are few options: Fire the “pain in the posterior,” and then have an office party to celebrate it. You may laugh at the party idea. And firing may seem like the most extreme measure to take, but it may be necessary. Some people will not change their behavior, and the relief that comes from their departure is often worth celebrating. Admittedly, though, having a party may be tasteless, and it may backfire on you with the rest of your employees. Just make sure if there’s alcohol there, you get everyone to sign a release. Banish this person to another office, preferably one in a faraway country with a poor communications infrastructure. Nigeria, the Dominican Republic, and New Guinea all have major infrastructure deficiencies and may be great locations for a new office. I have seen this done many times. It works, but pity the poor folks in the area where you send your problem! Tell that aggressive recruiter who keeps calling you about a job opportunity at MegaFirm that you have an excellent candidate you think he should talk to. This is the way to ingratiate yourself with someone who may help you find your next job, while at the same time ridding yourself of a thorn in your side. There’s a third benefit— you might stick your competitor with a problem that they will then have to obsess over. Arrange a lunch meeting outside of the office with you, three of your partners, and the offender. Have a group confrontation session. Numbers count here. Gang up. Dispel any notion that there’s just a personality conflict between you and the problem principal or employee. Let this person know that a lot of you see his or her behavior as a problem. Conduct an employee survey. Include this question: “Who, in the ranks of owners, is a ‘can’t do’ person?” Then publish the results for all to see. That ought to shame the troublemaker! Hold an office Survivor game, and see who is the first to be voted off the island. I can’t give you the specifics on exactly how to do this. But I’m sure that if you have enough ceremony associated with the voting, followed up by the snuffing out of the offender’s tiki torch and more, this person will eventually get the idea that he or she would probably be better off working elsewhere. By now you might be asking yourself, “Is Zweig for real?” The answer is, not entirely. Maybe I have been reading too many Stanley Bing columns lately. But if you can think up some better ideas for dealing with this problem, I’m sure all of our suffering readers would appreciate them! Originally published 3/05/2001.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.