Even though I am the “Alex” referred to in John’s “Difficult People,” I agree with almost everything John says. Well, almost everything.
Dr. Gregory House and Sherlock Holmes are just as real to me as, well, Tony Stark and Clark Kent. And I wouldn’t fire any of them if they worked in my organization. Fortunately, I don’t need to worry about this because they’re not real people, John! They’re fictional characters. And fiction needs to create characters that exemplify certain qualities in their purest form so that we can understand the message a writer wants to convey. And they are always the suavest, smartest, strongest of the bunch.
The point I am trying to make here is that real people do real work, and real people are (unfortunately) expendable if they are a real problem. Individuals do not save organizations, unless your name is Steve Jobs.
I have been working in the private sector for over 25 years and I have yet to meet someone who is so great that an organization would crumble if they were fired. So the short answer to the John’s question-“How do you knock these puffed—up buffoons down a couple of notches without losing their valuable contribution to the life of the organization?”—is this: You don’t necessarily knock them down. Instead, you work with them if they’re salvageable and fire them if they are rotten. Period. The question then becomes, how do you know they are actually rotten enough to fire?
There is a very interesting article in Forbes about actually firing this indispensable person that Seth Godin calls the Linchpin in an organization. I encourage you to look this up for further insight on puffed-up buffoons and why we need to fire them.
I have met dozens of individuals that insidiously or not so insidiously harmed co-workers, created unnecessary tension in the workplace, manipulated others, caused others to quit or have breakdowns, brought down morale, planted seeds of hate and distrust, and/or were simply very detrimental to an organization. Whether these individuals are talented or not, their negativity to the collective needs to be eliminated.
Personally, I am bored of the savior. I am bored with that person that is hired to save a department, or a team, or a company. Life is not a comic book. Superman does not sweep in and save the day in the real world. In my opinion, all this energy trying to save the puffed up buffoon or hire the savior is at the root of the problem. As such, the real question for me is this: How do you create social hubs of average people working together harmoniously and creatively to provide valuable contributions to the life of an organization?