How to Deal With Precious People
Oh yes, you know exactly who I am talking about.
The office gossip who never seems to finish a project they are assigned. The anti-social genius coder who needs his own space and your attention constantly, or the colorful creative who can't ever decide if the blue is blue enough. Precious people require so much of our attention that they suck all the positive energy out of the office, every day. Whatever you call them—precious, prima-donna, special, privileged, or just unhappy, negative people—these precious types are the death-knell for your business. Too sensitive for their own good, stubborn in their refusal to follow direction, and often disordered in their personality, precious people will make your life more than challenging-they can destroy your business.
Precious people are:
- Controlling. They generally cannot take direction or collaborate.
- Overly dramatic, creating unnecessary drama over the tiniest thing.
- Overly critical, finding fault with just about everyone else but themselves.
- Chronic complainers, rarely finding a project or task they can do without a laundry list of reasons why they can't do it, or need help.
- Argumentative, they have trouble agreeing with others, even on things that seem insignificant or inconsequential.
- Relentlessly demanding and persistent, unable to take no for an answer-these people are hard to fire even when it's time for them to go.
- Unable to accept responsibility, blaming everyone but themselves failure.
How to spot a Precious person when they walk in the door:
Precious people are charming as hell.
Precious people are extra-special snowflakes. Precious people are often attractive and have an air about them. They want you to like them. They may dress extravagantly or even inappropriately. They often have the gift of the gab, or in the words of one my favorite colleagues--they are "masters of convoluted triple-speak". Their quirkiness may entertain you, and their stories may draw you in, but unfortunately it's a ploy for you to like them so they can rely on your good graces and take advantage of you. Make sure your boundaries are intact and you are thinking straight. Do not let them beguile you. Precious people need you to think they are special, and better than anyone else. That's the agenda.
Precious people require lots of hand-holding.
Precious people will often be unable to function autonomously or conversely be anti-social and unable to collaborate. They are the ultimate time-suckers. While a precious person may vary in their behavior between intrusive and overly dramatic--they will end up consuming a lot of your time with their "concerns and complaints" instead of solutions and plans to move forward. When you point this out, they will more often than not accuse you or others of belaboring the issue. Learn to schedule your time with them to be limited (make your meetings are 25 minutes long) and start your conversation with them with a caveat like, "I just want you to know that I only have a few minutes here to talk, what's up...?" Once that time is up--move on.
Precious people have lots of problems.
It's very tempting to think we can fix other people's problems, but we cannot. Chronically negative people will either completely resist you or make your life harder. They will bring their problems to work. They will need more time off. They will call you at 10pm to "talk". The truth is that even the best therapists have difficulty with them. The best strategy is to look out for yourself. There's a fantastic zen saying that comes to mind: "Don't light your own head on fire from the torch of another's". Good advice.
Workplace dynamics are tough these days for sure--but that doesn't mean you need to solve your employees personal problems, or coddle people. It's perfectly fine to hire people who are autonomous, happy, and productive, and not too precious for the job.
After all, remember what happens to Gollum.