Monday, June 29, 2009

I'm Being the Bad Guy

I feel like a blue meanie.  Normally, I like initiative.  Normally, I think I'm pretty good at finding the common ground and getting dialogue and change.  Not this time. This time I just want to cut my losses and move on.

The problem child came to me through at least two other people who tried to work with him and failed.  First impressions are pretty positive- intelligent, friendly, tries to be helpful.  Over the weeks it has become abundantly clear that every last one of those virtues can be perverted into a vice.  Super intelligent guy... but absolutely incapable of accepting that he has no knowledge of the specialized field we work in. None. Nada. Zip.  Since he can't accept that, he just keeps trying to help.  Like by telling the specialists how to do the job.  Or explaining to others what is going on when he doesn't have a clue himself.

Very, very friendly... which means he has no boundaries, and that doesn't work when you are surrounded by criminals, officers and soldiers. He is completely incapable of understanding when he is getting on someone's nerves even when he is explicitly told.  If you say, "You're getting on my last nerve. Get out of here and leave me alone."  He won't- he will sulk and whine and demand attention.  That was the last straw with the last team he worked with.

And helpful?  He's pleased and honored to make command decisions for you and tell everyone else what you've decided. Without asking you. Just to be helpful.

My usual tactic with this is to be very explicit about what I am doing, what I am saying and why.  Communication is about passing information.  The information is important, the method or my feelings or your feelings are secondary... but your feeling will affect how you listen, so they become a part of the question.  Basically, I use a completely different communication style with a young, eager, up-and-coming junior leader than I do with an old political player who is jealous of his position and worried that someone might know something he doesn't.

I explained the reasoning behind this, pointed out how much progress I've made in some dead zones.  My little friend says, "No. You complicate things too much. You should just talk the way that makes you comfortable."
"But they won't listen."
"Doesn't matter as long as it is easier for you." Which, of course, means easier for him.  Better to fail easily than to win if it takes effort. The pay is the same either way.

I had to give the 'expectations speech'- a list of behaviors expected and lines not to cross and the consequences.  I'm hoping he will listen, but I would place a large bet that he will alternate between sulking and sucking up for several weeks.

On the good side, he's inspired me to write an article on how to utilize an interpreter.

555th post, according to my dashboard.

55th review on Amazon and the latest is by Bob Orlando.  My head swelleth somewhat.


Bobbe Edmonds said...

"I'm Being the Bad Guy"

You're being the responsible adult. Attitude may trump training, but experience trumps attitude, in my opinion.

("I'm going to ram this knife in your throat!"


"Not without a kneecap, you're not".)

The junior should listen to the senior, especially in a "chain of command" environment.

I've never been in a military environment, out side of a short stint in a military school in South Carolina - from which I was shortly expelled - but I would think that comprehension of the expected job performance and following orders would be the best bet for survival in such an environment.

Anytime live ammunition is added to the equation, I always pay extra attention to what's being said, and try to emulate my superiors. You wind up dead a lot less that way.

"I had to give the 'expectations speech'"

Someone once said that once you give a person an ORDER, you will always have to make your intentions known through orders with that person. These are the people that cannot grasp subtlety with a sledgehammer upside the head.

"55th review on Amazon"

Shit, why didn't I think of that? I love that book, I'll write a review there as well.

Narda said...

This person is your new best friend. Believe it or not.

ush said...

"And helpful? He's pleased and honored to make command decisions for you and tell everyone else what you've decided. Without asking you. Just to be helpful."

That would ring alarm bell's for me. If someone did things arseways yet meant well you could live with it, to a degree, but that behaviour does not smack of good intentions to me.

Kai Jones said...

You have to be the bad guy because the people before you weren't brave enough to be, or weren't effective enough to make a difference to this person.

edgeofgrace said...

Sounds like he's playing a game with you.

jks9199 said...

Beat the little idiot-genius senseless.

It won't help -- but you'll feel better!

Otherwise -- you have to decide whether the guy is worth the work and effort to reach, either because he's got potential or because he's too valuable to the mission in some way to fire. If he's worth the effort -- then you need to find a way to reach him. It's not easy, and you'll probably have to correct him on the same fault time & time again. Personally, I think I'd start with the issue of making decisions for you... That could cause some major problems, I suspect!

And if he ain't worth the effort... dump his ass.

James said...

You get a good rookie, it's a fun shift. You get a bad rookie, it's the longest 8 hours of your life.

Illogic said...

Sounds like he thinks he knows everything he needs to know, and don't realize what he knows won't work everywhere.
Maybe you should get two toolboxes, and put some tools in one of them and just a few in the other. Then ask him what the difference between the two is.

Sounds like you've found yourself a challenge. He might make you want to pull your hair (or his) at times, but if you manage to teach the guy something thats a pretty damned good thing.

Worg said...

Sounds like passive-aggressive behavior to me.

On a note related to one of your more general insurgency warfare posts from about 6 months back, you may be interested in this:

Not intending to spam your blog here, I'm interested in your opinion and this is your only contact info that I know of.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I read your blog off and on and quite enjoy it. Bad word- It's like a food that not only tastes good but I can feel the nutrition entering me. (Don't know if reading good sentences will actually improve me, I've read quite a few and seen little improvement. Must just take effort and experience.)

I do study MA in Japan, and you often say very similar kinds of things as my teacher. He is not police or military, but has transcended... "smallness" or small mindedness in a way you seem to have as well. Into a deep and not stupid honesty.

In any case I write because I would very much like to hear an update on your new "little friend" in your article "the Bad Guy" and your relationship to him. Have you managed to reach him and give him any sense of beyond small-mindedness? How so? It is very important. I am probably him, or was and still half-way so. Yes, he may need a smack, certainly to be got angry with. When I was younger I never imagined that my friendliness was a problem for others. That it was at least half a constant need to create... safety that was fictional, or that it was naive and very dangerous. Someone I really respect getting angry at me over something that mattered, and the embarrassment etc., is how to get beyond. It's still not gone, or fully controlled, perhaps hence my curiosity on how you handle him. He must be very weak, and if you manage to bring him up right he will respect you taking on his weakness, and he could become your most loyal man.

Anyway, whatever you write, keep writing.
Thank you.

Rory said...

Last word- told him that he acted like a child so other people treated him like a child. I would refuse to do that and show him the respect due an adult including telling him when he was wrong. We'll see how it works out.