Occasionally at work, we have to deal with people who are thoroughly evil... just mean-spirited individuals who like to exercise their sadistic muscle. Also at work, there are people who are downright annoying... irritating gnats that we must endure in our quest to Carpe Factum.
Then there are the people who fall into the "Satan's Chihuahua" category... that scary cross-section of both evil and annoying. On a past project (a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away), we dealt with an administrative assistant who exerted way too much power. She worked for a weak executive who was overextended and distracted... paving the way for her to get away with her behaviors. She would block critical meetings with the executive (overruling his own directives) just because she didn't like the people who were attempting to schedule the meetings. She would also park herself at various project resources' cubicles... just to make small talk. Hints to go away usually went unheeded. If she did get the hint, the person then went on her "bad list." She was just an unpleasant person to handle, and the feedback from the project team was beginning to elevate.
Some simple strategies served us well in handling Satan's Chihuahua:
- There's safety in numbers - a group of us on the project management team met with the executive and objectively listed the behaviors we were observing and how they were impacting the project team. He had deflected individual feedback on her behavior, but when faced with multiple people at once, he could not ignore it. We left the meeting with action items that he needed to address with this person.
- Set boundaries - all of us had to set boundaries in our interactions with this person... with respect to schedule, authority, responsibilities, and communication. She had to know the scope of what she could and could not get away with.
- Be clear - annoying people have a tendency to miss the point. "Do you understand?" is a good question for follow up. Ensure that this person is accountable for directions, facts, and issues. Thinking in terms of Murphy's Law, consider all of the things that can possibly go wrong and mitigate the communication proactively.
- Provide objective feedback - keep emotion out of it when things get off course. Focus only on observable behaviors and statements that are irrefutable.
These are easier said than done when dealing with Satan's Chihuahua. People who annoy others with a mean-spirited nature can be very challenging and very political. We tend to forgive people's short-comings if they are nice or if they are competent. If both are lacking, the patience level drops. Take a deep breath, look at the bigger picture, and work to improve the situation.
What are your thoughts? How would YOU handle Satan's Chihuahua?
(NOTE TO ALL CHIHUAHUA OWNERS: Sorry for the use of imagery here, but it was just too easy to pass up. Satan's Beagle just didn't have the same ring to it.)