“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.” – Benjamin Disraeli
Stop me if this sounds familiar (no, actually, keep reading). Someone works in your organization. They demonstrate a complete lack of ability to play nice with others. They don’t respect the organization, it’s policies, it’s culture, it’s people, etc. As the leader, you try to address it. When you speak to this individual, you get nowhere. Eventually you realize this person is never going to change and that they’ll be a permanent cancer if allowed to stay. So what do you do?
If you’re like a lot of “leaders”, you do nothing. You make excuses regarding why you need to keep this person around. “They’re too valuable”, “They have unique abilities we can’t replace”, “I don’t want to look like/feel like a jerk”, “It would be too uncomfortable”, etc. And so you continue along this way, never quite understanding why your career is becoming less and less fulfilling.
Enough already. Stop being soft. One of your responsibilities as the leader is to take action when it needs to be taken. I know you have excuses. Here’s 3 anti-excuses:
- Energy. One of the most valuable and least talked about resources we have as leaders is energy. And nothing sucks energy out of us like having to work around a cancerous person. How can you possibly have the energy you need to lead your organization when you’re wasting it dealing with a problem child?
- Credibility. Rarely is a cancerous person a secret. Everybody knows about their behavior, and they’re watching to see what you’re going to do about it. All that talk about culture – are you going to back it up? Or turn a blind eye? By not taking action you not only lose the respect of the rest of your people, you tacitly approve of them doing the same kinds of things. One cancer will lead to another, and another…
- Distraction. At any given time your organization is dealing with customers, competitors, changing market conditions, IT issues, etc. You’re trying to position your organization to be successful far into the future, as cloudy as that future may be. You’re thinking about reducing waste, innovation, productivity, and everything else leaders think about. Your organization has to deal with all of those issues – and it will be a struggle as long as the cancer is there. It consumes time, energy, resources, and everything else you’re trying to do. And the things that really need your attention (and that of the business as a whole) – are put aside.
Is it easy to make the change? Of course not. Do you need to think through the consequences and have a plan for dealing with them? Absolutely. But none of those potential consequences outweigh the benefit of taking action. Enough already – be the leader you’re supposed to be.
“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” – John F. Kennedy