A leader’s primary job is to do whatever is worth your life’s effort in a way that succeeds and is consistent with your core values.  You must judge your priorities and strategies by that criterion; do they promote or interfere with winning. If you think that there are more important things than winning, so that, for example, you’re willing to give up 10% of your company’s market share to be nice, please tell me so I can invest somewhere else.

One of the most insidious threats to success in the workplace is the “caretaker mentality” that comes in many forms.

To read the rest of this article from the Denver Business Journal, see: ‘Caretaker Mentality’ Thwarts Success in Workplace


If you confuse core values with attitudes, preferences and strategies that ignore realities or that interfere with winning, you’re setting yourself up for losing or becoming a martyr.

However much you might value openness and honesty with those you love, you can’t tell your competition your plans and proprietary secrets.  That’s a childish understanding of honesty and a strategy that guarantees failure.  Beware of people who say that’s the way the world should be.

Some examples:

  • Not pursuing accounts receivable because it might be embarrassing for customers.
  • Not requiring a team member to do something they don’t like.  Not giving honest feedback to people who say they can’t perform their tasks because of personal problems.  Not holding someone accountable for deadlines if they can’t handle the stress.
  • People at a child care center accepting poor service from janitors or plumbers because they’re trying their best and if you work with them, over time they might improve their performance.
  • Letting vagrants block your front door because they have nowhere else to go.
  • Health care providers not wanting to keep accurate records or submit timely bills because caring counts more than money.
  • Keeping someone incompetent at a particular job if they’re well meaning or their feelings would be hurt by being transferred or released.

Those may sound farfetched, but they’re real examples I’ve seen in abundance in companies and especially in non-profits, public service organizations and government agencies.

The “caretaker mentality” shows a deep and pervasive confusion about the organization’s mission and priorities. See the original article for details.

  • It assumes that you can take care of everyone’s needs and wishes without interfering with anyone else’s.
  • It assumes that it’s okay to accept mediocre performance or that the only or best way of encouraging better performance is to lower standards.
  • It allows the angriest, nastiest, most vicious or most ignorant person to harass, bully and abuse other people while you try to understand and educate the bully.  It turns targets into victims.
  • It assumes that making people feel good, even if you have to lie to them or give dishonest evaluations, is more important than challenging them with high standards and the need for results.
  • It puts a great burden on the rest of the team to deliver on promises.
  • While it pretends to care about everyone, it actually cares only about the people it designates as “victims” and allows them to victimize everyone else.

You don’t have to be nasty, ruthless or cheat, but you do have to be realistic and to choose.  Either you focus on your best shot at accomplishing the mission you hold dear enough to spend your time and energy, and to risk your fortune, or you give up that purpose to satisfy some other value.

Your primary responsibility is to make your organization a success in providing service to your customers at a profit, so you can continue to provide salaries to your employees.  There are many ways you can take care of your community without undermining that responsibility.

Of course, the caretaker mentality in relationships, at school and in your extended family can also ruin your life

Often, individuals need coaching and organizations need consulting to help them design and implement a plan that fits the situation.  To get the help you need, call Ben at 1-877-828-5543.