The worst part of having a curmudgeon on your staff is that you may have to put up with him, at least temporarily, if he’s valuable to your organization. But he has to be very valuable. And “temporarily” is the key word. Imagine, for example, a senior manager who criticizes every idea and decision openly at meetings and also behind his boss’ back. Sometimes, he simply rolls his eyes, snorts, drums his fingers or overtly uses his smart phone. The major expression of his negativity is “harrumph.”
To read the rest of this article from the Memphis Business Journal, see: When should you keep a curmudgeon? http://www.bizjournals.com/memphis/stories/2007/02/05/smallb3.html
He’s worse than impersonal. He’s an active curmudgeon. He makes clear he won’t go to birthday parties and other celebrations because they’re a waste of time and he’s too busy. Or he goes and grumbles audibly the whole time. You can almost hear him saying, “Bah. Humbug.”
He always knows the “right” answer and thinks “discussions” are him expressing his opinion, followed by everyone else acting instantly on his plan. He’s an expert at harassment, bullying and abuse of power. If he’s entrenched in the organization, he’ll even criticize his boss publicly.
This curmudgeon’s actually pleased he has a reputation as a no-nonsense guy. When employees leave his department, he’s sure they couldn’t stand his high standards, weren’t willing to work hard enough or didn’t have the brains to keep up with him.
The most devastating effect of allowing such bullies to stay is that your actual culture – not the politically correct statements you’ve posted on wall plaques – is exposed. Around these cranky, negative, toxic people, performance decreases and behavior sinks to the lowest level tolerated. Also, creativity is destroyed, morale plummets and turnover increases around him. That may convince you to make a thoughtful decision about removing him.
Many experts tell you to get rid of the curmudgeon right away; it’s the people-oriented, moral thing to do.
Dealing with “special cases” I have a somewhat different view. In some fields and with some tasks, you may decide to accept the behavior because he’s unique and successful. Typically, those are the fields in which genius counts. Some examples are: the arts and theatre, surgeons, researchers, inventors, programmers, architects and athletes. Or a special case may be the owner’s mother or children.
If you want to retain other valuable managers and maintain a respectful culture for the rest of the organization, make clear to everyone, including the curmudgeon, your reasons for keeping him, the behavioral lines he can’t cross and your plans to minimize brain damage to the rest of the staff. Otherwise you’ll simply allow him to victimize everyone.
As his boss, you’ll have to micromanage him. The words “communicate better” don’t have any meaning to him. He thinks he’s communicating just fine and doesn’t know or value any other way. Use behaviorally specific cue cards, “Say this. Do that.”
Peers will often put up with a curmudgeon because they can minimize contact and laugh behind his back.
But if he’s your boss, decide whether to put up with his behavior cheerfully, try to get upper management to change the behavior, transfer or retire. Don’t endure behavior you can’t live with cheerfully. Life is too short.
High standards protect everyone from unprofessional behavior. You can learn to eliminate the high cost of low attitudes, behavior and performance.