The Indispensable Office Stinker






Here’s a recent post by the folks the Drucker Exchange (the Dx) that hosts an ongoing conversation about bettering society through effective management and responsible leadership. It is produced by the Drucker Institute, a think tank and action tank based at Claremont Graduate University that was established to advance and build on the ideas and ideals of Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management. The Dx was first published as Drucker Apps in 2009 (see Dx archives). Renamed and reconfigured in October 2010, the Dx is now designed to stimulate a discussion of current events that is illuminated by Peter Drucker’s timeless teachings. It is a blog for people who want to get informed, involved and inspired to convert ideas into action.

In previous posts, I’ve expressed my opinion that so-called “indispensable” people tend to create bottlenecks. In the article that follows, we are provided with at least a partial explanation of why they can also be so “fussy, impolite or otherwise disagreeable.”

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No one likes a fussy, impolite or otherwise disagreeable coworker. But dealing with someone like that can be tricky, especially if that person excels at his or her assignment.

Michael Feuer, former CEO of OfficeMax, has published a new book called The Benevolent Dictator, which examines this and other challenges of managing people. The real conundrum, as Feuer told IndustryWeek, is when the jerks in the office “are terrific and get the job done.”

Peter Drucker had little tolerance for bad behavior at work — a subject we’ve taken up before. “Manners,” Drucker wrote, “are the ‘lubricating oil’ of an organization.”

And yet Drucker, like Feuer, also understood that successful enterprises often have to live with people’s flaws, including their personality defects. Both U.S. Army General George Marshall and former General Motors Chairman Alfred Sloan “were highly demanding men, but both knew what matters is the ability to do the assignment,” Drucker explained. “If that exists, the company can always decide the rest. If it does not exist, the rest is useless.”

One key is to structure the organization so that those who rub others the wrong way have minimal contact with their colleagues. “A good tax accountant in private practice might be greatly hampered by his inability to get along with people,” Drucker wrote in his 1967 classic, The Effective Executive. “But in an organization such a man can be set up in an office of his own and shielded from direct contact with other people.”

This build-on-strengths approach, Drucker noted, applies all the way up to the highest levels of government or commerce. “In picking members of their cabinets, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman said, in effect, ‘Never mind the personal weaknesses. Tell me first what each of them can do,’” Drucker wrote. “It may not be coincidence that these two presidents had the strongest cabinets in 20th century U.S. history.”


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  1. […] In this post on “Blogging About Business”, Michael Feuer weighs in on “The Indispensable Office Stinker”. Read the original article here. […]

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