My friend Mary recently shared a recurring nightmare. It involved a twisted metamorphosis into a donkey. It was Disney’s fault — specifically, the film Pinocchio. You know, the scene where the mischievous boys transform into jackasses? It scared the heck out of her as a kid. But these days a different type of donkey haunts my friend.
She works with a person who hee-haws until they get what they want. This office donkey stubbornly kicks back against any objections to their point of view and refuses to budge. Maybe you have one where you work too.
The worst thing about the office donkey is that they are always thinking about what is best for themselves — not for the company.
I have had to deal with a few of these types of co-workers in the past. Fortunately, I have found that there are ways of neutralizing loud, obstinate, and selfish behavior. And ways of keeping the focus on the things that matter most to the team.
Here is how to silence the office donkey:
The office donkey is not like the office weasel, who stirs up trouble just for the sake of it. The brays of the donkey tend to have a reason. And this person might not be aware of the negative impact they are having in the workplace. If you can, have a frank discussion to uncover what is really going on and why they are so unbending.
Make sure you have a clear plan and vision for the team. Then you can show the donkey that their request does not fit in with that strategy. Getting everybody’s buy-in on the plan from the start makes it much easier to quash self-serving requests later.
Be as stubborn as the donkey. Do not be tempted to take the easy way out and give in to the annoying behavior. But do not mimic the donkey’s “me-first” attitude. Remember that you are doing what is best for the team.
You might feel like denying the donkey just out of principle — even if their request makes sense. Be fair and objective; do not try to starve out this creature. Give the donkey the same kindness you show to the rest of the team and they may thrive.
Given how loud and brash they are, you would not think the office donkey needs any more attention. But shining a light on them is very important. It lets everybody see their stubbornness out in the open and that the donkey’s bad behavior does not get rewarded.
Decisions should always be based on achieving the team’s goals — not on who brays the loudest.
Most people simply want to have the space to do good work with other high performers. They want to know that their ideas and priorities are getting the same consideration as everybody else’s. Even the ones who act like donkeys.
And maybe, just like Jiminy Cricket, you can be part of helping them escape that metamorphosis entirely.
How have you dealt with an office donkey?