Facilitating Bad People

April 22, 2016 Chris Pearse

“Watch out for George – he’ll be trouble…”

I’ve heard that phrase, often couched in gentler language, from quite a few clients and I guess I should be grateful to George’s dark side – and that of all his counterparts – for helping to stimulate business.

The warnings about George are often followed by a thumbnail sketch of the team, their strengths, weaknesses, predilections and neuroses. The value here is for the client – it may be the first time that they have been able to articulate, out loud, exactly how they feel about their colleagues – at least to someone that is interested. But to be brutally honest, I don’t need to know any of this at all. I don’t need to know about George and I don’t need to know why the meeting won’t work.

And that’s because the meeting will work – italways works – but sometimes not quite in the way expected.

Years ago I was warned to ensure that Mark and Sam be kept separate during the day and not allowed to work together on any of the activities, under any circumstances. I even received an anonymous phone call to reinforce the point. Happily I forgot all about it and allowed groups to self-select. Halfway through the afternoon I suddenly remembered the injunction and, panicking, looked around the room only to notice that Mark and Sam were busily discussing and making notes on a flip chart together – they had opted to work together against all the received wisdom.

Ever since then I silently decline to act on any of the advice that I am given about how people are going to behave – I listen with interest and then forget it. And George is always as good as gold.

Why is this? Well I think it’s because how people behave is not just down to them – it’s a function of circumstance – and to label someone disruptive, negative or plain bad, is to forget that those dynamics can only exist in a relationship with others – never in isolation.

And that’s why George’s past behaviour is of no significance because it is just that – in the past.