Aug 122008

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Dr. Earl R. Smith II
Managing Partner, The Federal Circle

This article has its roots in a chance conversation with an old friend. He shook his head and wondered why one of his employees kept acting in ways that sabotaged his own interests. It got me to wondering – then asking – then asking some more. This is a journey inward as much as outward. After all, none of us are exempt from being human.


I’ve been a student of human behavior for at least four decades. During that time I’ve become fascinated by behaviors which people adopt and which are self-sabotaging. Over the years I have developed a list of these behaviors which I used to keep track of the tendencies of people that I met. [Have you noticed that there seem to be a lot more self-sabotaging in the world? I have.] I recently began to suspect that the percentage in American society was shifting even more towards the negative tendencies. My natural curiosity – as well as my damaged sense of national pride – led me to do a bit of research.

In my advisory work I teach clients to open files on each person they meet and keep a record of their experiences with them. This keeps them from wasting time with non-productive relationships. Recently I have received a number of requests for some sort of organized presentation of the system. [There were it seems other people who were having the same experiences] I set about to formalize the list and provide a guide for using it. I even developed a ‘point system’ that seems to work remarkably well. [Everybody starts out with a hundred points. Points are deducted for each transgression.] I came up with eleven habits of self-sabotaging people. Here is the list:

1. They Are Late: I consider this unthinking treatment of others (and me in particular) to be one of the seminal indicators of a lack of respect. Being on time is one of the easiest ways to indicate to a person that their time and the potential relationship are important to you. It is also one of the easiest compliments to pay. You simply arrive on schedule.

Self-sabotaging people are almost always late for meetings. Somehow they don’t seem to recognize the incredibly insulting nature of this behavior. “Your time is so unimportant that I do not need to conserve it. You will see me when I get there. Until then, you wait!” seems to be the prevailing attitude. This, of course, quickly translates into “You are barely worth my time and should be happy that I showed up at all.”

When confronted with the insulting nature of this behavior these people usually come up with something like “I am sorry. My schedule always seems to get out of control. I am a victim of my own celebrity.” This replaces one insult with another – “You are not worth it” becomes “You are the true victim of my incompetency. It is your burden to bear.” Of course you are then asked to believe that they are going to prove completely competent in other, more demanding areas. [Give me a break - minus ten points]

2. They Are Unprepared: I am constantly amazed at how little time self-sabotaging people spend preparing for meetings. As a matter of course, I prepare as if the individual that I am meeting is important and the matters we are going to discuss have substance.

My company’s website provides a lot of information about my interests, core competencies and projects. We do that for a reason – so that people can go there and find out about us. I also publish a lot of articles on various subjects – again to help people know what my interests are and identify possible common interest. We go to a lot of effort to make that information available. So what does it say about a person when they come to an initial meeting without spending any significant time on the website? In other words, they are winging it!

Most often I have spent a fair amount of time on their site (including printing out selected portions to use at the meeting). Pages will have highlighted areas where I want clarification or additional information. I spend time going over things that either interested or confused me. Self-sabotaging people are generally not even conscious of the difference in our preparation levels. [Minus ten points]

3. They Are Unfocused: I get to a meeting and quickly discover that the other person has not thought through why he was interested in meeting with me. I remember meeting with a guy who had asked me to advise him on a new career direction. We set up a session to which he arrived late. [Minus ten points – I was doing him a favor and he returned it by insulting me] When we finally settled down and my temper came back under control, I asked him what he wanted to do – what direction he was considering. “I really don’t know,” was the reply “I’ve just started thinking about it.” I paid the check and left Bo Peep to find his sheep. [Minus twenty points – a double!]

4. They Are Superficial: “I just wanted to meet with you to see if you could help me get business.” Wow, I love this one. When the hell did I become your business development department – and, if I understand you correctly, an unpaid one at that? Give me a break. And if you really want to bring the conversation to a complete halt, ask “what’s the quid pro quo”. Usually the response is something like “Well, I’d be happy to pay you a finder’s fee if I do get business from one of your introductions.” Sure, I’m likely to risk the time and reputation of one of my valued contact by introducing them to someone who is intent on wasting my time! [Minus ten points]

One more out of this particular barrel – I get a call from a person who has linked up with me through Linked In. She is traveling to the DC area and would like to explore a ‘possible common interest’. She is very expansive in her vision of a possible common project. Some of what she says makes some sense. So we schedule a dinner. As the dinner starts it quickly becomes clear that she has read some crap by some networking guru that told her ‘never to eat alone’. So she cooked up a shallow-water rationale. The meeting was totally unproductive – a complete waste of my time – but she did get to fulfill the author’s proscription. Another friend of mine was subjected to exactly the same treatment by this person during the same visit to the area. [Minus twenty points – another double!]

5. They Are Uninformed: I work in a number of fairly focused spaces. I have accumulated quite a bit of knowledge, experience and some wisdom in those areas. So I am always a bit shocked when I am subjected to a monologue by somebody who clearly does not know what they are talking about. The oldest wisdom is that ‘knowing what you don’t know is far more important than knowing what you do.’ But these people don’t seem to have a clue. They prattle on and I glaze over. Maybe the time will go faster if I can fall asleep! Private ignorance is your own business but public ignorance is offensive to the people who are forced to sit through its display. [Minus ten points]

There is one variation of this tendency which I find particularly offensive. I have had people brazenly disrespect people that I know well – and that they know I know well. When I ask about their relationship it becomes clear that they don’t know the person they are disparaging. What’s the point? Does this self-sabotaging person really believe that I will cast aside a deeper relationship and disown a friend because of their uninformed and self destructive behavior? What to they think I am going to think of them because of this? People who are convinced that ignorance is their best side are such a pain. [Minus ten points]

6. They Are Unaware: I call these people the situationally challenged. They don’t seem to have any understanding of what a particular venue or occasion calls for. They plow on with their droning pitch oblivious of what is going on around them or the reactions of the people who are being forced to listen. The rest of the world seems to disappear for these people and, if I am not the focus of their monologue, that includes me. I am nobody’s nobody! [Minus ten points]

There is one particular variation of this behavior which really boils my oil. I call it the one-lane highway syndrome. I maintain a very extensive mailing list and sometimes I get asked to send out notices of events. I will admit that I used to do so routinely as a friendly accommodation. But a number of experiences have caused me to rethink that response. Here is an example of what I mean:

A person who runs events was in the habit of asking me to inform my contacts about them. At first I complied but then something happened that changed my mind. I asked for support for an event that I had organized. The individual responded that, since a competing organization was part of the event, he couldn’t support it. I realized that, should I have applied the same conditions, I would have not mailed out my notices. So I guess he saw me as a greater fool. Subsequently I requested another favor only to receive a variation of the same response. The message was clear – this is a one-lane highway and that lane runs from you to me! I owe you nothing in return for your consideration and support! [Minus twenty points]

7. They Are Inconsiderate: I have watched people cut out a third member in a group in order to drill down to what they obviously see as the ‘golden fleece’ – maybe the senior member of the group. Occasionally it has gotten so bad that I had to ask them to leave. I have seen people invade a private house and hijack a social occasion with an ideological tirade. I have seen guests disrespect their host and wonder why people find them repugnant. After all, aren’t they just telling everybody the truth?

When something like this happens, I am reminded of A Light Woman – a poem by Robert Browning which observes:

‘Tis an awkward thing to play with souls,
And matter enough to save one’s own

These idiot-logues – these ‘players-with-souls’ – are to be avoided at all costs. Civility is a compliment easily given and almost always graciously received. Boorishness is just that – boorish. What an individual will do socially is a pale reflection of what they will do in business relationships. [Minus twenty points]

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  85 Responses to “Eleven Habits of Self-Sabotaging People”

  1. [...] time ago I wrote an article titles Eleven Habits of Self-Sabotaging People. It has turned out to be one the most popular ones I have penned. Although some readers preferred [...]

  2. Paul Jones wrote:

    Bryan, interesting comment. My experiences have taught me that most of the time the person exhibiting the negative behaviors, knows they are but does not know how to change or have the committment to change. If they did they would have already done it. It is easy for us to say they have to change.

    I can’t tell you how many profiles and personality assessments that I have reviewed (after the fact), that all said person XYZ has a certain problem that they need to fix.

    NONE of these assessments gave person XYZ the insight to make a difference in their lives. So who are we kidding? Most of the assessment tools typically just confirm what we already know about ourselves, but leave it up to us to fix ourselves. Again, if we knew how to fix ourselves we would have already done it.

    It is much more difficult, but greatly rewarding, to develop someone that is committed to the point of making a change in behavior.

    I just met a person this morning that is a very intelligent, young and passionate person, but is so strong in their presence and their introduction that they just turn you off. This person knows this about themself and is driven to change their behavior. This person is committed to making a change for their personal and professional success.

    If an individual is committed to changing, then they can decide to change within the company they are in or to find a different culture where they will be understood and more of a fit.

    If the company is using the assessment tool for individual growth then the company also has to support the individuals behavior change.

    If the company is using the assessment tool to hire and fire, then someone they believe is mis-placed needs to be given support to find themself a new home.


  3. Conan, I am familiar with Logan’s work. The one objection that I have to it is that it can put the entire issue of self-sabotaging behaviors within the context of tribalism. It ignores the possibility of a pluralistic vision that can be shared by an entire team. The power of a team is magnified when they decide to treat all members with respect and consideration.

    Bryan, You raise an important point. It is important to offer feedback to people who are behaving in self-sabotaging ways. My experience in this area has been spotty. Some quickly realize the negative impact and make important changes – adding to the potential for both themselves and the team. Others steadfastly refuse to change. An important consideration is how much effort a company can afford to put out – how much expense and collateral damage it is willing to absorb. I think that most senior executives work on a two strike rule – two discussions on the topic and, if there is no significant improvement, the person is shown the door.

    Dr. Smith

  4. Bryan Doran wrote:

    Certainly an interesting read and I can sympathize with the items on that list. In one of my former positions, I managed new recruits. I spent time with a lot of them telling them about the impact their behaviors had on others, particularly tardiness or unpreparedness. Most were unaware how their actions affected others’ opinions of them. By making direct statements to the person in question in a neutral environment and giving them a gentle nudge about how they would like to be perceived and/or respected, most changed these behaviors. The results of the behaviors and habits seem obvious in retrospect and if the person thought about them, he/she’d figure it out, but often the person may be so wrapped up in his/her tasks or minutae of his/her life that it went unexplored.

    I certainly like to give people a chance by telling them if something bothers me before writing them off.

  5. ted.comConan Callen wrote:

    Dr. Smith,

    I watched a video last night that has some interesting relationships to your paper.

    Tribal Leaders by David Logan.

    David’s basic premis is that humans groups operate at one of 5 ‘Tribal’ levels and that its a leaders objective to help these groups to climb this lader of tribal evolution.

    Rather then groups passing from one level to the next, I think that a group exihibits all five levels in verying degrees. And even though the are at level 4, there is still level 1 behavior. In fact, the levels are built on top of each other, like the layers of an onion, so level 1 is always present, even at level 5.

  6. Thanks for a set of great comments. I have learned over the years that the friction within a team is most often based on these self-sabotaging behaviors. The difficulty is to get change – key members of the team can behave in ways that damage the potential for success. It seems to me that one of the key contributions that any leader can make is to help ease these frictions. Conan’s point is particularly relevant here. Leaders must me actors as well as thinkers. Their ability to surprise the rest of the team with superior performance is essential to standing as a leader. Dr. Smith

  7. Robert Carsia wrote:

    I guess I call it part of the ‘Corporate Darwinism’ Syndrome
    Perhaps there are some dots here to connect.
    Vicious corporate Darwinism is taking over workplaces as recession pressure sets in, experts say, with people eviscerating each other over everything from missed deadlines to messy office kitchens.

    Stress over impending or imagined layoffs, “survivor’s guilt” for those who dodge the axe and a panicked need to appear indispensable is mounting, they say, creating dysfunction in all sectors and levels of the corporate hierarchy.

    “When times get tough, people get tougher on one another. They start acting more as individuals looking out for their own skins,” says Heather MacKenzie, a lawyer and president of The Integrity Group, a Vancouver consulting firm specializing in workplace conflict.

    “I use the analogy of Survivor all the time: it’s outwit, outplay, outlast.”
    GO TEAM!

    So, how much fun is all of this?

  8. Paul Jones wrote:

    Interesting Article. I classify these individuals as disengaged. All companies have some form of the disengaged workers. Some just stay below the radar as they have a paycheck and don’t care about anything else. Others don’t know where the company/boss is going, don’t like the company/boss or don’t agree with where the company/boss are taking the company.

    These people are frustrated personally and professionally. These people, more often than not, have the talents and skills, but their subconscious decisions lead to their demise.

    My experiences have shown that with disengaged workers/individuals, that it does not matter how good the plans , or processes are; if the 3 three key elements are not aligned, especially the people, the successes will be mediocore at best.

    The 3 key elements are “Plans”, “Processes” and “People”. There must be alignment with all 3, to achieve successes that you never thought were possible.


  9. Frank Van Dijk wrote:

    Interesting article and comments on your site. I tried to respond but my browser kept getting stuck on this CAPTCHA Code.

    I concur with John Glass on the style, but won’t argue with the content. For me personally these are all things that my parent taught me growing up and maybe parents reading this should take note.

    Over the last twenty years I have lived on three continents and have worked in many countries (50+) across the globe. There certainly is a cultural aspect to this and there are countries where this list would be shorter and certainly places where it would be longer. This has to do with our differences in norms and values. For example people showing up late in countries like Spain is a given, while in Germany it would be a capital sin. Guess my point is that the article is a good trigger to think about those we interact with but that I would recommend to develop your own list as required by your environment.

  10. Ravindra Sharma wrote:

    Dr Smith,

    Excellent knowledge once again.
    Yet we may find around us several persons with given bearings deemed successful, thanks to how society assesses the success, in short or long term.
    It appears “all is well that ends well” or somehow reaching the goal is more important, than scrutiny of means followed, and is considered a better policy.
    Else truth, honesty, dedication, straightforwardness should not be at such a premium to practice.

    Thanks again

  11. Thanks for the compliment and purchase Lawrence. Your copy of Amazing Pace will go out tomorrow. Please let me know what you think of it. Authors love feedback of any sort. Iulian makes a valuable point. I think that companies and senior team members should inquire into the underlying causes of such behaviors. Feedback should be given and the person should be given a chance to change. Dr. Smith

  12. Iulian Matache wrote:

    Very insightful indeed. I was thinking a bit further on this topic and I guess it happens so because we are driven by specific needs which we will try to meet in a positive manner. If that fails, in fact if we fail in doing so, we will make sure (more or less consciously) that the same set of needs is met in a negative fashion.

  13. Lawrence Polsky wrote:

    Great article. Just bought your book on Adisory boards. Thanks for writing it!

  14. Thanks for two great comments. Jeff, my approach to tardiness is unforgiving. I refuse to allow people to join meetings if they show up late. During one recent meeting with the senior team of a company I was reorganizing, the CEO showed up 25 minutes late. I refused to allow him to join the meeting. When he pushed back, I let him know that he would be welcome at future meetings if he could begin to treat fellow team members with respect. The Chairman of the Board was in the meeting – she had arrived on time – and backed me up. The CEO went back to his office and we briefed him on the results of the meeting afterward. You see the CEO had this imperiousness and hubris attitude. the chairman backed him up against the wall and made it clear that his behavior was not acceptable. Further, he would apologize to people in the last meeting. He did – and the results have been very positive. Much of the hubris and intemperance has been put away. The lesson was not lost on the rest of the team either. Civility is breaking out all over!! As you may judge, Beverly, I am not afraid to be myself. Dr. Smith

  15. Jeff Knight wrote:

    I really enjoyed reading this post, and found myself recalling several of the mentioned experiences. I also realized that I do continue to make time for some people who habitually exhibit the described behaviors, either out of habit, old relationships, or in some cases actual work relationships.

    Tardiness has become a bigger problem over the last few years. It’s a huge red flag for me when someone shows up late to a meeting.

    Being prepared, informed, and having a sense of direction is another matter. It’s troubling to see how many people are not willing to do the real work. I counseled a young employee recently who had a brilliant analysis as to his capability but lost as to where he was trying to go. Yet, he had done nothing to find his way. I believe that many are perhaps afraid that the investment of their time will not produce, and so they remain on the fence. They are waiting for “it” to happen or someone else to find “it” for them.

    At this point I typically ask a few good questions. What have you read? Who have you talked to? What have you done? And lastly, where are you using your talents to benefit others? These are some of the same questions I ask myself, and they typically yield action.

  16. Beverley Hamilton wrote:

    I have delved deep into this question over the past few months and found that the most self sabotaging behaviour for me is one that denies who I am. In other words I sabotage what I want and what I believe by pretending to be something or somebody I am not.

    I have now learnt that being true to myself as an end in itself is far more authentic than anything else. This may not appeal to everyone but at least I am being true to me and other people are presented with a true sense of who I am, how I am and what I stand for.

    My belief is that many peope are afraid to be themselves either because fear gets in the way or they haven’t really discovered and admitted who they are.

    This is the first step – discover yourself and be OK with who you are, Then you become unmessable with and present a reality to the world that represents something true. Some will like it some will not and that’s OK too

  17. John, Great story – thanks for putting a human face on the topic. I smiled as I read it. Way to go on staying dry too – fantastic – something to be proud of. Bill, I like the over and under the table approach you suggest. I am not sure – are most self-sabotaging behaviors are conscious or subconscious. what do you think? Dr. Smith

  18. Bill Bonnstetter wrote:

    If you make more money than your subconscious brain thinks you deserve you decisions will be impacted and it will appear as self sabotaging. The solution can be easy but impossible to explain with words alone.

  19. John P. “Jack” Beckett wrote:

    I considered myself a better than average pool player and had a great pool room in my home. I used to play a game with myself, in which I used two Que balls. I marked one + and one – and imbued these two balls mentally with all things positive and negative, good and bad, right and wrong. I made an internal bargain with myself that I would use the same degree of acumen whether shooting the good or the evil ball. I would then disperse the balls around the table alternately shooting the “good” ball until I would miss then shooting the evil ball. If I were a machine the two balls would have won an even number of times. The good ball, however, never won. Never!

    I know now that there were self destructive unconscious behaviors that ruled my life at that point. In my case, I was a drunk. Boos is a great way to express one’s unconscious self loathing. I have been dry for 22 years now, but I don’t have that pool table any more.

  20. Michelle K. Mondragon wrote:

    During my entire upbringing, my mother and our family were always late to events. So, as young woman with a family, I always found myself running late. Even to work. It cost me a lucrative job with the Bell System (7yrs).

    In later years, I discovered through research that Chicanos’ (once called Hispanos), time clock had been set differently due to culture. It is not bad practice to be a few minutes late – its cordial and well mannered.
    They’re up early to rise, and down during the afternoon, back up and often don’t eat until 9pm and to bed even later.

    However, because my culture allows this, doesn’t mean that I could use this as an excuse to be continually late. I’m living outside my culture – so after losing the BS job, I started setting all my clocks 10 minutes ahead. And I do mean all my clocks. My kids were raised with clocks preset this way.
    I’m rarely late any longer. Because even if we know about the 10 minutes it brings it forth to you mind – timeliness.

    And by the way I’m a natural analyst – equipped with higher education in Behavioral studies.

  21. Guy Stephenson wrote:

    Great article Dr. Smith!

  22. Roland K. Orlie wrote:

    Solid networking and a good network of trusted friends might save you probably from the worst. Otherwise, we all learn from our mistakes, don’t we? Sometimes I note to others what might about to happen to their “career takeoff”. The only other one I know is to do some solid listening! Makes life interesting. You can always write a case and teach it at a business school. Ha, ha!


    Victor, Thanks for the comment. I like the additions to the list – particularly the first one. I agree that such abusive behavior should be heavily penalized. The second one also resonates with my experience. I would add that another abusive and self-sabotaging behavior is failing to recognize and return a favor that somebody else has done for you. I do work with many people in the PE and alternative investment area. Most of my work is with companies that VCs have concerns about – performance is not meeting expectations. Needless to say, the experience has generated a lot of ‘war stories’ and a bit of wisdom. Take a look at my website – . Dr. Smith

  24. Victor Nowicki wrote:

    You should add to the list in your article the following:

    1. Failure to return a call when provided with specific proposal, previously solicited. A simple thank you, no thank you is +30 points, no call back is -30. If you ask for a business relationship, maintain it.

    2. Asking for a favor but failing to provide details/follow through behind it. -10 points. Another way of wasting someone time and reputation?

    3. Calling and pre-positioning with ” I only got 30 seconds”. Hang up immediately and deduct 20 points. Why would you that person think that you have more then that?

    Well, you must be dealing with a lot people in the PE or alternative investment area!

  25. Jeff, thanks for the comment. I have had lots of positive feedback on the article and other related questions I posed on Linked In. Taking the time to think about the corrosive effects of these behaviors – on both organizations and careers – can make a real difference in both. The reduction of internal frictions can unlock
    major creative forces.

    Charles, happy to have made a contribution. It is the personal adjustments that can make a real difference in career results.

    Dr. Smith

  26. Jeff Najar wrote:

    My assumption was that you were writing about how you can exercise your personal self-sabotaging behaviors. I was surprised to find a format to evaluate your business relations… Well done, it provided a new insight into my business development program.

  27. Melinda Sorensson wrote:

    Dr. Smith, yes, I agree completely.It is cultural, I am afraid. We do not have some of these mental struggles in the Philippines where the main concern is survival. Food. We are generally happy just to be alive.

    I think mental diseases, not counting those that are biochemically rooted, are a product of an affluent society, a sense of entitlement to everything.

    I have had clients/friends who have been to the best private schools, vacationed in Europe during the summers, attended summer camps and still could only focus on “My parents did not love me”. They were born and raised here in the US.

    In the Philippines, we assume and never question that since our parents had us, they love us, unconditionally, and forever whether they hug us a lot or not or whether they gave us things or not.

    We “knew” beyond a shadow of any doubt that they loved us because we knew that they would sacrifice a meal so that we could buy the books for school, usually from the US, and therefore costs in dollars, because we needed it.

    In the Philippines, age is a sign of wisdom. We want the old people to interact with us.


  28. Melinda, I think that ‘unwiring’ is particularly difficult in cultures that focus on youth and being ever young. The old idea of being born again has to do with that unwiring that you mention. The second birth is one into adulthood and away from the wiring that you got from your parents and family – to become a person in your own right. Dr. Smith

  29. Melinda Sorensson wrote:

    I love the article, thank you for sharing. I would like to add, if I may, basing on my work as coach to some business people. It is very difficult to “unwire” from childhood experiences, so difficult that after six months of weekly hour coaching they go back to childhood experiences and blame it on their current behaviour/outlook.
    Change has to come from within. There is no other way. That change has to be self sustaining. It requires a tremendous amount of will power and self discipline or a very knowledgeable person to help.

    Melinda M. Sorensson

  30. Tom Adam wrote:


    Great topic and an equally insightful article. I’d like to offer up one more source of self-sabotaging behavior as well: as a way to reinforce poor self-esteem and/or hostility and anger.

    I’ve run across my share of people who consistently shoot themselves in the foot; some personally, some professionally, and many both. In getting to more deeply understand these individuals one will find that, to put it simply, they think of themselves as failures, as unworthy, or as deserving of punishment. As a result they have to screw up somehow, often just when they’re on the verge of even the smallest success, in order to maintain the negative image they have of themselves. To paraphrase from an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “If a man is convinced he’s going to [fail] tomorrow, he’s bound to find a way to make it happen”.

    The hostility and anger piece comes from the reactions they have to how other people address the behavior they’ve just shown. If their behavior prompts a negative reaction from others, they can give themselves permission to be angry at those people for it, and let’s face it: some people have a need to stew in their anger and resentment that can reach pathological levels.

    My 2 cents on the matter.

  31. Mitch Pisik wrote:

    Great question.
    I believe that virtually every decision and action that a person enacts is based on avoiding pain or incurring pleasure. I have witnessed countless times in the companies and divisions that I have run that the prevalent force-by far- in most people is avoiding pain. A great example are in negotiations. Why do most people not negotiate more? Because they would rather not incur the “pain” of hearing no then the “pleasure” of paying a lower price. Which brings me to the answer at hand: people exhibit what to others may appear to be self-sabotaging because each of us have different levels of acceptable pain and pleasure. To some people the “cost/pain” of doing the “right/beneficial” action is not worth the corresponding “benefit/pleasure”. If I can be of any further assistance, just let me know.

  32. Ramaraya, Thanks for the compliment. I have asked a lot of questions on Linked In about these behaviors. You may be interested in the responses. Dr. Smith

  33. Ramaraya Kamath PMP wrote:

    great article. Thanks a lot.

  34. Tony Edwards wrote:


    Great article. I would like to suggest another;

    Negative Language.

    In trying to understand and analyze a particular issue in an organization, I suggested to the Board of Directors that the reasons for the particular “issue under discussion” might be related to the organizations’ maturity level or age or that there might have been some other dysfunction.

    The directors promptly accused me of saying that their organization was “Dysfunctional”. Even though I had not intended to label the organization, the mere use of the negative term had the unintended outcome of Negative Labelling.

    In the future I will be more careful when discussing “Issues” / “problems” in organizations and come up with more positive ways to convey “Negative / Adverse” findings.

  35. William, Thanks for the compliment. I am from Connecticut but have spent enough time in the south to pick up some tendencies. I did live in New York City for 18 years – and consider it my home town. One thing I have discovered is that there are self-sabotaging behaviors in all these cultures. The tendency to shoot oneself in the foot is, alas, ever with us. As humans we have the unique capability to commit such self-mutilations and then learn from the experience. Thank goodness for forums like Linked In where we can share our experiences and learn from each other. Dr. Smith

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