Managing Bad Habits

We’ve all worked with people who are star performers but have one serious personality shortcoming that makes life difficult for everyone, limits their effectiveness, and often proves to be their professional undoing. One person, for instance, constantly takes on too much work, while another sees the downside in every proposed change.

We call these destructive behavior patterns “bad habits.”

No one is perfect, and everybody wrestles with demons and makes mistakes. But bad habits aren’t permanent, and they are all fixable.

Listed below are six different behavioral patterns, along with some strategies for ridding yourself or your teammates of these habits.

The Hero

The hero always pushes themselves and their co-workers too hard to do too much for too long.

The hero is often the last person a manager wants to change. After all, why would you want to change the behavior of someone who gets more done in a day than anyone else does in a week? The answer is that over the long term, the hero’s constant pushing can lead to burnout and ultimately hurt your bottom line.

To change a hero’s behavior, start by expressing appreciation for their accomplishments. But don’t linger on that point — quickly segue into a discussion about the costs of burnout. Talk with the hero about recognizing the signs of overload in themselves and their team members.

Make it clear that this is a serious problem — that the hero has consistently taken things to a point where more is not better. They need to put on the brakes, or it will create a tiresome and non-effective work environment.


The Meritocrat

The meritocrat believes that the best ideas can and will be determined objectively and always prevail because of their clear merit. They’ll often ignore the politics inherent in most situations.

To help a meritocrat, you should first offer sympathy. Agree that it can waste time persuading people to support ideas of clear merit, and acknowledge that it’s too bad you’re even having this discussion.

Ensure the meritocrat that they’re in good hands and that the team will implement the correct business decision.

Meritocrats are typically among your hardest-working, brightest, and most well-educated people. A teammate needs to help them see that it is possible to operate in gray areas and still accomplish success.

The Pessimist


A pessimist focuses on the downside of every change and worries about what could go wrong rather than considering how things could improve.

A great way to turn the pessimists’ worries into a more effective tool is to teach them how to evaluate risks better. Pessimists not only ignore the potential upside of change, but they also usually fail to consider the downside of doing nothing.

The next time a change initiative is proposed, tell your pessimist to come up with a list of pros and cons for that initiative. Have them form two pros and cons lists — one for the proposed change and another for doing nothing or going against the proposed change.

By making this systematic consideration of initiatives a routine, the pessimist can see a more objective risk analysis.

The Bulldozer

Bulldozers completely ignore the opinions, rights, or feelings of others in their quest for power.

Bulldozers are often reluctant to change a style that, by their lights, is highly effective. So, to change a bulldozer, you have to become one yourself. Start by asking if they know how many enemies they have created within the company. Be assertive and make it known that this behavior is unacceptable and that if this continues, there will be consequences.

Inform them that they must apologize for any past misdeeds. Offering apologies might not smooth over all the damage, but this is a necessary step.

If the bulldozer shows a willingness to change, it’ll be able to build roads for you without flattening people in their way.

The Home Run Hitter

The home run hitter tries to do too much too soon. In other words, swings for the fences before they learned to hit singles.

While their intentions and ambitions are good, they can often bite off more than they can chew, get in over their head, and strike out.

Let this person know that you appreciate their drive, ambition, and self-confidence, and you want to move them up the curve as quickly as possible but at a pace that ensures steady progress.

Home run hitters worry that they’ll never get ahead and feel their efforts to reach the top go unappreciated. It’s important to talk with them often about their career progression and to praise them frequently — for both small and large accomplishments.

Those actions on your part will help reassure your home run hitter that, given a little bit of time and continued effort, they’ll have their shot at the big leagues.


The Rebel

The rebel is one who automatically fights against authority and convention.

Rebels are easy to recognize. They’re the ones who always ask inappropriate questions in meetings, constantly make jokes about the company’s management, and publicly question the motives behind any significant change.

Try asking the rebel, in a neutral tone and without warning, if they’re thinking about quitting. When they — in a shocked state — say no, reply that you were wondering because they’re constantly going against the limits, venting frustrations, and putting the organization down.

Make it known that this behavior cannot continue and needs to stop immediately. Those who value their position with the company will take the words to heart and change their behavior.

They might not change overnight, and for some time, you’ll have to keep a close eye on the situation through frequent meetings. But in the end, the payoff will make it worthwhile.

Although the tactics recommended above will only work in some cases, the approaches described are practical for most people. They can help erase bad habits and turn flawed performers into incredible teammates and achievers.

To learn more about ProVantage Corporate Solutions, check out our other blogs at the link below!

Originally written by James Waldroop & Timothy Butler
Edited by Houston Hawley, President


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