Dealing (or coping) with high maintenance individuals

There is an old proverb that we often hear, namely “variety is the spice of life”. People react to this in different ways. Some see it in the context of their day to day activity, especially around work and life balance. Others see it from the perspective of their friendships and the community of people they know.

Variety in business attracts prominence in the context of the great mix of people that one encounters. Teams are often touted as being highly effective because of the different mix of skills and personalities involved. Variety is seen as a contributor to a team’s success.

But unfortunately, organisations often have to deal with individuals who can be described as high maintenance. They may well be talented and have strong capabilities, but their behaviour can be a real challenge. High maintenance individuals might demonstrate one or more of the following characteristics:

1. Being disruptive in personal behaviour and approach
2. Demanding and requiring an excessive amount of management time and energy
3. Behaving more as an individual than as a team player.

High maintenance individuals are more often focussed on the “I” rather than the “We”. But there is a paradox here, namely that high maintenance individuals may also generate solid business results and outcomes. The so called “good guys” don’t always win.

Lets not confuse how individuals debate business ideas and issues with being high maintenance. There is a strong need for robust discussion of business issues and challenges. Rather, it is about how it is done and how people behave positively in the broader organisation team.

This is illustrated in the chart below. It shows in visual form the tradeoffs that need to be considered between people styles and business performance.

Quadrant #A in the accompanying chart is the most challenging as it highlights the tradeoff between good business performers, but at the cost of being high maintenance individuals. What is the level of tolerance here? What can be done to help individuals ameliorate their style and approach?

Quadrant #B on the other hand is about providing more counsel and guidance about enhancing business performance while at the same time maximising the benefits of the style and nature of the person concerned.

Variety is indeed the spice of life, but there can be real challenges and tradeoffs in how an organisation manages its high maintenance individuals.


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