An Easy Trick Consultants Know

As a consultant, I have learned how to size up people and their informal roles within an organization quickly.  Head in and out of companies to create organizational assessments or work on post-merger integrations and you begin to see patterns in the roles people play:

            • Steady Performing Martyr
            • Capable but Clueless Follower
            • Egomaniacal Leader
            • Humorous Tension-Reliever
            • Passive-Aggressive Guerilla
            • Overlooked Good Guy

I firmly believe that no one sets their alarm to wake up, kisses their spouse goodbye, slogs through morning traffic to get to their job all the while thinking “Man, I cant wait to get to work and be as incompetent as possible.”   Nearly everyone heads into work hoping to do good work, get noticed and be rewarded.  Still….Over time even the most dedicated worker –or executive – can start to feel that the company is going the wrong way or not listening to them.  Unable to say what they think, they still communicate their discontent to those with open eyes and ears.

I have found that you can nearly always identify the disgruntled passive-aggressive fomenter by looking for the person with copies of Dilbert cartoons posted around the office (or more likely: cubicle.)  I always take the time to look at the cartoons people put up in their workspace.  It tells you a lot about the person and the company.  They are clues about the unspoken cultural issues that the company faces and derails success.

Once I find the cartoons, I start to ask that person to tell me about their frustrations.  Gain a little trust and real or perceived obstacles start to pour forth.  It doesn’t take long to figure out whether the frustration is company-wide or a single disgruntled employee.  In either case, it is one of the ways that ANY manager or executive can start to gain insight into what people are really saying.

Take a walk around your office today.  Look at the cartoons.  Are they focused on the stupidity of your customers?  Your executive team? IT? Policies? Give it a little thought and you can see how the cartoons reflect the real spirit and attitude of your employees to deliver.  I’m not advising you to take action because of cartoons.

It’s just that you only need to pay attention to the little things to learn a lot about a company.

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