Do You Work With a Fool?

Have you ever had a boss or employee who wouldn't take feedback or correction? You tried to coach them, or help them see how they were coming across to others, but they didn't seem to hear you?

Henry Cloud, in his book Necessary Endings, says there are wise people and foolish people, and they are determined by how they accept feedback:

  1. Wise People - when truth presents itself, the wise person sees the light, takes it in, and makes adjustments.
  2. Foolish People - the fool tries to adjust the truth so he does not have to adjust to it.

You've all met the fool. At times they are fun to work with, but other times they suck the life out of the team because of the way they respond to feedback. When a fool runs an organization, people just stop trying to offer feedback, as they know it's futile. 

Cloud offers a list of "Traits of Foolish Persons" that is fantastic. I offer an abridged version of his list here:

  • When given feedback, they are defensive and immediately come back at you with a reason why it is not their fault.
  • When a mistake is made, they externalize the mistake and blame someone else.
  • Unlike the wise person, with whom talking through issues strengthens your relationships, with the foolish person, attempts to talk about problems create conflict, alienation, or a breach in the relationship.
  • The fool immediately shifts the blame to you as they "shoot the messenger" and somehow make it your fault.
  • Their emotional response has nothing to do with remorse; instead they get angry at you with such lines as, "You never think I do anything right," or "How could you bring this up after all I have done?"
  • They have little or no awareness for the pain or frustration they are causing others or the mission. They are oblivious to the collateral damage they are causing.
  • They see themselves as the victim, and see people who confront them as persecutors for pointing out the problem.
  • Their world is divided into the good guys and the bad guys. The good ones are the ones who agree with them and see them as good, and the bad ones are the ones who don't think that they are perfect.

If a foolish person works for you, and you are still holding out hope that they will change--let it go. Cloud says, "The necessary ending that you have to initiate with people caught in their own foolishness is to end the pattern...Talking will not help, but doing something that causes them to feel the consequences of their behavior may be what finally turns them around."

And if you work for a fool--you probably need to find a different job. They likely aren't going to change, and you are going to continue to hit your head against the wall thinking differently.

"A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion."    (Proverbs 18:2)


Note: I wholeheartedly recommend the book by Henry Cloud from which this blog post is inspired. Get it here.

Tim Stevens2 Comments