Q13: How Can Nice Girls Do Nasty Things?

Some of my clients’ problems are like buses. Three come along at once. And this question is a fabulous example of that.

Three separate clients and colleagues (two teams led by women, and one by a man, so this isn’t a female thing, it’s a niceness thing) are grappling with matters arising from one “troublemaker” on staff. That person doesn’t even need to be causing orthodox trouble. But what they are doing is unsettling the team and using up inordinate amounts of everyone’s time and psychic energy while we all work out what to do about them. One of my clients has recently given me a good name for these people – chi-bandits!

And we’ve known all along what to do – we have to get rid – we just don’t want to do it, because we are nice. And because we like and respect parts of the person and because the person has many strengths we appreciate, and it feels mean. But they just aren’t fitting into our team, and everyone else feels bad. And the problem person starts to be at the root of every problem our business has.

I’ve known people like this in my life too, where I have allowed the fact that they were disruptive to be overlooked by my kind reasoning that there wasn’t a nasty bone in their body, or they’d been so kind to me that time I was in a spot, or that I owe them something or some bonkersness to stop me doing what needs to be done. I need to distance myself from them for my sanity.

And so it is with these three business examples.

What they all have in common is that there’s something “wrong” with the person’s energy/work/role/influence/results in our business, or lack thereof, but because we like or feel sorry for the person we put off and off doing the dirty deed, and the longer we put it off the harder it is and the more disruptive the cuckoo becomes in the nest. And the more powerful and manipulative, even passive-aggressively or apparently unknowingly. Yeah, right.

We wring our hands, we are so grateful to them for X and Y and Z, but what we really need them to do is A and B and C and they are not getting it. Yes, we’ve already had the full and frank exchange of views conversation, more than once.

They need special treatment. They are highly emotional divas (say) and we have to continually take them out for a special treat and calm them down and then everything’s fine and dandy for a few days until the next episode. We are hostage to their emotional roller-coasters again when what we want at work is calm and efficiency.

Or they are in sales and haven’t sold anything for a year and that’s really what we need them to do for our business and they are not doing it and we carry them because they have other strengths, they send out the newsletter for us or some such silly task that anyone could do for us. We are just justifying our own niceness or weakness in that we haven’t done what we know needs to be done.

In all examples, there is a terrible waste of time and emotion while we endlessly debate how we feel and why we are putting off what we know needs to be done. That’s why we all do so much wittering about it because this doesn’t make sense and it never will. Some things cannot be fixed or understood. Sometimes they just need to end a.s.a.p. to stop the bleeding.

It is so easy for me to spot this because I am not a member of your team. So when you describe this problem and we decide what we are going to do (eventually) and then we go onto your next problem, the same problem underlies it and always will until you Do The Deed.


I sound terribly brutal, and I know you’ve already read enough of this book to know that I am not. But I know when your business is being threatened by a troublemaker, whether or not that’s their intent and mainly it isn’t. And I know when you are being held hostage to emotions, the emotions of that person, the fears you have about how they will feel if you sack them, and the roiling emotions of all the unsettled members of the rest of your team who rotate between outrage against said person and sympathy for her/him.

We are all too nice for our own good. And deep down everyone knows the truth of what has to happen, perhaps especially the troublemaker.

Trouble troublemaker, it’s your middle name. You cause some sort of drama wherever you go. And we are grateful to you for bringing your special brand of troublemaking to our door so that we can learn to do what must be done to protect our business, our sanity and the well-being of the other members of our team.

And now we release you back into the wilds of the employment market.

Go with our love.

Oh, this has happened to you before? This keeps happening? Well, I never. Soon you’ll learn, then.

Look! People are strange and interesting and complex, and some of us are bonkers in a good way. And others are bonkers in a way which we don’t have time to fix during office hours, nor should we. When you dispense with his/her services, he/she won’t die. They’ll do what we all do when we’ve been sacked. We find another job or another way of getting our bills paid. And that is not and never has been and never will be your responsibility.

You are probably not A Boss until you have sacked someone or laid someone off. It can be brutal but it must be done to protect the vital life force of what you are creating. Think of the bigger picture and steel yourself to do what must be done. TM won’t be surprised. It happens to her all the time. But this is her opportunity to get a grip and go perhaps to a larger employer where this behaviour is simply not tolerated and where she’ll get that vibe from Day One and she won’t be trying it on with them. Looking at it like that, you are doing her a favour.

Go do her a favour today.


The One-Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson which teaches how to manage staff with One Minute Goals, One Minute Praisings and One Minute Reprimands. It is a very thin book at just 112 pages and an easily-read story you’ll never forget. If you find these staffing issues recurring, read the book again as often as you need.

Your Biz Your Way

If you have enjoyed reading my words here, you might also enjoy my book - Your Biz Your Way: Learning to Trust Yourself. Relax! You've Got This. Find out how to buy the book here Read My Book

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