Getting stuck because of another person sucks. And it sucks more when that person is an punk. Here are a few of the ones I’ve encountered and how to deal with them like a Geek Superhero:

  • #1: The Martyr
    I had a group project in College where the team would assign tasks, and regardless of who did what, The Martyr always re-did them. Without asking. The Martyr is that special person who thinks it’s necessary to take on every single little task, no matter who it was assigned to or who offered to take it on – even without telling anyone else they’re doing it. The Martyr’s distrust of other people’s work ethics and quality leads to an insane pile of work, but – as they’re so fond of saying – they were just doing it all for the group. More often than not, they really do believe this. I’ve defeated Martyrs by setting them loose on a task that takes up their time and (anxious) energy, but also serves the group in a meaningful way – like research.
  • #2: The Squid
    One of the places I worked had a particularly talented employee – or at least, that employee liked to think so. This Jerkface found little ways of subverting anyone’s unique ideas, shutting people down, and making himself look good in the process. This Jerkface was a Squid. The Squid is the Martyr with two extra helpings of ambition and evil. The Squid is innocuous enough, hiding in plain sight and observing. The Squid’s primary mission is to eliminate the need for any other team member by figuring out how tasks get done and taking them over or taking a leadership role over those tasks. Over time, the morale of the team diminishes to near nothing and trust is eliminated entirely as the team competes against each other for the remaining crumbs of the pie. The fun doesn’t stop there, though – the Squid keeps on going until they’ve taken everything they can and pushed everyone else away – all for the wanton desire to be in the spotlight. The Squid must be killed on sight or she’ll take the team down – seriously, kick them out before they give you the chance to regret your inaction. In my case, I made the decision to run like hell and leave the company after The Squid became my manager.
  • #3: The Sorry
    I work with a lot of quality people, but occasionally I’ll run into the one that just doesn’t seem to get their act together when the chips are down. The Sorry is that sad sap who consistently apologizes for anything and everything. One excuse after another, delay after delay, inaction created by endless anxiety and worry. The Sorry will never take initiative, even if you desperately need what he has to offer. The Sorry is defeated by reducing their role to bare-bones tasks – one simple project that cannot possibly be delayed. One task that can be handled immediately and done well. Once The Sorry has proven themselves in that arena, add more complexity bit by bit until you reach the point where The Sorry has enough to do but isn’t overwhelmed. For me, The Sorry is always tackled by saying something along the lines of, “Stop apologizing and start doing – let me know how I can help.”
  • #4: The Flake
    I think this one’s universal. Everybody knows the one person in their lives who makes endless promises and appointments and agreements and then never sticks to a single damn one. The Flake is one step worse than The Sorry. The Flake may or may not apologize after they agree to do something and then don’t. In fact, they seem to flake out on flaking out; showing up without any real intention of “being present”. Unfortunately, the causes of The Flake mentality can be many and varied; the worst of which is laziness or a sense of entitlement. These Flakes are unable to be fixed and must be excised from the group. However, if The Flake mentality is the result of being overwhelmed, lack of instruction or understanding, or a lack of commitment, then these can be fixed by figuring out the cause and working around it.
  • #5: The Bull
    I can count on one hand the number of Bulls that I’ve encountered in the workplace, but in volunteer projects, they seem to be everywhere – somebody who just doesn’t understand why you’re not doing things their way. The Bull is a stubborn sonofabitch. They want things their way and they won’t take no for an answer – no matter who they think is wrong. The Bull will run a rampage through the project and take down any creative idea that doesn’t agree with their own in a sort of forced group-think. The Bull can be defeated if not in a position of power by active demonstrations that the other way does work; the group can also easily take power back by threatening to leave. On the other hand, The Bull can be a powerful force when leveraged by a good leader; The Bull takes initiative, sets a course, and tirelessly works to execute on it. It’s only when they get out of control that a problem crops up – and a Bull with a vengeance and enough ambition turns into The Squid.

You’ll always run into punks, what you do when you run into them is up to you – hopefully these 5 are the most common. Are there any that I’ve missed?

(Header photo: Punks)