Your guide to dealing with a workplace serial pest
We probably all know someone who we would label as a Workplace blocker.
Or here is a scary thought. Maybe we are one ourselves…?
In fact, it was the above thought and self reflection that prompted me to write this article.
Am I a workplace blocker?
Question : What is a workplace blocker?
Answer : Someone who loves to get in the way of something happening. The reasons may be for good or for evil, but in the eyes of the change initiator, it is workplace blocking.
I will outline the various types of workplace blockers and give you some strategies on how to identify the what, why and how’s of dealing with them.
This person is the one with the decision making power. Derived from the term “the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion (in the room), somehow the name Hippo has stuck. Just run with it.
Because they are the highest paid (most senior) they see it as their obligation to interject with an opinion.
After all, they see their job is to add value my making wise decisions. They are often the Driver type personality so they feel the need to strongly influence the outcome.
In my experience there is a near 50% success rate with these types; 55% of the time their questions and suggestions are invaluable, 45% of the time they are filling in blank air with their own self importance.
Regardless of what comes out of their mouth, these people are your most important blockers to deal with.
Accept that they will have an opinion, and their opinion matters.
Accept that if they do not know you well and/or you are not part of their inner sanctum, they will block.
Strategy – you must build relationship foundations with them. Build rapport and trust.
They need to feel confidence in what you are proposing, and that comes from what they have seen or heard about you.
Thus, your previous track record matters. If you are new to an organisation they will be understandable coy and will test you out with mild or overt blocking.
Your best strategy is to therefore seek their input well in advance and have them aligned to your proposal before any formal decision making meeting.
This can take time and energy, but it is time well spent.
This person is someone who will probe you to test your logic.
More often their intentions are noble; they truly want to understand if your proposal has merit.
Less often they will challenge for the fun of it. To either expose you or to show everyone that they are smarter than you are.
Or perhaps they are just naturally the argumentative type and thrive on the verbal banter.
We all know someone like this.
Strategy – identify if their blocking intentions are noble or devisive. What is their track record in this space?
If their intentions are noble, then approach them as you would the HIPPO. Seek their input in advance and gain their buy-in.
If they challenge for the sport of it, try to exclude them. They are adding no value so shut them down before they start. Exclude them from the key decision meetings.
If this is not possible, make sure you have strength in numbers at the key meetings and (collectively) firmly control their contributions.
Either take on their objections front on, or deflect them by committing to take their concerns offline to be addressed separately.
This person is usually fearful of something. They don’t like change, they have other conflicting priorities, or they are a procrastinator.
Their game plan is to lob the odd grenade from behind the bunker and watch progress stall.
Strategy – call them out. Have a one-on-one with them and call out their behaviour.
They will be surprised that you have been so upfront with them and this may be enough for them to check their behaviour (or re-direct to someone else’s plight).
Either way, don’t let this type of behaviour stall your own objectives.
Often a hard but firm conversation is all that is required to maintain your momentum and halt theirs.
Similar to the Staller, the Protector has something to fear and it is often their own fiefdom.
They feel threatened that your initiative adversely impacts their world, so they block.
This person is often the “vocal minority” and to be frank, they can be a real pain in the arse.
They often have some organisational clout, they command attention, and they thrive on the banter that comes with arguing the status quo.
Beneath it all they are a challenger so try to assess their intention and handle them accordingly (see above).
A challenger/protector is often your highest maintenance type of blocker meaning you will spend a disproportionate amount of energy dealing with them.
Workplace blockers are a reality within most (all?) organisations so you need to be prepared to deal with them.
The key is identifying which type of blocker they are and then applying the appropriate strategy.
Your other (and most important) challenge is to identify if you are a workplace blocker yourself.
If the answer is “yes”, then ask yourself “what type am I?”
And take it from there.
Dene is the voice behind the blog Rockstar Leadership. If you want to be the best you can be at leading yourself and leading others, then click here to sign up and get your backstage pass to personal awesomeness. Feel free to contact Dene directly here.
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How To Deal With The Pain-In-The-Ass Workplace Blocker was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.