The Most Dangerous Person in Your Office

04/23/2015 01:19 pm ET | Updated Jun 22, 2015

After years in the working world, one begins to notice patterns. Personality types. A rotating cast of characters. Take a moment to reflect on all the personality types you've interacted with in the office. Have you ever met the "Worst Person in Front of Me Right Now?" You know the individual. It's the person who:

  • Speaks to the lowest-ranked person in the room like the lowest-ranked person on the room. Bonus points for the "who needs 'em?" attitude.
  • Disregards people's time by showing up late or, better yet, canceling the meeting at the last minute.
  • Says "that's my not job" repeatedly during a moment of crisis, because hey, it's not.
  • Constantly suggests how someone else should do their job. "Worst Person" does this while simultaneously not doing their own job.
  • Micromanages everything. Nothing says "you're an idiot" more than "let me show you how to sharpen that pencil."


While no one aspires to be "that guy" -- a poor collaborator and a weak leader who disrespects their colleagues and undermines the health of the company -- these behaviors unfortunately play out every day in the workplace.

Over the past decade, I've spent much of my time "on the ground" in the entertainment and media business. Green rooms, control rooms, editing suites, conference rooms, high-tech presentations, backstage. These spaces are high-energy, often high-stress, and filled with brilliant, creative people. A majority of our projects involve large groups of people, rapid timelines, and huge egos. In the world of "live" experiences, you rarely get a "do-over." There is very little room for error.

Success in these environments relies on great collaboration and a strong foundation for communication -- both of which come from a culture of respect. Giving, feeling, and sharing respect is imperative to creating an environment where talented people can grow and thrive.

This isn't just a touchy-feely workplace happiness issue. There are true dollar-and-cents repercussions for unhealthy, disrespectful workplaces. The Wall Street Journal reports, "High employee turnover hurts a company's bottom line. Experts estimate it costs upwards of twice an employee's salary to find and train a replacement. And churn can damage morale among remaining employees."

When analyzing explanations for workplace unhappiness and voluntary employee turnover, most factors can be categorized as "respect" issues. A 2014 survey of 3,000 American employees reported that only "fifty-nine percent of workers are satisfied with their jobs." Of those who reported dissatisfaction, sixty-five percent listed "not feeling valued" as a primary reason for their dissatisfaction; additional factors indicative of job dissatisfaction included "a poor opinion of their boss's performance" and feeling "underemployed." A fundamental lack of respect lies at the heart of each of these explanations.

On the positive side, respondents who reported no desire to leave their current job included "I like the people I work with," "I have a good boss who watches out for me," and "I feel valued and my accomplishments are recognized." Once again, each of these responses falls under the "umbrella" of respect.

What you can do to build respect in your workplace:

  • Put a mirror on the leadership. The behaviors and attitudes of those at the top are always emulated. Whenever possible, leaders should demonstrate transparency in their process and communication. For those at the top, the impulse can be to troubleshoot or handle a curve ball behind closed doors. However, watching the leadership tackle tough or unexpected challenges can be a great learning experience for the team.
  • Invest in building relationships among team members. Those with bonds perform better than those without. Relationship-building creates a cycle of independence and trust. When team members work closely together with an "all for one, one for all" mentality, those experiences strengthen existing relationships and lay the groundwork for more efficient and fruitful future collaboration.
  • Create a framework of success by giving the team an assignment they can successfully accomplish. There is nothing worse trying to solve a puzzle to find out you've been missing a piece the whole time.
  • Show individuals the value of their work. Share the anecdotal praise you heard at a client meeting with the copywriter whose turn of phrase a colleague mentioned in passing. Forward a client's "thank you" email to the hospitality team who handled logistics. Take the second to thank a recent hire who deftly compiled a streamlined meeting agenda.

Building a company culture of respect is no easy task and few do it well. Yet, there is no alternative if you want a healthy team and sustainable success.