Indispensable Or Destructive?

“Mark is a big problem. He’s surly and nasty, violates all our company values, and ignores what we tell him. The other employees avoid him as much as they can. But…he’s the best designer we ever had so we put up with him.”

While reading this, you probably flashed on all the Marks you’ve had the misfortune to work with. Or even worse, the one you’ve got working for you now came distressingly to mind.

There are unmanageable Marks lurking all over the place in companies. They’re  seemingly impossible to fire because they’re indispensable. After all, there’s no one who can do what Mark does. No one.

And so, Mark is able to hold the company hostage and get away with behavior that would rapidly lead to dismissal for anyone else. All the while poisoning the culture and making everyone else miserable.

When I run into a Mark situation, I always flash on a huge tree I once saw. It was a towering oak that looked like it would last forever. Big and powerful and able to provide acorns and housing to lots of squirrels and other forest creatures. There was only one problem. The oak was lying on its side, flat on the ground in a deep dent in the earth created by its falling weight.

As I approached the tree, I wondered what had happened. What could cause such a towering giant to fall? Walking around it, I came to the place where its roots had been. To my amazement the oak was hollow well up the trunk. There was only a narrow circle of wood under the bark– a 25 or 30-inch circle surrounding nothing. The entire center was rotted out. It was this that had felled the mighty oak.

Think of your company as the oak, of Mark as the rot. Still think he’s indispensable?

No one is indispensable. It might take some time and money to find, train and get a replacement fully up to speed…but no one is indispensable. No one.

The temporary disruption Mark’s leaving may cause is insignificant compared to the relief everyone will feel and the improvement in culture and results that will follow.

Give everyone a present. Get rid of the rot eating away at your company.  Preserve your tree and allow it to grow and thrive.





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