O.D.D. Behavior: What to do if you “Care Too Much”


In the nascent field of O.D.D. (Organizational Dysfunctional Development), one of the patterns that can be recognized is that of The Person Who Cares Too Much.

The Person Who Cares Too Much is the person who is all about “Getting Things Right” for the “Long Term” and/or the “Wider Organization.”

Strangely, despite their positive intent, these are often the same people whose careers are limited due to the fact that they irritate others who are influential towards their potential career advancement —  typically,  their senior-ranking colleagues and direct supervisors.  As a result of being an irritant, their colleagues or supervisors are more likely to block, or simply not enable, their advancement.

But why?

If you are a person who is looking for the long-term interests of the organization, shouldn’t you be seen as an asset, not a liability?

Levels of Irritation

Let’s say you’re that Person Who Cares Too Much, who is deeply motivated to do the “right things” for your organization’s long-term health and sustainability… and let’s say you’re encountering a (seemingly) irrational lack of support from senior people on an issue that (seemingly) should be obvious “no brainer.”

Before risking potential progress on the issue — as well as risking your career advancement–  you’ll want to take a step back and think about what you’re up against.


Low Irritation – “Not My Style” 

At the low-end of the irritation scale, the issue is merely one of stylistic difference. The others may value this wider lens focus that you have, but they just don’t like to be bothered with it too much.  The art of navigating this then is the art of getting their necessary inputs without being a pest about it.


Medium-Low Irritation – “Not My Priority”

Moving up the irritation scale, there is stylistic difference as well as value indifference. At this level, they really don’t see what you’re talking about as being important… or at least, urgent. Typically, it’s an issue of prioritization, e.g. short term focus at the expense of long-term results.  In this case, you will have to carve out whatever time and resources you can get to get a few quick wins, so that you can demonstrate the value of your investment in the future.


Medium-High Irritation – “Not My Kinda Guy / Gal”

As the irritation increases, the value indifference becomes more pronounced — they see what you’re talking about as a distraction from what matters. Often, these folks will engage in homosocial reproduction, that is to say, they’ll have a tendency to value and promote people just like themselves. In the best case scenario where you “prove them wrong,” they will happily scoop up the value you have to offer and still not contribute to your advancement. As in the analogy of the chickens who are bred for their egg-yielding productivity, you either need to find a way to change the egg production culture, or seek another chicken coop.


High Irritation – “Not My Empire”

Ahhhh… but at the highest level of irritation — where the lack of support is most strongly felt — it is often because they see your concern for the bigger picture as a threat. You see, these people (yeah, THOSE people), they don’t like anything that potentially gets in the way of building their little empire. Your focus on broader stakeholder needs is in conflict with their agenda of personal enrichment at the expense of the organization.  The advice here is:  Get out.  You can find another organization which will benefit from your approach. Now, there is a possibly that you’ll find a safe haven elsewhere in your organization — preferably with more senior executive sponsor — but don’t count on it… your safe haven may be short-lived, as empire-builders have knack of getting themselves promoted.


Reflecting Inwards

Of course, the irritation cuts both ways, doesn’t it?  As our friend the introvert, Carl Gustav Jung, once said,

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

Indeed, all of the above “levels of irritation” presuppose that you are truly caring about the right things.

It’s possible, however, that you only think you care too much.

It’s possible, that in fact you are playing the overbearing mother’s game of “I was only trying to help,” with perhaps a dash of the shlemiel’s “There I go again.”

Remember: When it comes to organizationally dysfunctional dynamics, everybody has their part to play.

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About danspira

My blog is at: http://danspira.com. My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on November 4, 2012, in Business, Career, Collaboration, Management, Psychology, Talent and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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