When a Culture Clash Hits Home

June 14, 2021

Culture Trumps Everything” is more than the title of my book. It is how I see the world, how I process information, how I evaluate the behavior of others. Last week, though, I got a painful reminder of its caveats.

The People Who Don’t Adapt

If you take someone who is loud and boisterous, and you walk them into a museum, church or a bank, what are they likely to do? They’re going to get quiet. Have you changed their personality? No. What have you changed? Their environment. You change their environment and the behavior follows.

The environment where we live and work is our culture. Which means if you change your culture, then behavior follows. Culture trumps psychology.

But what about the person who doesn’t get quiet? What about the person who goes on speaking loudly and boisterously in a context that requires them to lower their voice? Do you know people like this? People who either aren’t aware or can’t seem to adapt to different environments when others clearly do? These are behaviors associated with people who might have a personality issue.

3 Red Flags for Personality Issues

There are three red flags I have seen repeatedly in organizations that point to someone with personality issues. You may see any of these three red flags independently, but they often occur together.

Red Flag #1: They resist change even when it’s been proven to be in their best interest, the interest of the team and the interest of the organization. They have their own agenda.

Red Flag #2: They externalize blame or don’t take responsibility for their own behavior. They say things like, “I couldn’t do my job because of Joe! If he had done his job, I could’ve finished mine! Don’t blame me, blame him!

Red Flag #3: They tend to respond overly emotionally to any real or perceived slight. This may sound like, “I can’t believe you did that – move my water that way! Keep your hands off of my water!”

Let me be clear: People with personality issues are not bad people. They are not intentionally trying to make your life more difficult. They just may need a bit more time to adapt and adjust to new circumstances. So, we coach, we train and, if they cannot adapt, we set them free. Free to go succeed in somebody else’s culture. And sometimes they will self-select out and set themselves free.

My Painful Reminder

In March, I started what was supposed to be a two-week renovation project. Two weeks has morphed into nine weeks. During delay upon delay, I did my best to keep communication open with the general contractor.

When he did return my calls, I used all the skills I have and teach: emotional intelligence, empathy, Reflect, Assert, Reframe (RAR), People, Performance, Future (PPF), etc. I was trying to hold him accountable for promises he had made but upon which he did not deliver.

Last week, he quit. Unceremoniously, with a text: “You will be better off finding a contractor who can meet your needs.”

He was right. I was trying to get someone with a personality issue – which I readily recognized – to adapt to the culture I create for all the relationships in my world. He could not adapt, so he set himself free.

Internally, I responded like so many others respond in organizations when someone who is not aligning with the culture is set free: “Finally!” It leaves my home in chaos physically. But I have emotional and spiritual peace. Even if they don’t come at a time or place or manner of our choosing, we should all celebrate new beginnings.

I’d love to hear your questions and comments. If you would like to discuss this topic further, just drop me a note.

Let’s keep cultivating our culture, together!

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