Protect your unreasonable nut-cases at work

They stop you adapting to a new low

This is indeed our time of shared weird behavior, at home, at work and everywhere in between. You might by now be tempted to abuse the power vested in you by your hierarchy to change weird behavior to your liking. Please don’t.

Encourage a bit of weirdness at work. Until you know for sure whether it promotes or stifles progress. Then protect it or kill it.

What happens when you don’t protect a bit of weirdness? Well, you’ll trigger a vicious cycle that will leave you and your organization adapting to a new low instead of marching to higher ground.

Making the case for nut-cases at work

But I’ve always done it this way! (free public domain:

Over lunch, my guest mentioned a friend of hers. Without thinking, I said enthusiastically, “That nut-case!” My guest almost chocked as she somehow looked both shocked and hurt. That’s when I realized that not everyone shares my love of nut-cases, especially of the female variety.

Frankly, I believe every organization needs at least one nut-case.

A company nut-case is someone who does not worship the status quo simply because we’ve always done it this way. Nut-cases believe in making a difference, especially when a different result is obviously needed. They focus on desired outcomes, not on the ritual inputs.

Yet, this making a difference by doing differently is what really annoys their more cautious colleagues. You see, nut-cases think ‘why-to’ before they bother with ‘how-to’.

But why call them nut-cases? Because they are hard to crack once they are determined not to give in or give up.

Why your unreasonable people matter

Unreasonable nut-case trying to adapt the world to himself. (free public domain:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” So wrote George Bernard Shaw in 1903 in his play Man and Superman.

How do you react to the unreasonable people in your organization? Do you heed them and engage with them? Do you sanction and discipline them? Or do you ignore them and hope they go away?

A prime role of a leader is to evaluate, influence and direct the behavior of others. In doing so, the leader defines the context within which behavior will be viewed as either reasonable or unreasonable.

But deciding on what is reasonable and what is not depends far more on what is in your mind than on the state of mind of the person whom you are observing.

Now you know that your perception of what is reasonable and your response to unreasonableness could determine your organization’s rate of progress.

When nut-cases and other capable employees leave

Unreasonable nut-case being told what and how to do. (free public domain:

Let’s explore one of those vicious cycles so often found in organizations.

Management’s reaction to who stays and who leaves is what triggers this cycle.

Inept employees require rules and regulations to function at an acceptable level. But capable employees feel stifled in an environment where they are constantly told what to do and how to do it. And so they up and leave.

As the balance in the workforce swings to fewer capable and more incompetent employees, mistakes and inefficiencies increase. This serves to confirm management’s suspicion that workers are incompetent or subversive.

Managers respond by tightening their hold over workers, forcing the last of the capable ones to run for the exits.

Incompetent workers are less likely to confront managers. So what happens next? Managers end up believing that those who stay prefer a highly regimented work place.

Welcome to the new low (on the wrong side of the nonsense divide).