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Do you work with idiots?

Due to my recent move to the US from the UK I have been out meeting people to build new local social and business networks.

At one local business-networking event I got chatting to a guy who told me about his business, what he did and more importantly what he didn't do, which was work with “idiots”. Not his words exactly, but I knew what he meant. After we talked some more I realised, or at least got the impression, that I wasn't someone that he “wouldn’t work with” and we had a good laugh about our differences in language and ideas.

I thought what a lucky guy he was, he can choose who he wants to do business with, while I am still trying to find someone, anyone, to do business with in this new city.

There aren't that many people who can pick and choose their work colleagues, managers and in some cases staff or customers. So what do those of us do when we have to work with people we don't like? The people you wouldn't normally socialise with, but have to spend 8 hours a day with?

There are theories about how and why we get along with people, and most of them seem to suggest that we don't like someone because of something about us rather than something about them.

Eve Branson is amongst those who quote "The flaws you see in others are actually a reflection of yourself"

Stephen Covey writes about "first seek to understand" and "then be understood" in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, so surely we should be open to the idea that we could, if we tried, get along with everyone, I'm not suggesting that we become bosom buddies with everyone we meet, but if we have to "get along" with someone we would not naturally gravitate towards, then it should be possible.

There are ways of seeing others strengths in their weaknesses, I tell my husband this, when he complains about the mess I make in the kitchen but not about the food I put on his plate.

Ken Blanchard shows in a great short video, The Weakness of Strength, that everyone has an upside to their weakness, but sometimes we are too focused on the negative to see it.

Some tips on utilizing strengths in others weaknesses:

  • Identify the difference of opinion or approach someone brings to the table. This can provide you a greater insight, appreciation and alternative perspective on a subject.

  • Build a great team with a variety of abilities. One persons weakness can be complemented by another's strength, two people with the same skills, makes one of them superfluous. Ensure you employ the team members for their strong points; don't judge them by their weakness.

'If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its life believing it is stupid” - Einstein.

  • Introspection opportunity. Look at your own behaviours and figure out why you find this person so annoying, it can usually be fixed by something you can change about yourself.

  • Set yourself the challenge to see the upside in a behaviour that irritates you. That person who is always late, it can be because they get into a “state of flow” where they apply such intense focus to a task that they completely lose all track of time. The colleague who can’t stick to an agenda often has a knack of making game changing connections that no one else is able to see.

I guess my message here is that if you have to work with Idiots, or which ever name you choose for them, then you are the lucky one. Everyone has a part to play in this rich tapestry of life. Embrace the wackos, morons, imbeciles and cretins, intellectuals, geniuses and the exceptional, they are all good for you and bring incredible colour to your life.

If you need to know more about working along side, or managing other people, contact me at


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