The one with the malevolent force

What is the plural of nemesis?

Before I go and look it up let me explain why I’m asking. If you asked me at various points in my career about a nemesis I would usually (with melodrama being directly proportional to alcohol consumption) go on at some length about a particular individual who had it in for me/was trying to stitch me up/was generally being a thorn in my side. As far as I was concerned this person’s singular purpose was to make life difficult for me. And then I had what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity (it’s too easy a film quote to give points for)…

I’ll come back to the moment of clarity shortly but it involved a realisation that one of my basic parameters is the notion that everyone comes to work with the intention of contributing or performing effectively. People don’t usually decide to under perform (unless they are Chinese badminton players) and actually the real reason you should have that difficult conversation with the person who consistently underperforms is not JUST because as a manager you need to deal with performance issues and you want to be able to demonstrate to your boss how effective you are at it. The real reason is that the underperforming individual KNOWS there is something wrong and just because you’ve never dealt with it doesn’t mean they don’t spend every hour they are at work wondering what it is that isn’t quite right.

Not that over performers don’t have issues and actually I believe one of the key factors in helping high potential individuals achieve that potential is giving them the means to get out of their own way – to understand and manage their own ‘stuff’ (it’s a technical term) and move past it to the oft dangled bigger and better things.

Which brings me back to the moment of clarity and the realisation that those individuals I had put in the nemesis box (I still haven’t googled the plural) weren’t actually out to get me – they were actually out to save themselves. If I reflect on them as a group they share some common characteristics – they were insecure, they were political, they avoided confrontation or giving direct feedback and were usually perceived as being out of their depth despite one or two senior level sponsors. In the process of this realisation I actually found some empathy with these individuals (which helped to deal with their behaviour) in that they weren’t happy, fulfilled or maximising their potential. They were usually living in a perpetual state of anxiety desperately trying to steer their way along the road of self preservation. Poor them!

I take great delight in the fact that I am currently sans nemesis and I’ll be honest I don’t know whether it’s me or the organisation I work in but it does make life a hell of a lot easier!

Now on to POETS day šŸ™‚

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The one with the malevolent force

  1. ian g

    A) didn’t know the film quote
    B) made me think about both current and previous work situations as comments resonated
    C) plural is nemeses or occasionally nemesi is used…..and yes I had to look it up

    Enjoy your day

  2. I think your nemeses would probably define what you’ve called ‘underperformance’ as ‘not towing the company line’; what you’ve called ‘insecure’ as being ‘on the wrong side of the argument’ and ‘political’ as ‘not listened to’. They probably were spending every hour worrying: about why they were no longer in tune with the organisation, when they were going to get the push and what unreasonable/impractical/unethical/wrong thing they were going to be asked to do next. And if they were to have a moment of clarity it would probably be to recognise that their nemesis – you – was just the same as them. Just pointing a slightly different way.

  3. Quite so.

    I think you’d find The Arbinger Institute’s “Leadership and Self-Deception” worth reading..

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