HTM 016 – Managing Fault Finders – How To Matter
Faultfinders do not have much faith in people
Management and psychology texts argue that people will do as well as they can under the specific circumstances. They only need to accept the underlying values, understand the problem, and receive support and encouragement. Faultfinders do not buy into that. It is only necessary for them to look around to see the absurdity in the people-are-good-and-want-to-do-the-right-thing hypothesis. These players can look at almost any behavior, activity, or project and point out things that should have worked out better or faster. They can point to people who should have been smarter or sharper. They also call attention to events or circumstances that someone should have handled more smoothly or efficiently.
They always do better, they believe, so it is reasonable for them to expect others to do the same. Faultfinders reason thusly:
- If things were done right the first time, we would not have to waste our time straightening out messes other people are causing
- There is no excuse for that – whatever that happens to be
- If you can’t do the job, we’ll find someone who can – and that will be easy to do
The trick is to Faultfind about something, anything, and then criticize someone, anyone. The result is that the spotlight never gets turned on the player. If the heat does turn on him, he only needs to escalate his criticism and self-righteous indignation.
Faultfinders are intolerant of others
Intolerance is to faultfinding as a lack of reason is to dogma. Remove the intolerance and this frustrating behavior must stand the test of reality and the close examination of others. It is this type of scrutiny the player wants to avoid whenever possible.
The faultfinder is always looking for the different, the negative, or the problematic in others. If the player shows any real tolerance, he runs the risk of overlooking these negative aspects. Attention must not shift to people’s strengths, abilities, or areas of special competence. This is a risk that must be avoided. Maintaining a high level of intolerance is safe and guarantees there will always be room for faultfinding.
Faultfinders expect others to foul up
This principle joins with intolerance and the next principle to form a closed triad. Simply expecting others to foul up enables the player to predict the behavior of people with 100 percent accuracy. Sooner or later everyone will handle something less than perfectly. The player’s intolerance makes it easy to see the negative or problematic. Assuming that the foul up will happen leads to his being sharper and quicker to pounce on it.
It is a variant of Murphy’s law. Sooner or later things will go wrong, and it is likely to be sooner. When it happens, the player is not surprised. He and Murphy predicted it.
It is easy for the player to spot and respond to what he expects. If everyone thinks a member of the family will foul up, they will be more alert, more on guard, and quicker to blame. When people expect the worst, there is seldom any surprise. Even if things are going well, Just you wait!
Faultfinders do not accept people as they are
Now the triad is complete. There is intolerance. There is the expectation others will foul up. Now, however people are, they should change.
The player says, “I do not like the way you handled that project.”
The staff member watches the player for a while to see how projects should be handled and then uses the player’s approach for the next project.
The faultfinder then says, “I do not like the way you handled this project.”
The staff member says, “But it is the same way you do things.”
The player then says, “I might have expected you to be someone who would try to take someone else’s techniques. You need to be original.”
Here is the triad in another context.
Mike works beside Ralph on the assembly line. Mike says, “Ralph, you are going to drive me crazy if you don’t stop moving your lips like you are chewing your cud when you operate that press.”
Ralph says, “Get off my back!”
Mike comes back with, “You people from the south plant are all alike. I don’t know why they put you in here even if we are short on help. We’d be better off without help like that.”
Ralph is hot now. “What do you mean by that? If it weren’t for us, nothing would ever get finished around here.”
Mike lashes back. “I get tired of fixing things you screw up.”
“Have I screwed up anything yet?” Ralph asked.
“Not yet but just give you enough time.”
It is a safe bet that Mike’s prediction will eventually come true and he will be ready to pounce.
Faultfinders are stingy with praise
Giving someone praise is dangerous. It can backfire by encouraging the person to do more that is praiseworthy. The faultfinder does not want this to happen. It gets much harder to find things to fault-find about. It is like a hunter encouraging all the game to leave his favorite hunting ground. Faultfinders tend not to be either stupid or self-defeating.
Faultfinders enjoy blaming and accusing people
The key here is that no one has to be at fault or in a position to be accused of anything. A typical example might go like this.
Karen says to Bill, her office mate, “The truth is it is your fault I didn’t get that promotion.”
Bill asks, “How do you figure?”
That is the opening Karen is looking for. “You missed your appointment in Atlanta, and the result was your proposal was late.”
Bill interrupts, “But I was snowed-in at Cleveland.”
Karen responds, “It is always something with you.”
Puzzled at the attack, Bill asks, “What does that have to do with your getting or not getting the promotion?” A big mistake, Bill!
Karen is ready. “I would not expect you to understand that kind of political thing. I work with you and you drop the ball. That makes me look bad and I do not get the promotion I deserve.”
More attentive now, Bill says, “Let me get this straight. I get snowed-in at Cleveland. My proposal is late, and because of that you end up not getting a promotion.”
With a wave of disgust, Karen ends the conversation. “You’ve got that one right.”
Faultfinders focus only on what is not going well
By this point, it is probably clear to you that focusing on the problematic and negative is the stock-and-trade of faultfinders.
“Please type a draft of this letter for me.”
A couple of hours later, “I’m getting tired of errors in the things you type for me.”
The typist says, “I did it in a hurry. I thought it was a draft and you wanted it in a hurry.” Sorry, no win this time.
“I expect that even a draft will not be full of errors. (There were three errors.) You need to remember if something is worth doing, it is worth doing right.”
To herself, the typist thinks, “I don’t think you would think anything was right.”
This is a perceptive typist. The faultfinder will always find fodder for his cannon.
Faultfinders are not proud of the achievements of others
Suppose Karen and Bill both get promotions.
Karen says, “Wow! Don’t you think it’s great I got that promotion? I’ve worked hard and deserve it.”
Bill says, “It’s terrific! I think it’s terrific for me too.”
Karen responds, “Sure it’s nice for you. It isn’t that big of a deal for you, though. You’re a man so you can expect promotions almost automatically.”
Faultfinders expect others to do as well as they sometimes do
If there is a major player around and especially if he is in a position of authority, it does not pay to be exceptional. For example, a salesman has an unusual week. He hits on almost every call and ends up the week 60 percent over his solid but not outstanding average.
His sales manager says, “I knew you had it in you. You have been holding back on us. This is more like it, more up to your potential. This is the kind of work I’ll be expecting from now on. No more of this shirking. You are a great salesman.”
Of course, this is like expecting a baseball player to get a hit every time he comes to the plate or your child always to get A’s. Nonetheless, it is the stock-in-trade of a first class faultfinder. Their motto is nothing but better will do for everyone else.
Faultfinders place the blame squarely on the person who did not get the job done
“It is your fault. We were counting on you, and you let us down.”
On the surface, this may not seem like a technique for faultfinders. It is best to hold the responsible person directly responsible. The twist is that the faultfinder is literal about this. In the example above, Bill should not have been late with the proposal. He should have known it snows in Cleveland in the winter and made contingency plans. It was his job to get the proposal in on time, and it is his fault that it was late.
The technique is probably becoming clearer to you by now. The idea is that, no matter what, there are never any extenuating circumstances or mitigating conditions. The expectation is absolute and unconditional. Either there is success or there is a person who failed. The trick is for the player to use the technique while avoiding its being used on him.
If the player was the responsible person when things went awry, the best trick is to say, “I did my part. My part of the project went fine. It did not work out because there were several parts that had to be done right. There were a couple of the parts for which I was not responsible that went wrong.”
Suppose the project is putting in a new light bulb. Joe is responsible for light bulb replacement. As a first class faultfinder, he says, “It is not as simple as just putting in a new bulb. Nothing around here is so simple. The problem is that John forgot his keys, and I let him use mine. I can’t get into the closet without a key. By the time he finally got around to bringing my key back, there was insufficient time to install the fixture. The problem is that there is inadequate coordination of facility access. We have some big problems around here.”