How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
The ChangingMinds Blog!
Prima donnas, teenagers and transitions
I work in organizational change and meet up with all kinds of resistance, some subtle and some less so. Recently I was in a meeting where one woman was resisting change in an unsubtle way. She is intelligent and hard-working, but deeply resents any intrusion into her sphere. She dominated much of the meeting, despite being one of the least senior people there. Some of her arguments were sound, some were flawed and some were purely emotional. She alternated in mood from anger to near-tears. She made veiled personal attacks on most people there and generally did her own case few favors.
I recognized the pattern from two other places. When I worked in software engineering, I knew a number of 'prima donnas'. These were smart engineers who knew just how wonderful they were and who considered social niceties as being for people who couldn't hack it. Rude brusqueness was thus used to signal intelligence: the smarter you were, the ruder you could be. This rudeness was used both to get what they wanted and to repel any attempts to change what they did or how they did it.
Another and perhaps related position is in the struggling transitional realm of the teenager, where children become all-knowing and parents become contemptibly stupid. I'm in this phase with my seventeen-year-old son now although, fingers crossed, I think I can see light at the end of the tunnel. A simple measure of his position is in his use (or threat) of emotional outbursts to get what he wants or resist advice, rather than engaging in rational discussion.
This similarity begs the question: Is prima donna petulance related to teenage arrogance? Are the tantrums of some subject experts connected back to earlier issues? I suspect so. We go through life via various stages, and failure to fully navigate the transitional periods can leave us with hang-ups that cause continuing problems. This is a key principle in psychoanalysis, where the mishaps and misunderstandings in infant development are shown to cause issues that follow us for the rest of our lives. Likewise, an incomplete transition from hormonal teenage childhood to empathic, rational adulthood can result in an ongoing and self-centred intolerance of others.
With my son, I try to be patient and understanding, holding up a mirror in support of his becoming a fully-functioning adult. With the woman in work, I likewise am not playing her game and use her legitimization of 'straight talking' to play a straight bat, assertively and without embellishment telling the truth that I see. It's still not plain sailing, as truth causes more storms, but we are making headway.
How are you doing ? I am very happy received your answer . And first of all ,
please accept my apology for I made a stupid mistake . I wrongly spelled your
English name . I feel very sorry about that . Hope you don't mind .
Teenagers and Prima Donnas share some characteristics but are actually much
different. Teenagers are establishing boundaries. A psychologist friend has told
me that a turbulent adolescence is a necessary precursor to a well adjusted
adult. Be happy about the turbulence.
Can you offer any advice and experience on how to deal with Prima Donnas in
the IT Workplace? In particular those who seem recalcitrant or inflexible in how
they work or avoid challenges to their 'expertise'?
Your comment on this blog:
And the big