It's really not a personality clash

"80% of the time if you have a behavioural problem in your organisation it's because you have either poor structure or poor processes".

Or so it says on page 56 of This Stuff Really Works. Surely it can't be that simple? It's all about personalities, right? Or cultural differences. Or gender. Or folks just being plain difficult.

Well no - actually, despite something built into our rather sad human natures which makes us always want to blame somebody (but not ourselves), the reality is that most of the time when we have tetchy emails flying around, squabbling and in-fighting, it's because we have poor structures or processes.

Here's an example

Charlie worked for a mid-size company. Within that company, he had built up his own business from very small beginnings to something which was now expanding rapidly. Charlie's boss told him that he needed to "build up some infrastructure" - in essence to recruit a right-hand person and a left-hand person who would take some of the operational load off Charlie.

So Charlie enlisted the help of HR, who wrote some job descriptions for him, ran a recruitment process, and (with a little input from Charlie) brought the first appointee on board. Charlie, being something of an entrepreneur, didn't spend too much time himself on the job descriptions, and also left the final negotiations on salary to his boss.

Result? Disaster

Jane, the new right-hand person, arrived having been seduced by the large salary and substantial responsibility on offer, only to find that Charlie was doing the job she thought she should be doing. Charlie wasn't about to let go. Jane wanted to get stuck in and make an impact. Staff became confused, emails started to fly around, angry words were exchanged.

"Clearly", said HR, "there is a personality clash between Charlie and Jane. We need to talk to them. Maybe we need to get some external consultants in to help".

And the good news? The highly paid consultants came in, took one look at the situation, realised that this was not about personalities at all but entirely about unclear structures, and rewrote the job descriptions. They then sat down with Charlie and with Jane, explained how the new structure would benefit Charlie and his business, but also give substantial responsibility to Jane, took their cheque and walked away.

And Charlie and Jane worked happily ever after!

It is, as they say, not rocket science. But it is about attention to detail. It is about managing expectations. It is about consultation. It is about empathy.

But if it's done well - if attention is truly paid to having good structures and good processes - then hey presto! A huge number of problems in which people are behaving badly need never occur.

80% of the time if you have a behavioural problem in your organisation it’s because you have either poor structure or poor processes

It really is that simple.