Dear Getting a Grip: I work at a high-tech company and everyone – they think on the down low – is inventing The Next New Thing. Our company’s wannabe entrepreneurs insist on telling me, at length, nostrils flaring, how big their Thing is going to be. That Thing changes from day to day, if not from hour to hour. On the one hand, I admire their spirit and the company that pays my salary was certainly founded by an entrepreneur. On the other hand, “Shut up and do some work!” Entrepreneurs may get a lot of glory in the press, but I’m sick of trying to work with them.
Dear Work: Entrepreneurs are legendary for using up the people in their lives. Through their parents’ love and loans, through their significant others’ love and lack, i.e. doing without during the development of The Thing, through their co-founders’ enthusiasm and can-do, through their workers’ stamina and spirits, entrepreneurs can pare away resources and goodwill until people cut them off to save themselves, or become just too depleted to give any more.
In addition to being fed up or used up, if your company’s policy states that what’s invented while an employee works for the company belongs to the company, or if the policy forbids employee entrepreneurship, you've got an ethical issue going as well.
Getting a Grip: Entrepreneurs can be so sharp, so visionary, so exciting to work with or for, that time spent with them is transformative.
But the impassioned cannot hear, whether they’re entrepreneurs, environmentalists, or eighth graders. Trying to explain to your entrepreneurial co-workers how challenging it is to work with them, how scattered and inefficient you find the work flow, how resentful you might feel about doing all the listening and none of the talking, how unfair it is for them to talk with you about topics against corporate policy, eh, they can’t or won’t listen. “It’s the idea, man! Nothing else matters!”
To them, maybe, but not to you. The only way to handle those who won’t listen is rather than to speak, act. Put up a hand, walk away, draw a line in the sand. Will entrepreneurs like you for this? Nope. Will they hold you in contempt for not appreciating their ideas? Yep. Will they probably increase their talk, lobbying, and insults before they desist? Yep. Eventually, in the silence, you can keep your integrity and get some work done.
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Getting a Grip, a workplace advice column, is written by Anne Giles Clelland Getting a Grip regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.