Childish Adults Can Ruin a Workplace

I saw this article in a business journal that comes to several people in our office.  Seems like I recognize a number of these characteristics…..   I think the author has good advice, too!!!


Childish adults can ruin a workplace

Written by Ben Leichtling.

If adults who act like spoiled kids are allowed to run your workplace, they’ll ruin it — and drive you crazy in the process.

Many qualities associated with children are wonderful and even necessary for a successful workplace — enthusiasm, creativity and passion, to name a few. But self-centered, manipulative, controlling adult-children are disruptive.

Do you recognize these seven typical, destructive children and their behavioral patterns?

• Every toy is mine.

“I want it now. I’m more important than anything else. My feelings count more than anyone else’s.” In 10 minutes, these adult-children will want something else with the same ferocity. Pretty soon, everyone gives in because most things aren’t worth fighting about. Alternatively, everyone begins fighting to get their way in ongoing turf wars.

• Look at me.

“Constantly tell me I’m wonderful.” These problem-children’s neediness rapidly becomes draining.

• I’m always right.

“I’m always the smartest. I’m better than anyone else.” These adult-kids become jealous if anyone else gets praise or presents but they don’t. Then they sulk loudly or retaliate venomously.

• Please me.

“Make everything perfect the way I want it. If you don’t do things my way, you’ll be sorry.”

They always have logical reasons to prove they’re entitled to everything they want. If you don’t give them what they want immediately, they’ll criticize endlessly, embarrass you, throw a fit in public or try to turn everyone against you.

• Poor me. “I take everything personally. Your job is to make me feel good. I’m sensitive. Don’t hurt my feelings or there will be trouble.” If these kids don’t get everything they want, they’ll feel victimized and over-react with a vengeance.

• “You can’t make me do anything or follow the rules.”

They’re rebellious children no matter how much you give them. They debate and argue endlessly. They try to sabotage every project.

• Passive-aggressive. “I’m the most wonderful, sweet, humble, considerate person.” On breaks or at lunch, they gather in cliques to gossip and put down their targets. Better love them and do everything they want or they’ll stab you in the back while they smile innocently. Pretty soon, everyone is walking on eggshells around them.

I hope you recognize the havoc these spoiled adult-children cause in the workplace.

What motivates these adult-children? How did they get that way? Don’t waste your time on these psychoanalytic questions. If your decent, straightforward behavior toward them hasn’t changed their selfish behavior by now, your understanding of their psychodynamics won’t help you stop them. A psychoanalytical explanation isn’t a solution.

Unlike on television or in the movies, the real-world problems with these spoiled-child adults don’t always turn out for the best. They don’t see the light and change. They’re not found out and disposed of.

Some people think all we have to do is be kind, considerate and caring enough, and these adult-children will reciprocate. That’s like thinking that a battering husband or wife will change if only their spouse were loving enough.

Many people think education is the solution. All you have to do is show these spoiled adult-children the consequences of their behavior to the company, to their co-workers and to their own careers, and they’ll change. If that approach is valid, it would have worked already.

Most of the spoiled adult-children we meet have been behaving like that for years. For some, that’s the only way they know how to act. Or they think they’re successful because of the very behavior that upsets us. Or they think that behavior is just fine. You’re not going to change them.

What you can do to insulate yourself or to stop them depends on many factors, including the relationship. Is that adult-child your supervisor, peer or supervisee? Does that spoiled adult-child own the company?

If they supervise you, you’ll have no leverage. Pray for a miracle while looking for another job.

If you supervise them, you can have an impact. Your team can develop guidelines for professional standards of behavior and you can consistently evaluate behavior. These narcissistic adult-children will change or leave. But first they’ll fight. So, be prepared.

If you’re peers, one of the best ways of stopping them is to label what they do as the actions of a spoiled kid. Isolate the perpetrator and bring peer pressure to bear. These adult-children often will leave or respond so outrageously that they’ll behave themselves out of a job. But be careful. They’ll fight back. And they’ll fight dirty.

Alternatively, bring in an outside consultant who has the advantage of being relatively immune to the kind of retribution that a co-worker is likely to face if they take on one of these spoiled adult-children. Also, behavior identified by an outsider may get the attention of your company’s executives in a way that a mutual finger-pointing battle between two employees (you and the spoiled adult-child) won’t.

Unfortunately, people often tolerate the disruptive behavior. Co-workers duck and run for cover, saying “That’s just the way he or she is. Who wants to waste their time doing something about it?”

That approach simply enables the adult-child to run the office and ruin it. After a short time, nobody wants to come to work and the best people develop exit strategies.

 ~ Ben Leichtling, a Denver-based speaker, consultant and leadership adviser, and author of “Eliminate the High Cost of Low Attitudes,” can be reached at 303-458-6616 or

This entry was posted in covert abuse, emotional abuse, marriage, passive aggressive, passive aggressive behavior, relationships and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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