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OldDude 02-24-05 05:26 PM

Adrenaline Junkies: Employees addicted to crisis
 
So, are you one?
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7024814/

Employees addicted to emergencies neglect daily tasksBy Liz Ryan

Updated: 2:37 p.m. ET Feb. 24, 2005
If you work in a job long enough, it should get to be really fun. Many corporate types realize this three or four years out of school, when the fear of goofing up has been displaced by the thrill of doing creative things. If you're lucky, the fun — and sense of achievement — will last for years.


For many of us, the most enjoyment comes from solving problems — the harder the better. Your adrenaline spikes. You're essential. You know you'll carry the day.

A disaster high
It's an incredible feeling — so much so that some people can hardly stand to be crisis-less. Tie loosened, eyes wide, the Crisis Junkie moves twice as fast as anyone else, stopping only for coffee and cell-phone calls. “Do it. Tell them I said it's gotta happen. I don't care who's upset. I know. I'll take care of it. Get New York up to speed. Get back to me in one hour. Right. I gotta go.” He's like James Bond — part intellectual, part diplomat, part outlaw, fully alive.

“Man!” you might think. “I'd love to be him someday.” Wait a second, though. If you watch this guy closely, he only has one mode — crisis mode — and he's addicted to it.

If necessary, a Crisis Junkie will create a crisis in order to have something interesting to do. Such people feel empowered and jaunty and free and engaged when moving mountains. But for them, everything else in business is just reeeaaaaaally boring.

Not quite the man
There's a psychological condition that intersects with this crisis-hound phenomenon — Narcissistic Personality Disorder. People with this illness truly believe that they're irreplaceable and uniquely gifted. When they say they can't be interrupted, they mean it — you, by virtue of your ordinariness, have no inkling how important their work is. Mandatory 401(k) enrollment meeting? You must be joking. Don't you understand? We're in the midst of a crisis here!

VOTE
Are you a crisis junkie?




Years ago, a young man like this enrolled in an eight-week management training session I taught. There was a waiting list, so if you missed two weeks without a good reason you were out. My young friend missed two of the first three sessions, I booted him, and his manager came to plead his case. “This guy is an up-and-comer,” the manager told me. “He could use the training. But when things go wrong in Inventory Control, he has to be there. He's the man.”

“Let's see,” I said. “He has a staff of four team leaders. None of these people, whom he hired and trained, can fill in for him? He's smart enough to juggle daily disasters but not smart enough to impart his accumulated wisdom to others?”
Useless without a crisis
No doubt, being the self-appointed corporate Spider-Man is a high. The problem is, superhero behavior — except in situations that really require it — can hurt a company.

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For one, people who thrive on crises often careen from one disaster to the next. They never focus on day-to-day operations, implementing improvements over time, or the long-term direction of their business. They're too busy battling the forces of evil — and it's hard to move forward when you're constantly on battle alert.

Beyond that, people who live for the moment can be useless in noncrisis periods. They can't seem to get a report done or finish the quality audit or copy edit the annual report. They languish until the next fire. And when you dare to say, “The last three of these red alerts have all sprung from the same hole in our distribution process,” they'll be scandalized and defensive. They don't really want to fix the problem for good, they just want that red phone to ring.

Failing to follow up
I once went to a meeting where a salesperson was saluted for his bold actions on behalf of customers. According to the sales manager, this fella went right into the shipping department, grabbed two boxes off the shelf, and drove them in his own car to a customer who had been waiting two weeks. Now, that's service!

Wow, I said, I had no idea we had those kinds of shipping delays. How did the salesperson — or his manager — follow up? Did you circle back with the shipping department to solve the problem?

Heck no, said the salesperson, that's not my job. They need to solve their own problems.

I'm no expert on Total Quality, but I don't think you'd win any Malcolm Baldridge Awards with salespeople delivering products from their Toyotas. Real corporate heroism is more often calm and steady than loud and theatrical. Real change isn't nearly as visible as you might think. It comes more often through collaboration and experimentation than through sharpshooting and screaming into cell phones. And often, it comes slowly.

Breaking the habit
Could you be a crisis junkie? I have a little of that in me. But the older I get, the more I see the value of heading off a crisis before it hits. I don't need the adrenaline spike at work — for that, I have a two-year-old at home who dives headlong off the back of the couch.

There's something powerful and glamorous about the late-night War Room meetings, the brinksmanship, the frantic back-and-forth faxing that a business crisis so often brings. But as with any addiction, in the light of day you eventually realize that it's time to get free.

You can conquer your adrenaline habit if you try — if you realize that you can do a day's work without listening for an alarm every moment. So pull the needle out of your arm — and tackle that unsexy pile of papers on your desk. You might even learn to enjoy it.

CharlesC 02-24-05 06:58 PM

Yup. Thats my boss to a tee.

Breakfast with Girls 02-25-05 09:23 AM

No, but it was an interesting article. Thanks for posting.

Groucho 02-25-05 09:29 AM

I'd reply, but I'm too busy putting out fires.

Big Worms 02-25-05 09:32 AM

That's my boss.

NotThatGuy 02-25-05 09:40 AM

I'd post...about important business stuff, but you wouldn't understand. ;)

-pedagogue

woofman 02-25-05 09:44 AM

Very interesting article. Almost sounds similar to a bi-polar disorder, as many people with that disorder also create their own personal dysfunctional crisis in order to feel "alive".

The company I used to work for, the CEO and CFO were total crisis freaks, on top of being ego maniacs, assholes, and corrupt. It was awful, and as the company was slowly coming to an end, I had the privelege (or curse) of working directly with them for about 5 months, and it drove me insane. They had no clue either, always trying to negotiate deals, then making totally unreasonable demands, then dropping all contact until it was too late, then trying to fix things again, yelling in their cell phones, having me fax things a thousand times a day. They were textbook cases. Too bad they ran the company into the ground.

LilyLilyRose 02-25-05 10:08 AM

Yes! I have a co-worker who does this! I never really realized it before, but this is her to a tee! I always was a bit peeved that it seemed like I was the only one who actually doing any work, but she gets all the credit for solving these "disasters." Some of which I think she invents.

wendersfan 02-25-05 10:08 AM


Originally Posted by CharlesC
Yup. Thats my boss to a tee.

Consider yourself lucky. I used to have a boss who created crises all the time, just so she could avoid doing anything about them, and then blaming the failure on someone else (often me). That woman was nuts.

NotThatGuy 02-25-05 10:10 AM


Originally Posted by woofman
Very interesting article. Almost sounds similar to a bi-polar disorder, as many people with that disorder also create their own personal dysfunctional crisis in order to feel "alive".

Though both disorders may seem to function in similar chaos, the symptomatology (sp?) is quite different. A Bi-polar in a depressed state looks vastly different than a Narcisist, though a person in a manic state...can share a few similar traits of a narcisist.

-pedagogue

kvrdave 02-25-05 10:30 AM

I use to have an agent who was addicted to crisis. Let her go. She was/is a top agent, but I decided that lifestyle was more important than money.

sfsdfd 02-25-05 10:52 AM


Tie loosened, eyes wide, the Crisis Junkie moves twice as fast as anyone else, stopping only for coffee and cell-phone calls. “Do it. Tell them I said it's gotta happen. I don't care who's upset. I know. I'll take care of it. Get New York up to speed. Get back to me in one hour. Right. I gotta go.” He's like Kevin Spacey in <i>Swimming with Sharks</i> — part self-destructive renegade, part pompous braggart, part anal-retentive micromanager, fully repulsive.

“Man!” you might think. “What a complete asshole. I can't get away from this prick fast enough. Jesus christ, someone needs to give this guy a sedative before he chokes on his own self-righteousness. As much as my job sucks, I'm so glad I don't work with him.”
Fixed.

- David Stein

Bandoman 02-25-05 01:32 PM

sdsdfd - I just noticed your sig. In what thread did our beloved C-man2 impart that gem of wisdom?

sfsdfd 02-25-05 01:58 PM


Originally Posted by Bandoman
sdsdfd - I just noticed your sig. In what thread did our beloved C-man2 impart that gem of wisdom?

Heh - I don't even remember. I'm sure it was during one of our medical malpractice debates; we had several a few months ago. He's been very careful in his subsequent participation, mainly locking horns with <b>Red Dog</b> over constitutional interpretation issues...

- David Stein

Bandoman 02-25-05 04:12 PM

I was just concerned since he seems to have us figured out. I spend at least 2/3 of my day trying to figure out how to make the legal profession worse. However, most people tell me I do that without even trying. I think it's a compliment, or something.

NotThatGuy 02-25-05 04:15 PM


Originally Posted by Bandoman
I was just concerned since he seems to have us figured out. I spend at least 2/3 of my day trying to figure out how to make the legal profession worse. However, most people tell me I do that without even trying. I think it's a compliment, or something.


The other 1/3 of his day is spent perfecting the Jet Li Defense.

-pedagogue

FinkPish 02-25-05 04:46 PM

I have a friend who probably fits into this category, though not as dramatically. She is one of those people who must do every bit of work at the last minute, because otherwise she will just put it off and procrastinate. So then, on Sunday night, she gets all stressed out and panicky, and somehow that helps her finish the work. She loves to ride on the adrenaline, but she hates being stressed.

I've always been the type who likes to finish stuff sooner rather than later, so that, in case of emergency, I have time to fix anything that might come up. With her work ethic, she hurriedly does everything at the last minute, and is usually exhausted and bitchy from being up until 2AM. I honestly can't see how this style is useful or practical, and every time I ask her why she doesn't change the way she does it, she just responds with "I can't do it unless I know it is the last minute." -ohbfrank-


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