The amusing “Guerilla Office Tactics” post on 43 Folders elicited this comment from one reader: 

You’re totally right, and it’s ultimately why a lot of these kinds of tricks are way too radical for real-world business use.

The real truth, in my experience, is that a disproportionate amount of pain in every team or company are caused by a few bad apples. Then you end up way over-responding and messing with the “good apples.”

I suspect that the most disappointing part of every talk I give is where I suggest teams sit down and really talk about this stuff (meaning there’s no silver bullet). Because that kind of discussion over time can be huge in terms of fixing the Really Big Stuff, and developing simple standards for communication and interaction — developing a kind of contract for mutual respect.

The problem is that in a big company you’re getting bombarded by the work of toxic people over whom you have zero control and no relationship. That is the stuff that, IMHO, leads to the need for defensive driving tips like these.

WIth the internship thing? I’d try to talk to other folks who would be your peers, and try to find out answers to the big questions on stuff that bugs you. You know what I mean? Kind of like a game of “Find the bad apple.” :-) 

I can certainly empathise with this person’s point. I’ve worked in places in the past where entire – very worthwhile – projects were scuppered by “toxic individuals”. There actually tend to be very few toxic personalities in any organisation, but they have a disproportionately large impact because they tend to make more noise and be more confident in their viewpoint (usually because they’re unwilling or unable to hear other people’s points of view). So if there are relatively few bad apples, perhaps this is another area where more openness helps. If we’re all making public what we are doing and thinking in our work, it’ll become immediately apparent to everyone where the blockages are – and to what degree those blockages are caused by personal toxicity. Or is that too “Big Brother”/”rule of the mob”…?