Now that I have your attention, I’m not talking about a Hollywood tour bus (a trippy ride I took recently with four teenagers–could be the subject of another blog post) but I can’t resist commenting on the current debate about Charlie Land.
Is he mentally ill, the pundits ponder? Alcoholic or addicted to crack? (Still, after three treatment attempts?) Acting and joking?
How can the formally highest paid actor in network television ($3 million per episode) give it all up to spend his days ranting on talk shows and morning television, cohabiting with his twin “goddess” girlfriends, as well as his two year old twins? Why did the network cancel the last show? Have they now changed their mind and are trying to keep him? Was it due to incompetence, his outbursts or some other rant of which we remain blissfully unaware?
The network sent out confusing comments. Sheen claims to be a misunderstood genius and the debate continues. He has also lost custody of his twins because of threats to his ex.
Meanwhile, you may be wondering what to do about similar problems–your own, or someone else in your workplace. As I wrote in Stop Pissing Me Off, What to Do When the People You Work With Drive You Crazy, “In my consulting practice, when I’m called in to mediate a group conflict, coach a problem executive, or rebuild a team, I uncover one of these issues at least 90 percent of the time.”
The problem of mental illness (if that is indeed what it is), plagues modern workplaces. In the Sheen case, some psychiatrists have an opinion that Sheen is in a manic state, the “high side” of bi-polar or what we used to call manic depressive order.
So when we’re asking why people like Sheen, or the people in our own workplace do things that piss us off, annoy us, and leave us frothing at the mouth, it helps to understand something about how the brain works.
My own view is that people are hardwired with certain personality characteristics, some of which can be extremely annoying. The brain is genetically loaded to a certain extent (psychologists currently estimate at least 50 percent) to be focused or distracted, gregarious or withdrawn, good at reading social cues or terrible.
While good or bad parenting, cultural influences, education, spiritual work, and therapy can change and influence this, we all arrive on the planet with certain inherent tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses. Understanding how other people’s brains might be hardwired can help us cope with their seemingly bizarre (to us) behavior.
What You Can Do
Again, diagnosis by amateurs can be dangerous. Don’t try this at home! My experience is, however, that understanding why some people may act in such unpredictable ways can help you calm down your own tendency to blame them and help you strategize more productive interactions.
The best way to handle colleagues like this is to focus on making specific requests for them to change their behavior (not their attitude, or their personality). The problem is that they may not be able to change their behavior to line up with your request. At that point you’ll need to consider your options: work around them, complain to a higher authority, or move on to another job.