On Management

The Hammer Problem

Matchstick Leader Large
Just like all personality types, the ‘Hammer’ (employer/employee) makes itself known in certain situations but stands out in an ugly way. This is when you are usually up against the wall, and our animal instinct asks us to choose between fight or flight. The obstinate ‘Hammer’ fights and how.

You cannot reason with a Hammer.

It has been forged with a single purpose of hammering nails in, pulling them out (if at all) and hammering them back in again. It will not listen, insist on its perspective, blame the other party (hammering) and proceed to care less about the consequences. The Hammer fails to notice the depth of the water, might not always realize the boundaries being crossed while hammering away and ends up alienating colleagues during such outbursts. It loves digging up hatchets (pulling up nails unnecessarily) and putting them on the table for the sake of an argument. Is a Hammer so full of negativity? Well, it is a personality trait, a negative one.

Why deal with a Hammer at all?

Because they are good people, really, but this is a trait which stands out at times – stands out and makes an impact, a negative one. Some Hammers can undo the harshness, some fail to recognize it in time. We need to be patient and focus on the right things- the task at hand and work related priorities. Dealing with people from all walks of life is essential to success and that includes dealing closely with Hammers. Keeping our head low and being persistent about getting things done helps.

Dealing with a Hammer as an Employer

Hammers will need feedback, nudges, the whips and caressing love. Hammers might need the right opportunities to prove their ground, they might need the right amount of time to prove their worth and showcase their will to work hard. If we skip either of these, we set ourselves for a blame game where we failed to provide an employee with enough space. If all this has been provided, we are in a better position to take a decision. Hammers can get unpleasant, and it is unhealthy having them around if they refuse to do anything about it.

Healthy Hammer?

In case of two allied power centers in our small businesses, it is tempting to play a ‘good cop – bad cop’ discipline game with employees. In such cases, the Hammer traits of certain team members are highlighted and put to productive use. However, leaders need to be balanced individuals, not Hammers. Though having a ‘bad cop’ for a few meetings is beneficial in the short term, we won’t do the leader much good by encouraging the Hammer traits, instead of helping them tone it down. There is no Healthy Hammer, and there is only a balanced cop.

Hammer and Mop

This is perhaps one of those instances where my company’s name suddenly makes more sense than usual. Hammer people are particularly unpleasant when they make a mess, and leave it that way. Ever tried cleaning the floor with a hammer? To clean up the mess, you need a Mop person – or the need to encourage the ‘Mop’ personality in Hammers. And that creates all the balance in the world :)

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