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Posted on: Friday, 18 June 2010 by Rajiv Popat

You have spent days observing Jack. He is awesome when it comes to dealing with pressure situations. Never looses his cool. Has shown perfect leadership qualities when talking to you, even in the most pressure prone situation, giving you a strong vibe that everything is under control.

You are impressed.

Months later, you find yourself sitting across the table with a bunch of developers telling you how Jack is throwing his shit their way, bossing them around and making them do hardcore deadline driven development.

You cringe.

A few days ago I posted a small tweet.

You thought you knew Jack.

Human beings happen to be hugely polymorphic. They are insanely different creatures in different situations and in different groups.

Jack, as it turns out, happens to be a seriously kick ass programmer and a very good person to have on your team. Give Jack a couple of additional programmers to mentor or work with and Jack measures them with the much higher level of critical outlook that he measures himself with. This is not about qualities or talents that Jack lacks when working with or mentoring a small team.

When he happens to be seating in a status meeting or dealing with crisis situation Jack happens to be a very different human being than what he is when his team is facing a crisis. Observe carefully and you will be able to literally see Jack morph from a quite, calm, cool headed individual sitting in front of you, to a angry, loud micro-manager when working with his team.

This is not the only situation where people in your teams and organization will morph though. Another classic case of morphing that human beings often go through is when they have given you their resignations.

This is when folks will give you a truck load of suggestions about how your organization needs to improve, how it has been missing out on certain areas and above all, all those dozen tiny little areas which he just did not seem to care about before he resigned.

The same individual who tells you how much he loves working in your organization or your team morphs into a totally different human being when he interviews for a different company next week and answers the famous "three things that you don't like about your current organization" question in that interview.

When you are working with a team of three individuals, you are probably dealing with a team of more than thirty personalities, constantly morphing from one to another.

This is important. So important that I am going to say it again.

When you are dealing with a team of three individuals, you are actually dealing with thirty different personalities, not three.

If there is one thing years of working with human beings has taught me, it is that you cannot be banging your head over being nice to all thirty of these constantly morphing personalities. Focus on the three that work with you.

Go ahead, talk to Jack about how much his team hates working with him, even if it means rubbing him in the wrong way.

Go ahead and stop worrying about the personality that is constantly looking for a change because irrespective of how much you or your organization tries there are always going to be some folks who will occasionally morph into individuals who are so dissatisfied with small things that you cannot just retain them in your organization or your team.

Stop worrying about rubbing two-hundred-and-ninety seven morphing personalities the wrong way and focus on the three that work with you.

Be nice to them and do all you can to make their work experience a pleasurable one.

I wish you good luck.