The Meddler on the Roof

May 3, 2011

Can an employee be too helpful, too eager to pitch in and assist co-workers? If that sounds impossible, think again. Left unchecked, an overzealous employee can do dramatic harm to your business. The reason? Nobody likes a meddler, and when employees feel a co-worker is constantly interfering in their jobs, the good ones will take flight to other, more hospitable workplaces. Only the docile, mediocre workers will stay put. Is that the type of work force you want?

Meddlers may mean well, but the trouble is “they don’t possess the insight to know when to help and when to back off,” says Joseph Weintraub, an organizational psychologist who teaches management at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. In a meddler’s mind, his or her help is needed everywhere. “Psychologically, meddlers lack trust in others and sometimes in themselves. They want to be part of everything to increase their sense of self-worth.”


When you look at a meddler, you may see an employee who is always ready to help. But put yourself in the shoes of the employees on the receiving end of this “help,” and it quickly begins to look more like butting in. What meddlers deny others is the right to do things their way, and that’s a big turnoff, especially for top-notch workers.

Baba Yaga and the Wolf

Image Credit: Tin Can Forest [way cool]

Worse still, meddlers may be neglecting their own tasks because they’re so busy interfering with others’. “They know what’s going on everywhere in the business except in the area they’re responsible for,” says Anne Pauker, president of the Pauker Consulting Group in Hazlet, New Jersey, and a specialist in human resources issues.

Thorough as this indictment is, the rub is that only a thin line differentiates a meddler from the ideal worker who never turns down a task, even when it’s not part of his or her job. So how do you recognize a meddler?

The experts provide a meddler-spotting list filled with dead giveaways, including:

* They’re always at someone else’s desk.

* They repeatedly offer advice without being asked.

* They offer help even when they’ve been told it’s not needed.

* They ask a lot of questions and interrupt when others are talking.

* They always seem to have just read an article regarding what you’re talking about.

* They often bypass the boss and go directly to other employees to solve a problem under the guise of wanting to help.

* You feel you’re being undermined by someone who keeps saying “I’m only here to help.”


Muse – 1

Meddler – Waaaaayyyy busted

Further Meddling:

Removing The Masks That Bind Us – The Meddler Archetype

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