Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Socks And People That Make You Miserable

You can’t knit people to fit your wants, needs and plans for them–but you don’t have to accept socks that don’t fit well or that make you miserable, either.

This could be about accepting people, identifying the challenges of similarities and differences between us and them or just about the fact that we’re all a mixed bag. We aren’t what we want to be most of the time and we wouldn’t know how to make the perfect person for us–at work, as a supervisor or manager, in personal relationships or business contacts–even if we had the raw components and were given Cosmic power to do it. We think we do, but we probably don’t.

Given that fact, we have to accept the other facts: No one is the right kind of person for us all the time. No one says, does and responds the best way all the time. Even the best people can disappoint you and even the worst people can positively surprise you. The key to surviving and thriving is to know when to accept, when to shrug off, when to forgive, when to adamantly complain, when to re-train, when to warn of consequences, when to sanction formally and when to exit them or exit yourself.

One thing is for sure: Although we can insist upon some changes and make them happen if we have enough authority or influence (come to work on time, don’t gossip about coworkers, get your work done in a one day turn-around, don’t use that language, don’t treat me in that way again, flush, etc.), only the individual can change his or her mind and basic character and approach to life–and often that is not very successful.

If you want to know how difficult it will be for you to change someone, try changing yourself. If you want to know how difficult it will be for the other guy to change himself or learn new habits, try changing yourself or learning new habits. Translate your fifteen pound weight gain over a lifetime–the one you can’t seem to get rid of now because you eat too much and don’t exercise enough–into some of the habits and behaviors of the employee who doesn’t get work done on time or does poor quality work, creates conflicts in the office or gets repeated complaints from customers. Do you think he or she will change unless the penalities are so great there is no choice?


Decision times are tough. But once you’ve made the decision, keeping at it is all it takes. In my classes about working with challenging employees I often have each participant talk to their desk partners about the most challenging employee with which they are dealing. They are supposed to end that conversation by saying, “Here is what I am doing about it when I get back to work.” Invariably some participants laugh through that part as though they know it’s impossible and it’s a joke to even consider it.  It becomes obvious that one or two want tips and techniques that don’t require them to do anything overt about the employee’s behavior or performance. Sadly, they will require everyone else to put up with a problem employee in order to avoid the discomfort of doing something about it. So, who is the biggest challenge in that situation?

The bottom line: Ask for changes when you can. Insist upon them when it is possible. If you are a coworker, document your complaints,  go to the right person about them and ask for an investigation with the goal of change;  if you are a supervisor provide assistance, encourage and support, correct and encourage again. But, if those things aren’t at least starting to work after a reasonable amount of time for the situation (sometimes that’s a brief amount of time, sometimes a longer amount) you will need to do something that might make the other person uncomfortable, resentful or very angry. You may have to unravel his life and work, to use the sock analogy, to get the change that is required.  That is when it’s time for the Davy Crockett advice: Be sure you’re right, then go ahead. 

March 6th, 2011 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | 9 comments


  1. I don’t know if this is about our conversation or not, but it’s good and I needed it. I’ve always wanted to be like Davy Crockett! Thanks. B.

    Comment by BN115 | March 6, 2011

  2. Tina says: Our conversation certainly inspired me about this topic. I’m teaching a “Challenging Work Situations” class this week and thought about it further. It applies in many areas! Thanks for the comment. I hope you’ll read regularly and comment often! T.

    Comment by TLR | March 6, 2011

  3. Greetings, Tina. I’ve enjoyed all of your recent posts and used the one about King Auto Group in a class I taught last week. This one about socks is very apt for the Christian walk (!) although I know that’s not how you intended it! I often say that the best indicator that one’s heart is changing is when former friends and entertainments start making you squirm. The sock analogy is perfect for that and you can be sure I will use it! (I’m hoping such frequent borrowing isn’t considered plagiarism. I’ll plead guilty!)

    Our prayers are with you in your travels and every day. Blessing! Don

    Comment by Don R. | March 6, 2011

  4. Did Davy Crockett wear socks like that? Does anybody wear socks like that???? Oh well, I get your point. I’ll flush next time. LOL Good article. You write the way you teach…that’s a compliment!

    Comment by Ringo | March 6, 2011

  5. Tina says: Thanks, Don. I like what you said and will use that myself. We can trade plagiarism!

    Ringo, whoever you are 🙂 thanks for commenting. I hope you’ll visit often and comment often too! That makes me feel like what I write is worthwhile. I thought the same thing you did about the socks!

    Comment by TLR | March 6, 2011

  6. I’ve had to do this with my family and also at my work. Some people told me I should try to learn to put up with it and get along just to keep the peace, but I knew that wasn’t good for me or the other person. I’m so glad I stuck with it because now I don’t have the grief I had before and several people have thanked me for making it easier for them to take stand.

    Comment by Benjy | March 7, 2011

  7. First, you taught a great class in Greeley yesterday! I felt I got some really useful advice. The one I’m using already is about flossing everyone every day. I also really liked the advice about how to avoid the big closed-door meetings, which is something I hate to do. Overall it was an excellent class and I’ve told my director that every supervisor should go to it.

    Next thing is about this article which I can really relate to. I’ve been putting up with one person for a long time and have wanted to do something about it but haven’t done anything, to avoid a big blow-up. With what you said yesterday and this, I think I can do something and still not have the big blow-up. Wish me luck! Thanks again, you were great and I stayed interested all day.

    Comment by GoBuffs | March 9, 2011

  8. Tina says: Thanks, Benjy and GoBuffs for your comments. I’ve written to both of you.

    Comment by TLR | March 9, 2011

  9. I was in the Greeley class too (like GoBuffs). Today was my first day back at work and I tried the idea of asking for opinions and just listening. The results were sort of amazing to me because I’m close to my guys anyway. But, I got an email from one tech who said he appreciated the chance to talk to me. I think your advice was solid and helpful and I’m recommending you to other people. I just wanted to say thanks for a good training day.

    Comment by P.B. | March 11, 2011

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