When Your Hyper-Achiever and Your Hyper-Vigilant Saboteurs Run the Whole Show

“Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.” Swedish Proverb


There are many things I look for in a good employee. I want them to be striving to do things right, to learn new things and to do their best.

Recently I met someone else’s employee, and she was being run by her hyper-achiever and her hyper-vigilant saboteurs and was almost unable to assist me. She almost sent me away, saying she couldn’t fix my problem and yet, that is what her agency does. 

What does that look like you ask?

My family and I are in the process of cleaning out my father’s house after his passing. It is a job that many people have in this lifetime and one you are only going to do once. So, we are trying to do our best. As we have removed stuff, we have found a lot of paint, aerosols and other hazardous items. We don’t want to just send those to the landfill, we want to be good stewards of the land and have them recycled properly. This is the part of the story where I learn that all counties in my state are different, and I need to learn the process for this county. In my father’s county the hazardous materials can only be recycled once every two weeks in the summer from 9:00am to 5:00pm. It is every other Wednesday, and it is by appointment only. You can’t just go and show up. 

So, after a long weekend of house decluttering, I have a whole collection of items to get recycled. I am going to give up a day of employment, drive the three plus hours one way, just to make this happen.

I am ready to make my appointment. I call in and get this lovely person who is using a boiler plate check list for how to make an appointment. She starts out by asking me how many chemicals I will be recycling. “Hundreds from a resident” I say. She comes back and says, “No, exactly how many aerosol cans? how many paint cans? how many of each item?”  I explain that I have no idea, as I am not standing in the garage at this moment looking at each item and I won’t be there until that Wed.

A long…long…pause……

“But I have to know how many items exactly and of what kind.”

I, again, explain that I don’t have that information. I also explain that I am not going to be able to figure that out before that day and I need an appointment as soon as possible.

More long silence………

Finally, after twenty minutes of going back and forth, I tell her that we can figure this out and get a place to start.

I ask her “How many minutes are each opening?”

“10 minutes.”

I ask, “How many items can be processed in that 10-minute window?”

We get to that answer seven minutes later.

I, finally, after forty-five minutes of this, tell her what I think we should do.

“Let’s schedule two twenty-minute appointments with an hour between, so I can reload and let’s start with that. Let’s have them earlier in the day, so if there are other openings and I have more stuff, I can come back later.”

She is very nervous and honest about the fact that she doesn’t like this. It is really uncomfortable for her. I have asked a couple times if she would like me to speak with her manager, so she doesn’t feel so stressed about this? She decides each time that she can handle this.

When I am finally sure that I have my two appointments I thank her for her help.

After I got off the phone I thought about how, if this was a for-profit company, they would be broke.

3 months later follow up

This employee called me the day before my scheduled appointment, because she didn’t believe I was really going to show up. She told me so. I confirmed I would be there at both of my drop off times. I asked if she called everyone, “No” I just didn’t trust you would show up.

The day after the drop off at the hazmat location, she called again to tell me that I had over 750+ items and she could not believe that this didn’t come from a commercial business. I had to again explain that no, it came from a residence of a private person over fifty years of living. I am still speechless months later as I type this. 

How I preserve her job and the goal of her job and how she is doing that job and what her employers want from her are obviously two different things.

It is the perfect example of creating a system that works great internally for the employees and totally misses the mark of the customer. 

This type of process makes it almost impossible for people to buy from you.

Make sure your saboteurs aren’t running your business, right into the ground.

Once a year, have a couple of people run through your sales process and onboarding with fresh eyes and make sure you are opening all the doors for your target clients and not slamming them shut.


JoyGenea Schumer
Business Owner, International Neurodiversity Coach and Speaker

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