Monday, October 30, 2006

When is a Curmudgeon Lovable?

What is the difference between a lovable curmudgeon and a cruel abuser?

I ask this because you can find some individuals who are cranky and hard to handle but are revered and others who are simply abusive and mean.

An example: Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I worked with a retired criminal investigator who was in charge of background investigations. He was a rough old guy who never hesitated to tell you, in words of one syllable, how he felt about various matters. He would get angry and stomp off but he always came back. As far as I know, we all liked him.

What distinguished him from the classic workplace weasel?
  • He was blunt but never cruel.
  • He didn't pull rank. He'd argue with all levels and he never kissed up to gain favor.
  • He was tough but professional. The idea that he might tell inappropriate jokes or single someone out for harassment was unthinkable.
  • He was fair. He applied the same standards to himself that he'd apply to anyone else.
  • He was open to other opinions. If he felt your ideas had merit, he'd seriously consider them.
  • He put the mission above himself.

No wonder we liked him.

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