Monday, June 18, 2007

Prima Donna Departments

Whenever prima donnas in the workplace are discussed, the tendency is to focus on individuals, not departments. There are, however, prima donna departments and you can spot them by these signs:

  • They think the rules that apply to other departments should not apply to them. In their eyes, they face special challenges that are not encountered by other departments and therefore they should be cut extra slack or should be able to devise their own procedures without interference from the "civilians" at the main headquarters.

  • They want their own departmental attorneys and HR-types and do not want to rely on ones who are independent of their department.

  • They want to investigate all complaints against their own department and justify such authority by arguing that their culture is such that their employees would not open up to outside investigators. [That is rarely true.] They deny encouraging such attitudes.

  • They may in fact provide more services or income than other departments. That adds to their view that they are special. It does not, however, justify any exemption from outside oversight.

  • They are not above using outside leverage, such as customers or public opinion, to push their claims.

  • They operate with a We - They view of the world where anyone who is not in their circle is viewed with suspicion.

Caving in to the demands of prima donna departments is always a mistake. Give one concession and you can bet they'll be back for more. Resisting takes no small amount of courage but the CEO must be prepared to draw the line. It's difficult enough dealing with individuals who are prima donnas. When that attitude extends to a department, the difficulty is multiplied.


Timothy Johnson said...

Great post and very useful (and astute) observations. I had posted something of a similar vein a few months ago applying to corporate culture

Will definitely be back to visit your blog again.

Michael Wade said...


Thanks for visiting and special thanks for the link!