What do you do with a wildebeest?

What you see in the picture above is rather unusual – live wildebeests.  Usually they are the animals that we watch being dragged down by a cheetah, lion, alligator or some other carnivorous animal.  Or we grab the remote and quickly turn the channel in disgust at a closeup of a pack of hyenas dismembering one of the poor creatures.  Even though they aren’t that small, they seem to be near the bottom of the food chain.

They are timid and fearful creatures driven by a herd mentality; no individualism here.  These are the animals that when questioned by their mothers, “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?”, they would answer, “Why yes, I would.”

Do you have any wildebeests in your life? Here’s how to recognize them:

  • They are indecisive.  Forget about them making a decision.  The old-fashioned expression “him-haw” would be aptly used for these individuals.  If everyone is going out to eat and they are asked where they want to go eat, they will recite the Gettysburg Address rather than answer you.  They are waiting to see what “the herd” is going to do so they can follow them.
  • These folks are professional procrastinators.  Remember that project they were going to work on?  Right, they are still going to work on it.  They will have a list of ready-made excuses for why they haven’t “quite got around to it.”
  • Frequently, they will stall, hoping for a better choice.  They play the “what if” game in their head, thinking “what if a better opportunity presents itself tomorrow?”  The problem is they never get through playing that game because there is always another “what if” opportunity tomorrow.  Their fear of making a poor choice prevents them from making a choice of any kind.

What’s the best way to handle a wildebeest?

  1. Help them make a decision by examining the facts and developing action steps.  These folks are usually so overwhelmed by emotions (fear of people second guessing them) that they can’t get the executive function part of their brain engaged to enable them to make a decision.  You can help by being very factual with them.  Point out to them the details of the project and then work with them to establish very clear, incremental steps to achieving the desired outcome.
  2. Emphasize to them the importance of quality work.  It’s easy for some people to get so overwhelmed with what is expected of them quantity-wise that they simply lock up.  Once they understand you value quality, too, it can free them up to become more productive.
  3. Make it easy for them to tell you about conflicts or reservations.  When people understand that you are receptive to alternative views, they warm to you and become more engaged with you.  Tell them you are eager to know about any reservations they have because you value their opinion.  Ask them if there are personnel conflicts that are causing them to be hesitant.

With your help, it’s possible for the wildebeest in your circle to become more independent and productive.

{This is one in a series of articles on “Dealing with Difficult People.”  Previous articles are:

“The Irritating Side of Golden Retriever”

“You’ve Got to Look Past the Fluff of a French Poodle”

“Listen to the Lion’s Roar”

“The Dangerous Wolverine”

“Hyenas Are No Laughing Matter”

“Seen a Rhinoceros Lately?”}

2 thoughts on “What do you do with a wildebeest?

  1. Great suggestions! On days when you are feeling wicked, you can just give your favorite procrastinator this little attachment.

    Cheers, Katy


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