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Don’t tolerate “that’s just the way they are”

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I once worked with a manager who was routinely hostile and aggressive to colleagues.

I asked my boss about it, and he said “oh, that’s just the way they are” and shrugged it off.

Being quite young, I didn’t think much of it. I took my boss’s words at face value and accepted the bad behaviour as it was.

But, one day, I came to realise it was a bullshit excuse.

It was letting my colleague off the hook and denying their capacity for change.

In fact, it was an excuse with three shades of bullshit. Because it tried to excuse:

  1. The person’s inappropriate behaviour. As though they had no control over it. It was letting them off the hook
  2. My boss from having a difficult conversation to hold the colleague accountable
  3. Me from trying to help my colleague

But, I think worst of all, it undersold the person’s capacity to grow.

Because, labelling someone this way reflects a fixed mindset. It’s like saying, ‘That’s the way they are: always have been, always will be. No point trying to change them 🤷‍♂️’.

A growth mindset recognises that we can grow, change and improve our behaviours. Some habits might take more time and effort to break. But we’re all capable of change nevertheless.

And, if we’re not prepared to address our poor behaviours, we should be held accountable and – eventually – performance-managed for it.

So, when we next catch ourselves thinking or saying ‘that’s just the way they are’, we should stop and ask ourselves instead ‘What’s one thing I could do to help them change for the better?’.

Likewise, when we hear someone else saying this, we can curiously ask them the same question.

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