Obstructionists - employees holding your business back

Speaking of Obstructionists… 5 Types of Employees Holding Your Business Back

Business obstructionists appear in the same form as congressional ones. Here are five types of obstructionists your business needs to expose and overcome in order to grow.

Business Obstructionists, Baboons and Organizational Growth Busters

Did you know that a group of baboons is referred to as a “congress?” While this might bring a smile to your face when it comes to politics, in business, it’s no joking matter. No matter how well-intentioned, tenured or powerful an obstructionist in your organization may be, make no mistake they are holding your business back.

babboons and business obstructionists

From TheFreeDictionary.com:


(əb-strŭk′shə-nĭst, ŏb-)


One who systematically blocks or interrupts a process, especially one who attempts to impede passage of legislation by the use of delaying tactics, such as a filibuster.

Just for fun and a ‘real world’ description, here’s how UrbanDictionary.com defines an “obstructionist:”

“One who designs or acts in a way that obstructs others, making it difficult or impossible to do what needs to be done. Frequently uses conflict of interest to obstruct others. Also known as an a**hole or duh-weeb, and most likely proud of it. For more examples, see bureaucracy, committee mentality, legislator, attorney, and corporation.”

Example: “When you have to drive six blocks just to go around the corner, it’s a good sign that the engineer who planned the city’s one-way streets was an obstructionist.”

See? Fun.

It’s easy for obstructionists in your business to hide in plain sight. In fact, sometimes they are very powerful people (hence their ability to obstruct) with followers. Not only do they have the ability to slow business growth, they can also destroy employee culture and create destructive divisions.

Not so fun.

If obstructionists have been allowed to prosper and amass power in your company, it might take drastic action to remove their ability to slow your business growth. People might need to be moved or removed. Your organizational culture might need to be reinforced, rebuilt or re-educated. Here are five specific types of business obstructionists who might be holding your business back.

5 Types of Growth-Busting, Project-Delaying, Culture-Killing Business Obstructionists Your Company Needs to ‘Vote’ Out of Power

1 – The Filibuster-er


noun, an action such as a prolonged speech that obstructs progress in a legislative assembly while not technically contravening the required procedures.

Filibusters may not ultimately derail an initiative, but they can delay it, sabotage its ability to produce results and wreak havoc in your company culture during the process. The filibuster-er has perfected the art of destroying enthusiasm and morale, since their co-workers know they will be fighting progress every step of the way. They’ll be throwing propaganda around, fear-mongering and trying to create doubt in the ranks.

2 – The Holdout


noun, an act of resisting something or refusing to accept what is offered.

Hold outs demand that they get something important to them before they’ll throw support your way. Their demand will probably be something that’s only important to them, or a small group of employees, and it may very well be something that’s bad for your business in the long run.

3 – The Key Provision-ist


noun, a clause in a legal instrument, a law, etc., providing for a particular matter; stipulation; proviso.

Like the holdout the obstructionist insisting that the campaign, initiative or project be modified to include a provision that’s important to them before getting on board can slow your business’ roll. No matter how much they say they want your company to thrive, both are completely willing to slow growth or sabotage it altogether to get what they want.

4 – The Entrenched


adjective, to place in a position of strength, establish firmly or solidly; to dig trenches for defensive purposes around (oneself, a military position, etc.)

Entrenched obstructionists have the potential to do the most damage to your company, both in terms of sabotaging growth and destroying culture. Typically, they’ll have been around a while. They’ll have moved up within the company enough to have established a bit of a mini-kingdom of their own within the organization (think speaker of the house or senate majority leader). They’ll have a track record of speaking “for” others, or will at least claim to be speaking for others. They’ll have defensive abilities such as the ability to withhold information, stop projects, people willing to take their side or speak out on their behalf, etc. Like our other business obstructionists, no matter what words they use – they’ll be saying how they love the company SO MUCH that they cannot allow/support etc. – don’t be deceived; they aren’t putting the needs or interests of the company first.

One way to reduce the ability of power-seekers in congress – and in business – are term limits. Open up leadership opportunities on projects and campaigns and empower people to drive their own ideas, rather than giving a few titled leaders ultimate veto power.

5 – The Idealists


noun, a visionary or impractical person; someone who accepts doctrines of philosophical idealism, by representing things in ideal form or as they might or should be, rather than as they are.

“An idealist is a cynic in the making.” – HL Mencken

Idealists are chameleons. You think they’re on board for growth but for some reason they never really come through with support. They like your idea, but they have a better one. And since you can’t see the merits in their plan, unfortunately, they won’t be able to go along with yours. In politics, these are the obstructionists who won’t support tax cuts because, muh, deficits. They can’t support your legislation because it goes too far. Or doesn’t go far enough. Your plan isn’t “perfect” so they just can’t sign on. Nothing’s ever quite good enough for them.

Idealists who are obstructionists, aren’t idealists. They’re cynics, malcontents. True idealists would pursue growth strategies even if they aren’t perfect, because growth is their ideal. Idealists who obstruct progress are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They don’t want change. They don’t want growth. They want to keep things as they are, because the risk of moving forward (for them) outweighs the risks of standing still.

Regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on politically speaking, you’ve seen how obstructionists get in the way of progress. You’ve seen the frustration of good legislation and progress. If you’re like me, you’ve yelled at your television a few times, then threw up your hands in disgust at the lot of them.

You might not be able to affect Washington DC obstructionists, but you can prevent them damaging your company’s culture, employee morale, enthusiasm and forward growth in your business. Do it!

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