Emerging Tech

Why you need to know about Typhoid Mary

Ever wondered why things seem to go "wrong" when a solid coworker shows up on the scene? John M. McKee says it could be that they are causing those problems without even knowing it.

Ever wondered why things seem to go "wrong" when a solid coworker shows up on the scene? In every organization, there are managers and senior executives who leave death and destruction in their wake.

1. Some know what they are doing. They use "whatever it takes" to get ahead or to ensure that their programs are the ones embraced and given the go-ahead. But the good news about them -- yes, there is good news -- is that sooner or later they tip their hands. At that point, others in the organization start to see them for what they are: single-minded and prepared to win at the expense of others. When busted, they usually profess their company loyalty, of course. But they've been busted. And they won't be able to screw you or the company over in the same way again.

They're the easy ones to deal with.

2. Others don't know what they're doing. Consequently, the trail of damage they create is usually far more harmful. These coworkers are well intentioned. They care about the organization, and in most cases, they really want it to succeed. And that's why their actions can be so damaging. I call them the "Typhoid Marys" of corporate life.

Typhoid Mary's real name was Mary Mallon. She was the first person in the United States identified as a healthy carrier of the pathogen associated with typhoid fever. She lived in New York and worked as a cook during the early part of the 1900s. She infected 53 people with the deadly disease.

Authorities took a long time to make the connection; it wasn't until they recognized that wherever she was working, people got sick. Some died. Because she wasn't outwardly sick, she may have never considered that she was responsible for transmitting the illness. Whether she did or not, when confronted she denied that she had anything to do with the spread of the death and destruction. Ultimately she was forced to live in quarantine until she herself died. A postmortem showed that she was the carrier.

Watch out for your organization's Typhoid Mary. Most organizations have them. They'll appear to be caring.  You may hear them making suggestions to fix problems that have started popping up. And they'll be the last to admit they have had a hand in anything that's going south.

Here's to Your Future....

John

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

6 comments
NickNielsen
NickNielsen

One of the nicest people I've ever met, but just not suited to technical support or tech project work. He could follow the directions exactly and still wouldn't get it right. I dreaded hearing that he was working projects in my territory because I knew my workload had just doubled.

ArtyChoked
ArtyChoked

... because it implies gender. Sure, I've seen men AND women who'd qualify for that label, and I'm working for one (whose gender I won't mention) in a dotted-line relationship right now. But the viral poison they infect the atmosphere with is unmistakable ... look for the pile of corpses with knives in their backs that this person is standing on. I don't care if that pile was intentional or not, all I need to do is stay out of arm's reach. It's about survival.

TheShawnThomas
TheShawnThomas

Not only do I have one that doesn't think that anything she has done applies to any of the problems I have to troubleshoot on her system (after 3 hours of investigating I tell her what she did and it's always "why would that have caused this issue?"), but she also seems to have a true "magnetic personality". She can't wear a watch because they stop working. She has gone through about 10 cell phones in 6 years (not because of dropping them, they just stop being able to ring or make calls, etc). Any computer she has been issued (all brand new) has been flaky to say the least. Has anyone else run across this?

Slayer_
Slayer_

If only her parents taught her how to wash her hands after wiping...

CareerCoach
CareerCoach

But it can be hard to recognize them