How to Avoid Human Obstacles

When someone stands in your way, adjust your path.

Jessica Wildfire


People love storming out of meetings. We have one guy who does that on a weekly basis. He never has much of a reason, other than seeing what he can take from someone else.

It works for him, with mixed results. He teaches two days a week, and has the rest of his time to himself. He does whatever he wants. He has his own printer, while the rest of us share the office copier. Everyone bends over backwards to please him, but it’s still not enough.

We all pretty much hate this guy, and we avoid him whenever possible. Nobody wants him on committees. We don’t trust him to do anything, so he gets away with much less work.

His students lie on his course evaluations, because they’re afraid he’ll find out who they are and punish them.

So he thinks he’s a great teacher.

He’s not invited to parties. Of course, he’s oblivious to our disdain. He tries to schmooze on campus when he’s in a good mood. If I spot him coming, I duck behind one of our stately building’s Corinthian columns. If I can’t find one, a trash can will have to do.

A conversation with him can last hours. I use the word “conversation” loosely, because it’s mainly just him talking at us. One time, he commandeered one of my meetings with the chair. He spent so long rambling about nothing in particular that I had to reschedule.

I’m giving you an extended description of this guy for a reason. He’s divorced, without custody of his kids. To my knowledge, he’s never compromised once. He’s never had to give up a course release to help someone else. He’s never had to write an article while bouncing a fussy baby. He’s the portrait of entitlement. Other people literally give up their happiness to contribute to his, and he doesn’t even acknowledge it.

We all know at least a few people like this. It’s not always a man. Women can pull this same crap, even if they don’t usually get away with it in the same way, for quite as long.

My point is that sometimes overcoming your obstacles involves more than just hard work, dedication, and discipline. They can involve extremely unreasonable and incompetent people, who either…