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Aug 17

Managing the Easily Offended

Posted by: Steve Marr

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At times I have conducted performance evaluations with staff.  I have been surprised when I’ve given a strong rating to somebody followed by offering areas for improvement that some individuals take exception to criticism, regardless of how valid it is.

A study by Dr. Jeremy Bernerth, Associate Professor of Management at San Diego University, writes “those with a proclivity to be offended (PTBO) make terrible employees.”

In his report Dr. Bernerth writes: “What is PTBO? According to the study, it's a state-like tendency to be sensitive to customarily innocuous societal events and traditions,’ such as ‘playing of the United States' National Anthem,’ and is the ‘tendency to view an array of events and/or traditions as offensive.’ People with high PTBO ‘are likely to feel that social events or traditions to which they take offense also violate moral or equitable standards.’"


The study found easily triggered people were less productive, prone to see their organizations as “less fair,” and consumed a lot of time complaining about minor matters. Furthermore, a person offended by everyday occurrences diverted important resources away from customers and towards more irrelevant tasks. The report also indicated that these easily offended people make poor team players.

King Solomon wrote, “A person's wisdom yields patience; it is to one's glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11, NIV).  In our work, we need to be careful that we do not become one easily offended over minor matters.

Additionally, when interviewing a prospective employee, ask about experiences with past supervisors and management. Try to find out if their complaints are over relatively minor things or substantive.  You don’t want to be the next person in line to manage a person easily offended.

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