Mark’s Blog

Welcome to the 36th blog in the series “52 blogs in 52 weeks with each blog being about one of my 52 types of people who are poorly behaved and at times downright difficult”. This blog is about Type 27: The Nit-Picker.

#27: The Nit-Picker.

The Nit-Picker finds minor faults and lets people know about it.

A simple definition.

The Nit-Picker spends their time finding faults which are, given the circumstances, minor and inconsequential. And when they’ve found them, they like to let people know about it. But oddly enough, many Nit-Pickers ignore more serious faults or problems – ones that deserve to be highlighted. They let these go and concentrate on faults which are, at least at the time, unimportant.

Some have ‘favourite faults’.

Some Nit-Pickers have ‘favourite faults’. They have a bee in their bonnet about a particular fault and that’s it. They look for it no matter what. But other Nit-Pickers are way more general; they’ll find faults with almost anything. To them, nothing’s ever good enough.

Some have favourite people to ‘pick on’.

Some Nit-Pickers seem to have it in for certain people. They spend plenty of time finding minor faults with say Carol work but rarely with Bruce. Worse still, when Bruce makes exactly the same fault as one Carol has been signalled out for, he’s let off the hook.

The faults might be real. But that’s not the point.

It’s important to remember that the faults the Nit-Picker identifies are often real faults. By any sort of objective measure, they really are errors, mistakes, oversights, problems or whatever we like to call them.

But in some cases they’re not. Or at least it’s not so cut and dried. In some cases, the faults have more to do with personal preference than anything else. What’s right or wrong, good or bad, etc is sometimes debatable. And of course, there are also the cases, where The Nit-Picker is simply wrong; and you can prove it. Whether you want to or not is another matter. And dependent on quite a few things.

Anyway, the point is this. Even if the fault the Nit-Picker has identified is indeed a real fault, given the particular circumstances at the time, pointing it out is just being petty.

They waste valuable time and money.

The Nit-Picker isn’t just unfair and unreasonable; they’re usually harmful to the organisation. Instead of concentrating on helping ensure products and services are delivered properly and on time, they waste valuable time and money getting staff to deal with issues which should be a low priority.

So Nit-Pickers aren’t just unpleasant to be around or to work for. They usually have a major effect on morale and on productivity. And hence, they usually affect the bottom line. And usually affect it big time.

The Nit-Picker in action.

1. Leanne’s boss never says a kind word. 

Leanne works in a department store. She’s in charge of a whole floor. Her manager has an office on a floor above but, unsurprisingly, comes down to her floor every now and then. But here’s the thing. When she visits, she rarely asks a question or passes on information. And she rarely, very rarely indeed, offers to give a hand or congratulates the team on a job well done.

Instead, her manager usually takes a walk around the floor and then finds Leanne and tells her about a few problems she’s found. Now generally speaking at least, telling staff about a problem isn’t bad. In fact, in many cases, it’s just the sort of thing a manager should be doing. But …… and yes there’s a ‘but’ ……….. the problem is always something minor. It’s always something minor like someone has dropped some paper on the floor, a lolly wrapper or whatever. Or a rack of clothes somewhere needs to be tidied up.

Now Leanne usually agrees the ‘fault’ is actually a fault. But there are a few things which really get under Leanne’s skin. First, the paper on the floor is minor when compared to other issues like, for example, the clothes on sale aren’t moving or the new stock hasn’t arrived although the supplier promised it would be in yesterday.

Second, Leanne or a member of her team would have soon found the paper and removed it because they do a regular ‘sweep of the floor’.

Third, she’s happy to accept the manager finding these sorts of faults but she’s unhappy there isn’t also a ‘thank you’ here and there for all the hard work she and her team do. What she’d really like is an occasional ‘thank you’ and an occasional ‘job well done everybody’.

But it gets worse. Can you believe it? It actually gets worse. Leanne’s manager finds faults which don’t even exist yet. She finds what we might call ‘future faults’. For example, her manager will walk around the floor and then tell Leanne thing like: “The change room will get untidy later. Customers don’t like an untidy change room. Make sure you clean it up.”

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh!  Leanne knows her job. She doesn’t need to be told to do things which she does every day and does well. So yes, I agree with Leanne – her boss is a Nit-Picker.

2. Susan’s reports are never good enough.

Susan is a team-leader in a research department of a large organisation. She and her team produce a lot of reports and usually with short and strict deadlines. Susan admits that many of the reports they produce aren’t perfect. But given the deadlines, she thinks they’re pretty good.

Anyway, her boss will always find something wrong with them. Nothing major. Nothing like the data analysis doesn’t seem to have been done correctly. Or the conclusion draws a long bow when you look closely at the results. No, nothing like that at all. Instead, it’s always something minor. Something most people wouldn’t even notice let alone care about. For example, recently her boss made the following comment about a report one of her team put together: “It’s a bit sloppy.”

Now that in itself isn’t necessarily unfair or unreasonable. But when Susan said “I’m not sure what you mean.”, her boss told her the paragraph construction was poor.

Now again, that isn’t necessarily unfair or unreasonable. But when pressed, her boss struggled to come up with an example of where the paragraph construction in the report of more than 9,000 words, was poor. However, she eventually found one. Her boss’s problem with it was it should’ve been two paragraphs rather than one. And guess what? Susan agreed.

But this was nothing more than nit-picking. This was a serious report that had far-reaching implications for the organisation. It was going to have a bearing on what ideas for next year’s projects would be funded and what ones wouldn’t. And the staff member who produced it had done a really great job with limited resources and limited time. But these things were all glossed over for the sake of a criticism about paragraph construction. Good grief.

The Nit-Picker needs to be dealt with.

The Nit-Picker is poorly behaved. And for the sake of team morale, efficiency and productivity, they need to be dealt with. But what does ‘dealt with’ mean? If you’d like to know, please go to the contact page of my website. You’ll find lots of ways of getting in contact with me there. So let’s have a chat.

Anyway, in the meantime, whatever you’re doing, look after yourselves. Look after your family and friends. I do hope to chat to you soon. All the very best.

The video

The soundtrack/audio of the video.

For those who’d like to just have the soundtrack of the video, here it is.


 Okay, that’s it. Until next time, all the very best.


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    • Tess
      Posted at 11:34h, 24 January

      Hi Mark

      I always admire people who have an idea, or knowledge to share, and find ways in which to share this wisdom with others.

      I briefly watched your week 52 ie re nit pickers and wondered if I might ask a question or two or provide feedback to you?

      Whilst I appreciate that providing a shared language can assist in dialogue ie by providing your definitions and scenarios of different personality types/work situations, you are setting the scene to have dialogue with and between workers about these types f people and the impact they have in our workplaces/lives. Did I miss though where you perhaps provide the active strategies to address these behaviours? Or are you seeking to encourage viewers/readers to contact you to learn more thereby ensuring your “intellectual property” is separate to general access? This certainly does make sense if what you are wanting is for people to seek you out. I wonder though if there is some marketing advantage though to at least giving some beginning strategies? You may in fact do this with some of your presentations but with week 52 I was curious to know if you had any valuable strategies to offer but not enough engaged to seek it necessarily. Could you add a little more of a “teaser” in to demonstrate your capacity to not only identify these people types but to provide me the viewer/reader with inspiration to hear your solutions?

      Another piece of feedback is with regard to the actual visual presentation. I am always loathe to step in front of a camera and even after 30+ years of public speaking know that I am, and that I look, a little nervous or stiff in front of a lectern. In these amazing days of social media however we have so much more capacity to spread our message further and can of course practice a million times in private before launching publicly. So firstly I give you kudos for doing so. Just a gentle piece of feedback though, with this capacity to review the final product before publication if you might reconsider the “look” you are going for? Not sure the suit and tie is fitting with the message. If you were to ditch those and present in office wear but with your clothes as relaxed as your face I think you may engage your viewers in more as their colleague.

      Congrats to putting yourself out there – great work.

      • Mark McPherson
        Posted at 17:47h, 09 March

        Thank you for your comment Tess. Your time and energy is really appreciated.

        I’m more than happy for you to ask questions and provide some feedback. But first, my apologies for taking so long to get back to you. Most of my posts seem to get about 20 spam emails and sometimes it’s hard sorting out real people from spammers.

        I have looked long and hard at what strategies might be useful, and are actually useful, when dealing with people are poorly behaved and at times difficult. What I have found is an awful lot of strategies suggested are too vague or too broad to be useful. While others are way too complicated and some are based on conjecture and intuition which I think is usually way off.

        So yes. I do have strategies for dealing with bad behaviour and difficult people. I’ve a list of strategies which I believe actually work stop they worked when I was a teacher way back in the 70s, they worked when I worked in New South Wales police and I’ve seen them work in all sorts of other workplaces as well. And it doesn’t matter if the difficult person is a colleague (up down or sideways ) or a customer or client. Or a supplier or someone else for that matter.

        So yes, I do have strategies to address these behaviours.

        I took most of 2013, 2014 and 2015 off to look after my elderly parents. Both were gone by December 2015. What I needed to was to get back into work and given I had 52 types of poorly behaved people documented, someone suggested I should write a blog a week for 52 weeks on those types.

        Now of course, it is not just for the benefit and fun of those who want to read them. I am displaying something to my target market. And I hope will display is I’ve really thought about this topic and I know my stuff. I know these people you have to deal with, and I know how to deal with them.

        Helping people Master tough conversations and deal with difficult people is how I make my living. So as time goes by in 2017, you will see more and more of my strategies. The first thing I need to do was lay the groundwork so to speak.

        Ultimately, yes I am aiming for people to contact me with the view of pay for my services. There is no doubt about that. I have something to offer and if people are willing to pay for it, terrific.

        Anyone can download my one page list of strategies which are of course, just the headings. If all we needed was one page we would all be home and hosed. But that one page hopefully shows that I do have a tried and tested list. Just like with the authors of the book, then not giving their information or intellectual property if you like, a way for nothing. You have to buy the book and not only that, I have not yet seen enough in a book someone to take action without any other sort of support.

        I have plenty of valuable, realistic, down-to-earth strategies – better still, I have those that actually work in the real world where it counts. As time goes on in 2017 you will most certainly find more and more strategies being written about.

        In regard to your comments about my look, it’s very hard to get the look right. No matter what you wear – tie or no tie, coat or no coat, formal dress shirt or casual shirt, etc – some people will like it some not. My friends in the corporate world have told me they find the tie and sports jacket just right. This is why I try to mix it up a little bit sometimes a sports jacket but sometimes not. Sometimes a tie sometimes not. Sometimes formal shirt that should have a time but not. And sometimes a rather casual shirt.

        My experience has been it’s better to dress up so you can always take off the tie and jacket if the occasion suits. I’m not sure quite what you mean when you say “not sure the suit and tie is fitting with the message.” And I’m not sure what you might mean by ‘office wear’. In some offices I’ve been to, all the males and females are dressed formally. The men in boring white shirts and ties, and all the women in heels and what looked to me like expensive dresses. But of course, I’ve also been to plenty of workplaces where people are less formal. And I’ve even been to places were thought people looked rather shabby.

        In all the videos I did at the beginning, I was dressed way more informally. But people in the corporate world, wanted something a little more formal. What I found, is at many conferences people in the audience are happy to sit there in casual clothes but expect those on stage to be a little dressed up. Not sure that’s fair and reasonable but it seems to be the way it is.

        I think it can be summed up by saying really hard to know what to wear. And different groups, expect different things, on different occasions.

        Anyway, that’s probably enough from me.
        All the very best stop

    • Adam
      Posted at 21:06h, 03 February

      Thanks Mark, some good points about the nitpicker, and a great series of blogs. Under the DiSC system I would call the nitpicker a “High C” and they could be useful in QA tasks (maybe with me to act as a filter so they don’t annoy the staff too much).

      • Mark McPherson
        Posted at 17:26h, 09 March

        Hello Adam.
        Thank you for taking the time to make a comment.
        I quite like DiSC but what I found is it’s very easy to have a bunch of people all labelled, for example, as C but some are on the ball and always looking for ways to improve things (and mean no harm) whereas others would be quite a nightmare to work with I would think.

        I think you hit the nail on the head when you said you would need to act as a filter so they don’t annoy the staff too much. So true.
        All the very best.