Dear Manager,

Have you ever considered the difference between the dependent and independent personality types found in your organization?  Having primarily worked with self-employed contractors over the years – relatively independent souls by nature – I have a distinct affection for their thought process over the alternative.  Certainly, not all who are self-employed are independent thinkers, no more than all employees are dependent thinkers.  Their contrast to one another, however, brings a vastly different set of perspectives and priorities to an organization.

As young children, we are totally dependent on our parent or guardian.   If they don’t provide the food, we don’t eat!  That first taste of “dependent independence” comes in our teenage years, with a bit more flexibility in schedule and modes of transportation.  Remember the insatiable appetite for additional freedoms, and what we perceived at the time to be “our independence?!”  By the time college comes around, we can hardly wait for “total independence.”   Oops, wait a minute.  Can we financially and emotionally support this new level of authentic independence?  As I recall, that was an issue I didn’t want to discuss around the dinner table!

While finding independence from parents is likely (we’re all adults by now!), does this automatically suggest one is authentically independent?  I would say no.


At some point, one of these adults will find their way to our doorstep.  Convincing us that they can provide a positive impact and experience for our companies, they will be hired.  What remains to be seen is whether they will become a dependent drain, or an independent resource, for our company.

While we should be able to assume that an adult would have become independent by now, think twice, no, three times about this assumption.  It is possible that, as managers, we have simply taken on the parenting role for a dependent few.

There is a percentage of our culture that never fully assumes complete financial and emotional independence.  I am not speaking of those who need government care in order to find a degree of independence in their lives.  I’m talking about Joe and Betty employee, the few who have simply never been willing to accept their role and responsibility in life.  These individuals would never admit to being a dependent personality type and, in fact, would argue strongly with those who suggested otherwise.  These are the individuals that drain management’s vital time and resources.


I can’t think of a single instance where I have “owed” a person in my employment.  If I haven’t borrowed anything from my employees, how can I possibly “owe them” anything?  Certainly they deserve respect, a safe and productive working environment, and to be paid the negotiated wage.  Some have deserved significant compensation and severance for a job very well done.  To deserve suggests choice, owing can only suggest obligation.     

I find nothing more disconcerting than to hear someone complain about an employer or job.  On more than one occasion I have thought, “is someone holding a gun to your head in order that you work for this employer?”  I don’t understand a thought process that suggests the government, ones employer, ones school, let alone ones parents, owes them anything!  While there are certainly legal and ethical rights, the word OWE in this context has taken on new meaning and life of its own. 


With authentic independence comes the realization that if we were involved, and if fault is an issue, we must always share in the end result.  We cannot have selective participation in only life’s up side.  If we have chosen an environment, made a commitment, or been a willing participant, in the vast majority of cases we were in a position to have chosen in our own participation or to have shaped the outcome.

Have you noticed how often people get duped in some form, only to turn around and blame the “duper?”  Be it a quick fix, easy money, a shortsighted decision, or poor evaluation, we must share in the eventual consequence.  Those with a dependent personality find it very difficult to accept this.  (Tell me again how it’s McDonald’s fault you’re overweight?)

We are fully accountable and fully responsible for all outcomes in our life, with the exception of an act of God.  I guess blaming Him wouldn’t help much either.

Think about the people who make excuses and complain about a bad day or a bad life.  What they don’t realize is that all of us, in order to find any sense of success and independence, have endured frustrating circumstances.  Are they looking for sympathy?  The second-to-last thing I want to do is bore people with my day-to-day aggravations.  The last thing I need to hear about is theirs.   Now, present me with an opportunity to discuss circumstances that can create a positive outcome and solution, and I am eager to assist.

There is value in understanding this element of our culture.  Experience has taught me that this limited group of chronically dependent individuals has little sustaining value for most managers.  I believe we have a responsibility to our organizations to eliminate this draining influence.  While often difficult, we have a moral and fiduciary obligation to do so.  The bottom of the barrel never gets any fresher.

As managers, we work with very limited resources, and economically we have a very limited number of positions for key people within our organization.  We cannot afford to sacrifice even one of these positions for an individual who is mired in their own, and often self-defeating, agenda.  We all know that a single individual can poison our companies’ momentum, and the independent and responsible personalities that we cherish.


Personal Regards,



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