In the top right quadrant of the Johari Window is the area labeled, “blind spot.” The concept may be useful when considering colleague (and potential colleague) behavior. It ties into some of what co-author Jody Foster presents in her book, The Schmuck in My Office: How to Deal Effectively With Difficult People at Work.


In an interview discussing ideas related to the book, Ms. Foster mentions individuals in our work places whom the majority views as disrupters. These are people who routinely demonstrate annoying habits: habits viewed negatively by the majority of work place inhabitants. Instead of opening an uncomfortable conversation with any said disrupter, the rest of the team puts up with those little annoyances. Or, we think we put up with them.


What’s likely really happening is that the majority of colleagues – the ones who find a disrupter’s habit annoying – remain silent, letting little annoyances build into frustration and even into major conflicts: office blow-ups that become the subject of workplace legend. Who wants that?


I’ll take a bit of a detour and introduce a related arena in which a similar phenomenon occurs: selecting potential employees. I’ve experienced situations in which an ideal candidate has been interviewed, and a manager would like to extend an offer. What holds him back is a difference in stated salary expectations. Early in the process, the candidate has stated a salary objective, and it’s a bit over what the manager has determined the job’s value to be. What to do? Is extending an offer to a different candidate the best response?


In both situations, a better answer is, Talk. Have a conversation. Build a relationship based on trust and integrity. Consider:

  • The individual perceived by nearly everyone as a disrupter may not even be aware that he is a disrupter. The behavior he’s demonstrating may simply be in his blind spot.
    • The rest of the team is guilty, then, of letting the irritation – the one little annoying thing – spiral out of control. Through silence, the team implies everything is okay and, so, why would the disrupter change the behavior?
    • If you extend him the courtesy of a respectful confrontation, he may say, “I didn’t know; thanks for telling me.” And the behavior may stop. Ms. Foster shares this may be true in about 80% of cases.
  • In the selection scenario, considerable personal experience is that in at least 80% of situations, a respectful – and sometimes creative – conversation may lead to a win for both the candidate and the hiring manager: a good hire who comes into the organization ready to build upon a beginning based on integrity and trust. For example:
    • Hiring manager begins, “We’ve each learned a lot during this interview process, including information about our benefit and other employee programs. I think you’re a great fit for this position, and I’d like to talk more about compensation. I’d like to negotiate a mutually agreeable starting pay level within both your expectations and our goals.”

In how many situations – work, social, family, etc. – might your willingness to respectfully begin an uncomfortable conversation yield an improved relationship, not just for you but for many?

Most often, I think of both/and opportunities when it comes to dessert. Who doesn’t like pie and ice cream or cake and fruit topping?


Since 2017, small businesses have had a both/and opportunity about which many leaders remain unaware.  The opportunity is a Qualified Small Business Health Reimbursement Arrangement: a QSEHRA.


To put a QSEHRA in some context, consider a growing small business. Every new hire is critical for adding the right skills and strengthening the desired culture. It’s also critical to manage the budget. What to do when it comes to valuable employee benefits?


Recognizing that the health insurance market may well be out of reach within the company budget, some business owners turn to offering employees a monthly cash stipend to help offset the individual cost of health care. This is a commendable and valuable offer. And, it’s taxable to those individuals.


This situation may be ideal for a QSEHRA: a budget-friendly method for offering valuable health care assistance to employees on a tax-favored basis. Saving employees some of their income and payroll taxes can be quite attractive.


What is a QSEHRA? Broadly, a QSEHRA:

  • Is available to employers of fewer than 50 employees who don’t offer group health insurance.
  • Does not require pre-funding.
  • Is flexible regarding funding and features.


There are administrative conditions and requirements for participation. These are manageable, and there are professional administrators in the market.


If you’re a business leader and valuable both/and opportunities are of interest to you – this one or perhaps others – call me.

In Kingdom of the Blind, author Louise Penny has her lead character observe:

“…that our lives are like an aboriginal longhouse. Just one huge room. …if we thought we could compartmentalize things, we were deluding ourselves. Everyone we meet, every word we speak, every action taken or not taken lives in our longhouse. With us. Always. Never to be expelled or locked away.”

Accepting some truth in this creative observation, one might consider how to apply the idea: 

  • You led a successful, difficult development conversation with a team member: you had a clear focus on both relationship and results.  It’s in your longhouse.  You can repeat the success.
  • You enjoyed that training program, practicing targeted interviewing skills until you felt confident and competent.  It’s in your longhouse.  You can repeat it and select your next team members.
  • You took a deep breath, focused on relationship and successfully talked with a friend, spouse or a child about a tough topic.  It’s in your longhouse, and you can repeat that success.

Faced with having a difficult conversation in your immediate future, perhaps a deep breath and a moment to recall how you’ve succeeded in the past will benefit both you and your colleague, friend or family member.