HR Management & Compliance

It Takes More Than a Carrot and a Stick: Practical Ways for Getting Along with People You Can’t Avoid at Work

Employment law attorney Michael Maslanka reviews the book It Takes More Than a Carrot and a Stick: Practical Ways for Getting Along with People You Can’t Avoid at Work by Wess Roberts, Ph.D. Book explains faultfinders, or the self-righteous employees, and how employers can handle those employees.
Wess Roberts, Ph.D., divides It Takes More Than A Carrot And A Stick into several very short chapters, each with a type of employee you just can’t stand but whom you can’t avoid. We wanted to tell you a little bit about one of them, called “faultfinders.”


Roberts calls faultfinders the self-righteous. Here’s his description:

Sanctimonious and inflexible, faultfinders are secretive, self-appointed members of the morality police. They’re so zealously concerned with the slightest defect in other people that they would support putting television cameras in everyone’s house to make sure that nobody is doing something bad. [They] are extremely reserved, inflexible, and sycophantic. . . . [T]hey have a holier than thou preoccupation with thoughts and behaviors that are unacceptable to them. As subordinates, faultfinders are edgy, threatened by change, and envious of attention received by their coworkers. They pass themselves in the role of the manager’s remote eyes and ears.

Sound like anyone you know? In my experience, faultfinders obsess on any failings (real or imagined) of coworkers, actively hide their own errors and mistakes, and view themselves as not only morally superior to their coworkers but also much better workers.

Can you manage faultfinders? Roberts gives several pointers, including the following:

  • Do expect them to be Quislings.

Quisling was the Norwegian minister during World War II who sold his country out to the Nazis. Don’t go ballistic when this happens but, rather, “name the game.” In other words, if a faultfinder rats on you, tell the faultfinder that you know and that in the future, you expect him or her to go through the chain of command.

  • Don’t give them positive feedback.

The worst thing you can do is pay attention to the faultfinders and become involved in their obsessing, thereby adding fuel to the fire. Roberts recommends you say something like, “I don’t want to hear about Joe’s problems right now. Let’s talk about you. How are you doing? What are you working on improving?”

  • Don’t dither.

When you determine that you’ve got a faultfinder in your workforce, deal with it immediately before it gets worse. Otherwise, faultfinders may take your silence as tacit approval.

  • Do be circumspect.

Don’t overreact. That’s exactly what they want you to do. If a faultfinder tells you something that may require your attention, look into the matter independently. Because of their worldview, you can’t expect faultfinders to be completely truthful. Something will be left out, or facts will be distorted.

  • Adopt a positive approach.

By focusing in on their work, their job, and their future, you’ll be doing them as well as yourself a favor. And remember, don’t get sucked into the faultfinding game. As they say in East Texas, “Never mud wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it.”

Bottom line

I really liked this book. It’s only 141 pages, each chapter filling eight to 10 pages. It gives you an orientation on what to do and when to do it. Take a look. If you like what you see, drop me a line. This is one of many employment-related books that I can recommend, and I always like to hear your responses.

Michael Maslanka is the managing partner of Ford & Harrison LLP’s Dallas, Texas, office. He has 20 years of experience in litigation and trial of employment law cases and has served as Adjunct Counsel to a Fortune 10 company where he provided multi-state counseling on employment matters. He has also served as a Field Attorney for the National Labor Relations Board.

Mike is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and was selected as a “Texas Super Lawyer” by Texas Monthly and Law & Politics Magazine in 2003. He was also selected as one of the best lawyers in Dallas by “D” Magazine in 2003. Mike has served as the Chief Author and Editor of the Texas Employment Law Letter since 1990. He also authors the “Work Matters” column for Texas Lawyer. He can be reached at

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