Stubbornness: An Asset And A Liability

A friend of mine runs marathons. She isn’t going to be winning any championships but she continues to complete longer and longer distances even in the messy winter weather. She attributes her ability to keep training to her image stubbornness. Even when a truck speeds by at mile 6 of a 16 mile run and drenches her in slush from head to toe, she doesn’t consider turning around because she WILL finish this run.

In this case, her stubbornness is an asset. Without it she would likely have decided that it was a bad idea to go on a run the day after a snow storm. That might have been a smart decision but it would have left her in bad shape for her race in April.

In the workplace, this sort of stubbornness can have similar positive effects. Employees and managers who grab ahold of an idea and refuse to let it go CAN have tremendous success. However, they can also get in their own way.

Another friend works at an organization where, in addition to her usual job function, she has adopted the role of leading efforts toward environmental sustainability within the organization. She is passionate about this topic and relentless in her pursuit of higher environmental standards. She has also pushed the organization to pursue green building practices and composting of food waste that it might not have done without her leadership.

However, her stubbornness has also caused strained relationships with many of her superiors. Many of them now avoid her phone calls or put off meetings knowing that, whatever steps they agree to, she will continue to push for more.

The balancing act of pursuing one’s passions and maintaining good relationships can be a tricky one. Generally the right balance can be found in keeping a solid focus on the long term goal while maintaining some flexibility in terms of how the goal is reached. In the case of the environmental advocate above, this would mean continuing to focus on making the organization more environmentally sustainable in concrete ways, but would also mean listening to feedback from colleagues and superiors and, perhaps, pursuing these goals in a smarter way.

What do you think?

    Is it possible to passionately pursue a goal without your stubbornness and determination becoming a liability?

    Does your stubbornness add or detract from your personal resiliency?


  1. Dear Dr. Leiter

    I still have a co – worker who has a passion for aid to the needed initiatives. We have talk a lot about how to create a team to help her to achieve her goals. The trouble is to make her realize that the other people is not so engaged as her, and part of the actual strategies we decided to follow, is consider the sensibilization of the possible collaborators before urge them to react to the problems she wants to solve.

    So, stubborness and asertive communication could lead to a productive balance.

    1. Heriberto
      You make an excellent point that honest and constructive responses from colleagues can help to channel one’s passions so that they come across as dedication rather than stubbornness. It is all about relationships!


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