If you have spent any time in the animation trenches then you’ve probably come into contact with that one person that is so full of themselves, so condescending that you stop caring how talented they are and start focusing on solving the problem that plagues creativity on your team. A prima donna in the wrong place at the right time can torpedo the entire project, and leave long-standing feuds while taking money out of the pockets of those involved.
It can be particularly bad for that person if you are the project manager that decides who stays and who goes. Some are so full of themselves that you can actually see them turning red with anger at the mere thought of someone criticizing their work or them. Some even ball up their fists like they want to throw down and fight it out right there.
That was when I would light their fuse to see which way they went off. This old country boy didn’t care how they reacted unless they were King Kong or maybe The Rock. A few tried to intimidate and control my managerial process. They got away with it for a while until, like most of us, I had enough, and they got their pay cut until they would get on board with everyone else or leave the group altogether.
The pay cut generally got their attention, and it was within allowable regulations or contract terms, so I wasn’t exactly being a despot. Just showing who was boss and that is a terrible thing to have to do with a group of adults. The old saying is true to some degree… managing is like babysitting when adults go off on each other.
How can you be creative and do your best work in a hostile environment? How can you purposefully interact with team members when some are openly hostile when things don’t go their way? You can try but reality eventually sets in, and it becomes apparent that talent is just one part of it all and in some cases, not the most compelling part.
Is just great talent alone worth keeping around? If you made it through the project and another one comes by, do you work with this person again? Early on in my career I would say yes, but as time rolled on, I learned to keep the team happy, not one person, no matter how much talent that one person had. If you were blessed with a good team then the team would figure it out, clear the obstacle and move on with the project.
Vitriol and rage have no place in the workplace and most of us know that simple fact but that doesn’t solve the problem in the real world. A SIP (Self Important Person) is harder to work with than a VIP, at least in my experience. The SIP simply cannot grasp their ideas and workflow not being adopted by the team or worse, they expect everyone to cater to them.
None of this is conducive to a creative environment, let alone produce acceptable or groundbreaking work. Acceptable work in the industry is a very high bar that requires everyone to be on the same page with respect for each other’s skills and what they bring to the project. It is rare that a project embroiled in turmoil will be an award-winning piece of work. So don’t be THAT person that casts a dark cloud over a production. Instead of being THAT person that makes everyone cringe, be the person that people want to work with. Be the person that puts a smile on the face of colleagues when they realize you are involved.
I have written about this before and probably will again because bad human chemistry won’t just go away but you can certainly help control the elements that make bad chemistry by focusing on the team, the goal, and the finish line.
Don’t be THAT person.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.