What to do about the Mad Hatter in Your Organization

by | 3 minute read

The Hat­ter in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adven­tures in Won­der­land is some­times called the Mad Hat­ter. Do you know why? And do you know why hav­ing an employ­ee who behaves like a Mad Hat­ter in your orga­ni­za­tion is a man­age­r­i­al call-to-action? Meg Manke, COO of Rose Group Inter­na­tion­al and co-author of “iX Lead­er­ship: Cre­ate High Five Cul­tures and Guide Trans­for­ma­tion,” talked about the Mad Hat­ter syn­drome a recent Man­age Smarter pod­cast with us.

Corporate Culture

As a fix­er of cor­po­rate cul­tures, Manke advis­es senior lead­ers to pay atten­tion when an employ­ee behaves out­side the norm. Maybe they refuse to make eye con­tact. Or they might avoid hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions with any­one.

These work­place behav­iors are prob­a­bly not a sign that the employ­ee is los­ing their grip on real­i­ty. Hat­ters in the 18th cen­tu­ry suf­fered that out­come after work­ing too close­ly with mer­cury to cure the mate­ri­als used in assem­bling their prod­ucts. Your employ­ee is like­ly lack­ing engage­ment with your cul­ture and your orga­ni­za­tion.

To fix that prob­lem, Manke rec­om­mends embark­ing on a top-down fix. These days, it’s trendy to under­stand an employee’s basic per­son­al­i­ty type, but we often for­get to tap into their desires for an ide­al work envi­ron­ment.

Manke’s research finds that some employ­ees enjoy col­lab­o­rat­ing at work. Oth­ers deliv­er their best results and are hap­pi­est as inde­pen­dent and indi­vid­ual thinkers and con­trib­u­tors. Some employ­ees thrive in a chaot­ic envi­ron­ment – think stock traders – while oth­ers require the order­ly process that you’d expect to find in a research lab­o­ra­to­ry. Once you under­stand an individual’s needs, try to set up the right work envi­ron­ment for them.


But don’t stop there. Make sure you under­stand how each employ­ee hears infor­ma­tion you deliv­er. You might pre­fer to deliv­er feed­back and assign­ments ver­bal­ly dur­ing your one-on-ones while you’re brain­storm­ing oth­er ideas. That style might work well with your chaot­ic thinkers. If you notice your order­ly and sta­bi­lized thinkers frown­ing and dis­en­gag­ing dur­ing these con­ver­sa­tions, stop. It’s time for you to adapt your style.


If you tru­ly want your employ­ees to feel engaged and excit­ed about the com­pa­ny cul­ture, address account­abil­i­ty. “Peo­ple like to feel they know what they’re respon­si­ble for,” Manke points out. But that’s not enough. They also want to know what the per­son is in the next cubi­cle is account­able for too.

You might think that is essen­tial­ly none of their busi­ness. The bot­tom line is you want your employ­ees to be com­mit­ted to your orga­ni­za­tion and their mis­sion. You won’t win that com­mit­ment until they believe they under­stand who is account­able for what in the orga­ni­za­tion. Pro­vide reg­u­lar and spe­cif­ic feed­back in the form the employ­ee needs and you’ll see few­er Mad Hat­ters and more go-get­ters in your orga­ni­za­tion.

C. Lee Smith

C. Lee Smith

CEO and Founder at Sales­Fu­el
C. Lee Smith is the President/CEO of Sales­Fu­el — a firm he found­ed in 1989. He was named one of the 14 Lead­ing Sales Con­sul­tants by Sell­ing Pow­er mag­a­zine in 2018. Lee is the cre­ator of the AdMall® and Sales­Fu­el COACH™ SaaS plat­forms. He is also a Git­o­mer Cer­ti­fied Advi­sor, expert on the Sales Experts Chan­nel and a C‑Suite Net­work Advi­sor.
C. Lee Smith


@SalesFuel CEO C. Lee Smith. Speak­er, entre­pre­neur, sales and employ­ee tox­i­c­i­ty expert, lead­er­ship and man­age­ment con­sul­tant. Co-host, Man­age Smarter pod­cast.
Use an out-of-office reply to your advan­tage! Those emails are full of use­ful infor­ma­tion, includ­ing when your sale… — 4 days ago
C. Lee Smith