How To Melt A Grinch’s Heart

December 19, 2012 — 11 Comments

iStock 000004624520XSmall1 225x300 How To Melt A Grinchs Heart

“It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.

It could be, perhaps that his shoes were too tight.

But I think that the most likely reason of all

May have been that his heart was two sizes too small”

-Dr. Seuss

This time of year we may call them “the grinch,” but you know the type.   “Disgruntled,”  “negative,”  the ones of you label in the “quit and stay” category.

I’ve been to many a meeting and several change workshops where the sentiment goes something like this…

“Don’t waste your energy on that segment.”

“They will suck you dry… just move on”

“You can’t change them anyway.”

“Give your attention and energy to the rest of the team.”


Sometimes that is true.  I have “wasted” lots of “energy” on such “grinches” over the years.

On the other hand, I also know it’s possible to melt a “grinch’s heart.”  The rewards are remarkable.  WIth your heart-melting powers you may change a life, enhance the business, and feel the deep satisfaction that comes from doing your best as a leader.

Isn’t it worth a try?

Melting the Outer Grinch

We all have our grinch-turnaround stories.  These classic Christmas stories come from real life.

Here’s my view, please share yours…

  • Don’t label them as a “grinch” or any such word… to yourself, to them, or to others
  • Take the time to get to know them as a person (there’s likely more to this picture that may require some empathy)
  • Listen to their concerns (chances are there’s some really important points underneath all that ice)
  • Share a bit about what worries you and your concerns
  • Find out what they love to do and tap into those gifts
  • Recognize the small wins
  • Ask them to help someone else
  • … what would you add (please share in your comments)

“And what happened then…

Well in Who-ville they say

That the Grinch’s small heart

Grew three sizes that day!

And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight;

He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light…”

See also

How to Change The Climate

Team Trouble? How to Build a Team One Person at a Time

HBR:  Are You Creating Disgruntled Employees?


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11 responses to How To Melt A Grinch’s Heart

  1. I find these people who appear to be rough around the edges, are simply looking to be heard. They want to be understood. They want to be loved. So, give them what they want when they least expect it. Heh, that’s a present. wink, wink….

  2. Thanks, Steve. I totally agree. Understanding, love… what an amazing gift.

  3. Great ideas! They really show how I’ve got to get my heart and head right before expecting others to do the same. The tip about having them help someone else is one of my favorite ways to get people engaged again and help them grow.

  4. Eric, thanks so much. You lift up an important part about getting our own head and heart right first. That can be tricky and wonderful.

  5. I just finished reading a book that helps address this. The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace It’s based on the Five Love Languages. I was skeptical at first…but allowed one of my supervisors to implement this last summer with our seasonal staff. I can’t explain the difference it made. Best staff in 16 years.

    Side note…I like the new header on the site.

  6. Karin,

    Thanks for this post. I’m a huge of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” so I couldn’t resist reading this post.

    Absolutely love… melt the grinch hearts by asking them to help someone. It’s a bit risky but worth it.

    Those I thought were grinches weren’t always. Sometimes I just didn’t understand their needs for success, style of relating, or values….sometimes I need to change my grinchy heart.



  7. Yes, yes! How others behave is so often a reflection of who we assume they are, and of our expectations that they will “misbehave”. Steve is right: so often people aren’t heard, and they will “act out” until they are. The parenting book, “Positive Discipline” notes that a misbehaving child is a discouraged child. I see that a lot in grown ups as well.

    Eric’s recommendation of Love Languages is a great one. I haven’t read the workplace one, but am very familiar with the one for families. Absolutely stand out! I would also recommend “Love Works”, by Joel Manby. My husband instituted some of the practices at work, and it has transformed his small department from grumpy and dysfunctional to an encouraged and encouraging team.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Trolls in Chelsea: How to Manage Meanies - March 29, 2013

    [...] Oh…. trolls… Been dealing with them for years.  Although mine have always been the flesh and blood type with fierce eyeballs that stared straight into my soul.  Their witty and frightening  tongues– equally alarming.   At times they’ve worked for me, that’s the trickiest.  Trolls are teachers, you can learn a lot from a clever troll.  I have both converted and promoted many a troll (see, How to Melt a Grinch’s Heart.) [...]

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