13 Indicators of a Problem Generator

I’d love to think that everyone is innately good and kind in this world but unfortunately that’s just not the case. The truth is that there are people out there who create problems of all sorts, they just seem to constantly attract them and there is a sliding scale of severity in this. There are of course people who are unkind and some that have evil intent, it’s a fact that I’ve confronted and seen the effects of but overall we can all agree that life is much nicer and more enjoyable without these people in it.

I thought I would share some of the information we’ve documented about this here with you.

We call them Problem Generators (or PG’s for short) because that’s exactly what they do. They create and attract problems.

We’ve seen businesses destroyed by having seemingly ‘nice’ people in them who actually fit this description. And you guessed it – most of the problems are attitudinal in nature.

Now, let’s be really clear here… this is an incredibly subtle topic.  At the same time, it’s enormous in its effect. It’s important enough that I can promise that I will be writing more about it over the next few months. It also requires a huge amount of willingness to confront in order to spot these subtleties.

The number one rule on the subject of Problem Generators is – don’t have them in your life or business. They will attract problems.

If you read the list below and start thinking about a specific person in your life or business that creates these feelings, do something about it!

If you are wondering whether or not you are a Problem Generator yourself, that’s a good sign. One of the things about PG’s is that they are generally unwilling to inspect. There is a gradient here, say from 1 to 10. If you’re wondering about whether you are or not, that means that at worst, you would be a 2 out of 10. A 10 has malicious intent. They intend to hurt or harm and do damage. The lower numbers don’t intend to and they don’t have enough intention not to.

So, over the years we’ve compiled a list of indicators. What they indicate, is that you have a Problem Generator in your life or business, and you are buying their problems. These are experiences you can become aware of in moments of interaction with a PG.

One of the secrets of the game PG’s play is that they get you to solve problems that are not yours.  Often, they get you attempting to solve an unsolvable problem.

Let’s have a look at this list – there are 13 indicators, and I’ve listed them below in no order of importance.  They are all subtle and they will often tag team with each other… don’t be surprised if you find that the person you think might be a PG will tick a number of boxes below.


13 Indicators of a Problem Generator:

You will feel:

  • The Need To Be Careful Of (so as not to set them off) – It’s the feeling of walking on eggshells.  You might have a staff member that does this – when they are in a bad mood, you just avoid them (and definitely don’t confront them on how bad the paperwork was last week) because you don’t want to upset them.  Therefore, you are buying their problem and attempting to solve it for them.
  • Stopped –  You are travelling along creating and making decisions and all of a sudden, you feel stopped.  It’s like hitting the wall.  Someone’s put the handbrake on.
  • The Desire to Withdraw From – it feels like wanting to leave a conversation – not wanting to continue.
  • Made Nothing Of – You’ll feel ‘Less Than’ or ‘Belittled’ or like you are less important.
  • Suppressed – flattened or crushed.  You’ll feel like you are being kept down, restricted.  The opposite of free.
  • Invalidated – it’s like you, or your opinion doesn’t matter or is not valid.  Like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
  • Sorry For – you’ll feel sorry for them.  You’ll find them acting in a way that gets you feeling sorry for them, and next thing you know you are solving their problem for them, and therefore not solving your own problems.
  • Destroyed or Dis-created (or you will observe that they are destroying or discreating something you created) – a great example is the class bully walks over to you at the beach and kicks your sandcastle over… he destroyed it. This can include destroying or dis-creating the importance or relevance of you, your thoughts ideas or opinions, or even destroy your business.
  • A Withhold – otherwise known as a failure to reveal.  You’ll feel like there was something that they weren’t saying.
  • Suggested to – this often comes with a tone of authority, and uses an extreme generality (You Always do this!) while pointing out something that has a little bit of truth in it (you did just do this, and you may have done it before occasionally).  You miss the subtlety and buy the problem, and now it’s your fault that they are upset.
  • They Are Being Too Nice – You might find that they are overly complimentary, or they are telling you how special you are, or how amazing you are for having achieved so much in your life.  It will be very subtly awkward, and you might miss it.  Next thing you know they are asking for a ‘favour’.
  • The Need to Tell Them How Special They Are – This one tag teams with ‘Feeling Sorry For’ often.  If you find yourself telling someone how amazing they are, or how they are not that bad… next thing you know, they ask for a similar ‘favour’ as above.
  • They Are Making More Of – It’s the old saying ‘They make a mountain out of a molehill’ – I had a client once call it ‘Catastrophise’  When there is a little problem, they act like it’s the end of the world.

Notice that all of these indicators will mean that you are buying someone else’s problem, and attempting to solve it for them.  In your business, this means they are not solving problems for you.  For me that is the number one determining factor in whether a staff member is profitable or not – do they solve problems for you.

A Problem Generator doesn’t solve problems… they create them. They don’t perform, and they aren’t willing to inspect their own behaviour.

Also notice how much these 13 indicators tag team each other. If you feel like you need to be careful of someone, then you might also feel like you want to withdraw from them, and you could also feel invalidated and suppressed by them (and they are likely making more of).

While it’s great to gain awareness of a problem like this, it’s more valuable to get solutions to the problem. The first solution to the problem is awareness. You can’t do anything about this if you are not aware of the indicators.  So make an agreement with yourself to be aware of these indicators. Next time you experience any of these, ask a direct question about it… often just by calling it as it is, the energy of the situation dissipates.

One of the best things you can do to handle a PG is to behave in a way they do not expect. They have been playing a game with you (and you with them), and they are used to you behaving predictably. Behaving in a way they don’t expect can really throw them off.

Acting in a way that totally changes the game will surprise them.  Be aware that it will surprise others around you as well, so get ready to handle any other reactions that may occur. The easiest and most effective (for you) thing you can do is to not have them in your business or life in the first place.

I said it above, and I’ll say it again now… this is a very subtle topic that has a massive effect in business and life.

I’m interested in your experience of this info.  It’s a topic I know I continue to learn more about every year. If you’ve found this valuable, please share it.

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