It’s everywhere on the course I play. When you keep the ball away from the weeds, it’s not a factor but when you chase one into the edges of the course, you often come home with an itchy reminder of a bad shot. At some point over the last week I must have had a close encounter with some of it since I’ve now got a few seriously itchy patches on me. This, of course, got me thinking about business.
As you might be able to tell from the photo, the plant has attractive, innocuous little flowers. As long as you don’t touch the leaves, the urushiol stays put and you don’t itch. Unfortunately, the oil sticks to everything that touches the plant, and if you touch whatever it was (like a golf ball) later on, you’re probably going to have an allergic reaction that brings on the fits of scratching. The oil doesn’t go away when the plants die either. You can get just as bad a case touching a dormant or dead plant in winter as you can in the middle of summer. The business point?
There are people out there who are just like poison ivy. We bring them into our organizations because on the surface they seem harmless. Maybe we notice that they resemble something against which we’d been warned (leaflets three, let it be!) but we’re distracted by something – finding a golf ball, making a hire, closing a deal. Once we let them touch our business, however, they cause all sorts of harmful reactions and those reactions persist long after we’ve freed ourselves from contact with the plant or the poison.
We’ve all had close encounters with human versions of the plant. Lieber and Stoller wrote about one – “you can look but you better not touch”. These people do “come on like a rose” but we’re well-advised to stop, take a hard look, and keep our distances. The short-term gain is rarely worth the long-term misery.
Want to add any thoughts about someone you’ve encountered like this? Hit the comments.