The Vanillains, Who Are They?

What or who are Vanillains? You probably work with one close by.

A Vanillain is a boss or fellow employee who just sits there taking up space and barely demonstrates they have a pulse. They do the bare minimum, are loaded with excuses, and shy away from taking any responsibility for anything.

They aren’t bad people, they are just vanilla villains who can completely sap an organization of energy and wreck an organization’s productivity. Vanilla because they aren’t aggressively destructive or abusive toward others, and villains because of how they can rob an organization of performance while being quite stealthy about it.

The Vanillain Boss

Get a mental image of the boss from the movie Office Space. This is the boss who wanders around trying to be engaged and take shallow interest in the employees who report to him. When this boss is asked questions by employees or even his own boss, he will respond with such answers as, “I’ll get back to you, I need to think on that a bit, wow, I never thought about that, let me consider that” and then they never get back to you. When there is a disruption between employees or with an upset customer, this boss never engages to solve the problem.
Imagine the destruction that can be done by this “nice guy” who shows no drive, no inspiration for employees, and no interest in making any changes or improvements.

The Vanillain Employee

Get the mental image of the bespeckled, bald character in the Dilbert cartoon, Wally. This is the employee who refuses to interact with, well, anyone. They don’t like talking to customers, avoid the boss, and usually offer one-word answers to fellow employees. This employee’s desire is to drift into the woodwork and be the invisible paycheck recipient. They are late with tasks; people do their work for them in order to keep a boss off their own back. This employee is the master of upward delegation. They seem so calm and disinterested, you wonder if they even have a pulse.

Wanna name names of those you work with that fit this description? I’m sure you can.

Look, if you want to create a vibrant business culture of excitement and success, the Vanillains need to be shown the door. These folks are beyond rehabilitation and will drain your department without you even knowing how destructive they are until they are let go. Stop accepting Vanillain behavior, for the sake of your team, your customer and the bottom line.