Teams are hard work. That hard work is often made all the more difficult by people who continually dish out critical, jarring words and actions but repeatedly get offended or wounded when their behavior is reciprocated. Here’s a quick sampling of things that these prickly porcupines do on the offense but can’t abide when they’re on the defense.

Constructive criticism.

On the offense: One way they show they can dish it out is by providing ample constructive criticism about your work.  From meaningful contributions about substantial issues right down to nit picking on the grammar, the porcupines never miss a chance to get in a jab about how your work could be improved.

On the defense: The porcupines reveal their soft underbelly when you make constructive comments about their work. The reaction might be embarrassment, annoyance, or anger, but in their own ways, they make it very clear that your help is not wanted or appreciated.


On the offense: Our spiny friends are big fans of using humor to make their points.  One-liners, lame nicknames, and revisiting of embarrassing mistakes are all hallmarks of these types.

On the defense: When things get reflected back, our porcupines aren’t so good humored.  Some might just go silent or sulk, others will dial up the attacks in an attempt to clinch the coup de grace.

Center of Attention

On the offense: When things are going their way, these folks are more than happy to be the center of attention and to take up more than their fair share of the stage.  They are quite happy to monopolize the boss’ attention or adoration and to crowd out others on the team.

On the defense: When the spotlight starts to shift to someone else or fortunes with the boss start to change, we again see the soft underbelly. In desperation they try to regain the attention of the room by becoming impatient or fidgety, interrupting, and bringing all points back to them.

Live by the sword, die by the sword.  If you’re not prepared for battle, don’t start the war. Unless you’re willing to embrace the benefits of constructive feedback, unless you’re comfortable being the punch line of the jokes, and unless you’re willing to watch as someone else steals the show, make sure you’re not expecting your teammates to put up with that kind of behavior from you.

Just because we all need to learn something new every day, here’s a cool site if you want to learn more about the porcupine.

In my next post: How to neutralize a porcupine: Dealing with the prickly person on your team.

Further Reading

Managing the Aggressor on your Team

How to Help a Teammate who is Being Defensive

Sarcasm is an Awesome Way to Make your Point… Really!

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