Sadly a leopard doesn’t change its spots or? | HR Memories

Can people change hard-wired behavioral traits? It’s easier to change habits than those deep-rooted traits that come out of nowhere. I know of only two people who were successful. Both were the result of very serious near-death experiences and neither one lasted more than a year or two even though they received positive feedback on their “new personality.”

Courtesy of the mad jewess through Google

Courtesy of the mad jewess through Google

During a recent shopping trip I ran into a woman I knew from my former job. She had been downsized and was now working in retail.

Just a little background — She was quite a character. Likeable but she couldn’t handle stress. Things like deadlines turned her into a short-tempered maniac. She would scream or be sarcastic to her co-workers or boss. She was an equal opportunity screamer. She didn’t care who you were. She just knew she needed to get something done and you were threatening that by your exasperating stupidity.

After an incident she would end up with her manager in my office. She was always contrite. She knew she snapped at people but in real-time she couldn’t stop herself. I believed she was sincere but that didn’t make her a favorite of anyone.

I tried to teach her different techniques to change the behavior. They worked for a while and then bam! She was back in my office with an unhappy manager.

Over the years I saw a lot of her. Don’t get me wrong. She was a good worker except for that one little thing that drove everyone crazy. It didn’t happen often but when it did, it upset the workplace.

Back to now – she was working the check out register. There was a customer with their goods on her counter but she was doing something else. Finally she told the woman that she couldn’t check her out as she was leaving. The other cashier was backed up and the woman had only one item. She begged her to check her out.

“I have to go on my break!” she scolded. Now in her defense, in retail your break may be strictly scheduled. However, explaining this took longer than the transaction.

I wasn’t in a hurry so I moved into the next cashier’s line. Then I heard her call someone to take her place. Again, she was screaming about her break. It was exasperating with all these pesky customers!

In all this time she never looked up into the faces of the customers or she would have recognized me. I keep silent watching the show.

Finally the beloved husband said we should go over to the cashier on the other side of the store. She heard that and said that was where she was going (still not looking up).

At that moment someone new came and checked us out in less than a minute. In the meantime she was doing a full-blown retail version of code blue to get all the store employees to help with the registers which were backing up the wazoo but she didn’t check anyone out.

She left slightly before we did and as we walked through the store we could see her at a register at the other side of the store. I wonder if she ever got her break. Perhaps with some Valium.

So what are your experiences? Does a leopard change it spots? Better still, do they stay changed?


26 thoughts on “Sadly a leopard doesn’t change its spots or? | HR Memories

  1. I think your experiences with people changing their minds after a near death experience are similar to my impressions. After some harrowing illnesses I’ve seen people make real positive changes, but other than that, not so much. As in the example you shared, I feel badly for some people. They never quite get that their habits are the obstacles to positive social and working situations!


  2. Some people are their own worst enemy.

    “When we have conquered the enemy within, there are no enemies left to conquer” . . . but for many/most/all of us, it’s a lifetime struggle to conquer our inner impediments.


  3. GREAT Story!!! I’m glad you were not spotted 😉
    I wish the leopards would find careers, which pose less triggers for their reactions. The problem can’t be erradicated, but the frequency can and perhaps that can make them feel more integretad at work. Working solo in a tiny room might be their recipe for success 🙂


  4. People can change, but they have to want to change. And from what I can tell, people don’t want to face up to their probs so they never want to change. The result? The rest of us have to deal with these lazy nimrods who do nothing but cause trouble. Meh.


  5. I’ve seen a success story here and there – when the screaming and hysteria was truly a result of a specific instance as opposed to a mode of standard operation. Otherwise, I’d agree with all of your followers – hope is stronger than reality. People may express an understanding that they need to change, but few really do anything about it.


  6. I like to think people can change, though I have yet to see a “success story” in my experience. But I still hold on to the hope that its possible.


    • I do think it is possible so I always hold out hope. For behaviors related to personality I think it’s really hard. If you have been losing your temper for 40 years it’s going to take a lot of work.


  7. I think this type of person usually has something else going on in their life and they let the frustration out inappropriately. Still no excuse…but it must be miserable being them.


  8. The worst part is these people don’t even really know there is something wrong with them. And no, I don’t think they can change. Escaping from her is the better part of valor.


  9. At one time, customer service was more important than anything else.
    She’s probably really unhappy working in retail – not to mention missing out on many opportunities for power plays.
    We have a couple of women at one local post office like that. Flat disagreeable and they seem to look for any reason to not work, move as slow as possible, less than helpful, and any talk is sullen, rude with no eye contact. If we need postal counter help – we will drive to another post office – it’s that unpleasant.


  10. No, my experience is that they don’t change their spots.

    I’ve worked with some real doozies — some screamers, some stealers (steal your ideas and take all the credit), some let-me-tell-you-how-fantastic-I-ams and the like.

    Nope, they don’t change. *Sigh.

    On a happy totally-self-serving note, sometimes we get lucky enough to not just see the Karma bus but watch it run them over 🙂



  11. It’s hard to take the “it’s all about me” out of the leopard when it’s hungry for self-satisfaction. I’m glad she had been your employee to deal with…no wonder you prefer cats!


  12. Ahh, the screamer. Sadly, I don’t think leopards like this change their spots unless they are willing to really look at themselves. In their world it’s always someone else who has the problem. Aren’t you glad that you weren’t the one talking to her yet again that afternoon?

    Jobs are hard to come by-plenty of people who would cheerfully check out customers till the cows come home.


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