Merge's Blog

Is persistence and tenacity always a good thing?

tenacityPersistence and tenacity in action …

Every morning as the sun rose, the spider that lived in the large azalea bush on the side of the garden path began the intricate and painstaking task of spinning a web. First he produced a fine thread to drift on a faint breeze across the narrow path towards the other side. When the thread caught on a leaf of the rhododendron bush on the opposite edge of the pathway, the spider felt the change in vibration and reeled it in to tighten the strand. Then he carefully walked along it and strengthened it with a second filament, and a third, and a fourth, and several more, until the thread was strong enough to support the rest of the web. Next he made the Y-shaped netting to create the first three radials and continued to add more radials and cross threads until the web was about 20 times his size. The result: something that was not only beautiful but also a means of survival (that’s how spiders catch their prey). But there was one major problem with this particular web – the spider was building it directly on the garden path, spanning from one side of the path to the other. So every time someone walked down that path, which was at least twice a day, the web was broken.

Yet as I watched, for eight days in a row, every morning, as the sun rose, the spider began, once again, the intricate and painstaking task of spinning a web. As I watched this spider, I thought about how it embodied persistence and tenacity. Yet I knew, as surely as I understood that the sun would rise the next morning, that all the persistence and tenacity in the world would get this particular spider nowhere.

It got me thinking further about whether such situations ever occur in our workplaces. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where persistence and tenacity simply cannot overcome the existing environment? I have always considered determination and drive to be important and valuable character traits. But there are times when, as leaders, we need to realize that doing the same thing over and over again with doggedness and diligence will never get us to a successful outcome.

But where is that line? How do we know when should we persist and when should we pack it in? Would love to hear your thoughts.


  • Good question Merge! This is often a dilemma for manager’s dealing with poor performance of unmotivated employees. How long do you continue to provide attention to this employee, which may be to the detriment of the relationship with other employees? If you apply the “Diffusion of Innovation” model to performance, then you would ignore the “laggarts” focusing more on “early and late majority”. Cut your loses early and stay focussed on positive results is not a bad message for maintaining sanity.

  • I agree Claude, but to play the “devil’s advocate”, have there not been many situations where, in hindsight, we may have thrown in the towel too early? I think that ultimately it comes down to judgment … but it’s definitely not an easy answer!


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