Episode 129: What are the worst types of people for a team?
Have you heard the old joke about the difference between Heaven and Hell? In Heaven, it says: the French are the chefs, the Italians are the lovers, the British are the police, the Germans are the mechanics and the Swiss make everything run on time. In Hell: The British are the chefs, the Swiss are the lovers, the French are the mechanics, the Italians make everything run on time and the Germans are the police. Hell as we know, is not meant to be the perfect world.
In a perfect world we would all be perfect and nice to each other. We would get on well and everybody would be happy. Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world. It’s full of people who make your work life more difficult. Bad team members can be a cancer for both your team and its chances of achieving its objectives.
Here are the 5 types of people who exist in my work Hell and who I want off my teams.
1. The enthusiastic amateur
“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” Red Adair, Firefighter
I have not been a great lover of the amateur in business, even an enthusiastic one. There is a sense that if you give someone long enough they will get the right answer. The problem I have is that they tend to go through a lot of wrong answers first. That is why Red Adair implies it’s expensive to hire an amateur. When the author Steven Pressfield talked about the habits of people he said, “The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits.”
So does this mean we should never hire someone without the right experience? Well, it depends what we mean by experience. Employees can bring many skills to the table and not all of them are necessarily related to the task. Additionally, we all have to keep learning and can not be ‘professionals’ at everything we do. When putting someone on a team, we need to be clear what they bring to the table, what we expect them to contribute and where they need to learn.
Our job at work is to meet our objectives in the best way we can, often in the shortest period of time possible. We can argue the need to train new members for the team but we should avoid being led by people who are ‘making it up as they go along.’
2. The passive-aggressive
Over the years, the most commented on episode of The 3 Minute Mentor is the one on dealing with Passive Aggressive Behavior. Wikipedia describes Passive-Aggressive behavior as an “indirect expression of hostility, such as through procrastination, stubbornness, sullenness, or deliberate or repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks for which one is (often explicitly) responsible.” At work it is simpler to classify it as “saying ‘yes’ to avoid saying no, which is actually what you plan to do.”
If you believe in H-I-T (Honesty-Integrity-Transparency) in the workplace you owe it to the team and yourself to be honest about your intentions. The conflict this may cause is of course what people are trying to avoid, but that conflict may actually be helpful because you may be right. Avoiding the conflict and just saying “yes” is wrong, and may put the mission of the group at risk.
We can all fall into passive-aggressive behavior – to go-along-to-get-along – but in reality it’s a cancer that damages a high performing team. Either the behavior needs to be eliminated or the people will need to be!
3. The perfectionist
What links Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Tyra Banks and Martha Stewart?
The answer is that you can find quotes where they call themselves perfectionists. Not being a psychologist, I can not tell you the value of being a perfectionist to artists and achievers like this. Maybe to reach the highest levels of achievement as an individual you need to think this way. You can also find quotes about working for these stars – they are often called obsessive and difficult.
Being part of a team requires some level of negotiation and agreement. There will always be something that you might want to do differently than the team but to complete the mission you agree to put your view aside. The Passive-Aggressive agrees to the ‘compromise’ but doesn’t act on it, but The Perfectionist will typically want it their way or not at all. In the end, this can stall a team and make achieving the mission impossible unless The Perfectionist is ignored. This will either lose them from the team or turn them into a passive-aggressive. If you want to know if you maybe a perfectionist, check out this page called “10 Ways To Tell If You Are A Perfectionist.” Are you guilty or not guilty?
4. The “brilliant jerk”
Teams can be sensitive and delicate. Their success requires compromise and balance. We have seen how people like The Perfectionist can damage a team but there are others that are equally dangerous. While we all want the brightest and smartest on our teams, we should however avoid what Netflix CEO Reed Hastings calls the “brilliant jerk.”
It doesn’t matter how smart you are if no one wants to work with you. Worse, if you put a Brilliant Jerk on your team, because of how smart they are, no one will want to work with them.
There is a great article by Marty Fukuda, Chief Operating Officer of N2 Publishing on entrepeneur.com giving reasons not to hire The Brilliant Jerk but it comes down to chemistry. At the end of the day people do not want to work with ‘assholes’ regardless of how smart they are.
5. The shirker
While we may create teams as ‘learning experiences’, typically at work we create teams to get something done. That means there will be actions, follow-ups and to-dos. Therefore, another person to avoid having on your team is The Shirker. Wikipedia defines a shirker as “one who shirks a duty or responsibility.”
In a team, we define The Shirker as the one “who never takes any actions.” Typically, they are the person that is happy to contribute and give other people work but never take it for themselves. Worse, they maybe the one that takes actions, often under peer pressure, but never achieves them. Not for the same reasons as The Passive Aggressive (who never intended to) but just because, oh well, many reasons. Starting with ‘the dog ate my homework.’
More dangerously the shirker can be one who tries to avoid being part of the decision making processes. They believe that by not being part of the decision, they will have ‘plausible deniability’ should the decision turn out to be a bad one. Of course this seldom works out that way but you will hear them say, “I never thought that was the right decision.” Trust me, it’s never too early for them to leave the team.
A team is only as strong as its members. If I have the power or the opportunity, these are the first people I get out of the way of getting work done.
Can you see these people in your work world? Maybe you have a type you would like to add to the list. Let me know.