By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. I recently hired a guy who is very smart, but I knew he was really self-absorbed and entitled. I thought his resume and skill set would be worth his demanding attitude. I'm finding that he is pawning projects off on coworkers, lying to me about what he has done, and blaming everyone but himself for problems. What can I do now, and how can I avoid this in the future?
A. What you can do now is to sit down and spell out a performance plan complete with penalties. Realize that this guy isn't going to change. Make sure you consult with your human resource and legal staff to figure out the fastest way to fire him when he fails to meet goals.
In the future, avoid a common human tendency to refuse to see fundamental character problems in other people. Many managers will hire narcissists, drama kings/queens or professional victims and believe these employees will change their spots. If you enjoy believing in unicorns, fairies and other mythical creatures, you can hire these people and spend your time hoping and suffering. Otherwise, just say, "No!"
Social psychologists tell us that personality after the age of 30 is pretty much like concrete. Very few adults change much or at all after this age. When you are interviewing an adult you are getting information not just about what they can do but also who they are.
Talented managers can always mentor a bright employee in learning new skills. However, the most brilliant manager in the world cannot change the foundational personality of an employee. Even in therapy it takes years for adults to really change their core habits.
We all know if we are buying a house, we shouldn't even consider a building with a broken foundation. So what are the reasons that so many of us will consider an employee with core emotional issues?
If you came from a family that was dysfunctional, you'll be particularly vulnerable to wanting to save dysfunctional people. At some level, you'll feel good if you attempt to save the same type of people you grew up around.
If you consider yourself to be really competent, you might like the challenge of volunteering to save employees with fatal flaws. Being a savior will seem noble until you start feeling like the victim of the poor soul you thought you were saving.
You may also be tempted if you like to see the best rather than the reality in people. Just like Charlie Brown in the comic strip, you may valiantly try kicking that football every time Lucy offers to hold it for you. You will also find yourself flat on your back because Lucy is mean and will pull away the ball as you put yourself off balance trying to kick.
Seeing the world as it is rather than as we believe it should be can be demoralizing at first. Seeing reality can also cause us to grieve for our ideals. However, unless you enjoy suffering, drama and powerlessness, playing pretend at work will just make you miserable and ineffective.
Next interview, look at the personality, not just the skill set, of your potential employee. Look for accountability, resiliency and empathy. No amount of brilliance can make up for a personality you can't manage.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). Contact her at www.interpersonaledge.com
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This was printed in the October 20, 2013 - November 2, 2013 Edition