The most annoying co-worker, employee, or boss you’ve ever had: Who was it? And what did he or she do to drive you nearly certifiable?
If you’re like most people, this little exercise proved a little too easy, with someone coming immediately to mind, despite your best efforts to permanently banish this person from memory.
Coworkers who have, shall we say, troubling personality traits can undermine productivity and morale, alienate customers, and do lasting damage to their employers. But there’s good news, especially for those of you involved in the hiring process. You can identify people with troubling traits before extending job offers – and spare yourself and your colleagues the enduring trauma.
What to Look For
Let’s face it, job candidates are rather unlikely to exhibit or self-report troubling personality traits during the interview process. But a high-quality personality assessment, particularly one based on what psychologists refer to as the Big Five, will yield scientifically reliable results regarding the probability of bad behavior and performance.
We’ve written about the Big Five before. They are to the crucial personality traits that are most predictive of workplace success:
- Neuroticism (aka emotional stability)
A valid Big Five assessment does not yield binary results, such as extraverted or introverted. Instead, it discovers and declares where individuals stand on the spectrum for each of these traits. This is an important distinction for the purpose of trying to determine who will manifest troubling personality traits. Why? Because trouble is generally found at the extreme ends of these spectrums.
Too Much of “Good” Thing
It’s easy to see why a person with too little of a Big Five characteristic would be a problem. A person who scores low on agreeableness or conscientiousness is unlikely to make a good employee, for obvious reasons.
But what about on the other end of the spectrum? Who doesn’t want a very conscientious employee, right?
Well, a person at the extreme end of the conscientiousness spectrum can become consumed by a single preoccupation and fail to see the forest for the trees, or become such a perfectionist that nothing ever gets off his desk and deadlines are rarely, if ever, made. It’s not hard to imagine how this would thwart an organization with multiple objectives to accomplish (meaning every organization) and drive co-workers mad.
What’s more, the most exaggerated workaholics tend to dwell at the remote end of conscientiousness. These are people who do not have lives outside of work and have little tolerance for colleagues who do have other priorities.
Those at extremes edges of agreeableness may be very nice people, indeed, but they can also be pushovers. And such an employee may prove incapable of holding on to his own opinions and values in the face of even the weakest opposition. He may need constant approval and be so risk-averse that initiative and innovation are impossible. Moreover, these folks may come to resent others for what they themselves cannot resist: constantly bending over to care for and accommodate colleagues, customers, etc.
I could walk you through examples for the remaining elements of the Big Five, but I think you get the point.
Change is Hard
I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking that change is impossible when it comes to personality and behavior. We humans are eminently capable of development and growth. Interaction with other people and environments can be helpful, and experience is vitally important.
Still, employers need to think very, very carefully about hiring anyone at the far ends of the spectrum on the Big Five traits. This is not an exaggeration; it is serious. I don’t recommend entering a professional relationship with someone on the premise that such traits will change for the better.
Conversely, I highly recommend that you use a personality assessment when hiring, regardless of what kind of business you’re in. After all, a bad hire is way more expensive than a good one. To request a demo of Traitify’s revolutionary personality assessment solution, just click here.