I’m always intrigued when people respond to identical situations in startlingly different ways. Some don’t hesitate to push back when pushed, while others look beaten and willingly retreat. Skeptics question everything. Believers have no doubts. Introverts, extraverts, rebels, diplomats, leaders, followers, opportunists and procrastinators all, somehow, find their way into this world. 

But what happens when they all find their way into your company?

  • How do you manage such starkly contrasting personalities?
  • Do you really know who’s who?
  • Can you spot fakers? 

Hiring new employees and managing existing personnel can be a painstakingly hit-or-miss process when you can only guess at a person’s specific needs, expectations, traits and motivators. How can you confidently bring a new employee on board when all you have to go by is a well-polished resume, a friendly interview and, perhaps, some very flattering testimonials from your candidate’s “excellent” — but likely also very biased — references? Unwittingly hiring an outwardly friendly but inwardly passive person to aggressively sell your products will almost always prove disastrous! And taking on a less-than-meticulous CSR is sure to be a very expensive mistake.  

Candidates may look the part, sound the part and seem so accomplished you become convinced they’re perfect for the job. However, the frustrating reality is that some of these applicants know all too well how to play the interview game and will not hesitate to improvise, stretch the truth, guess, charm, or, even flat-out lie, when they must. Too often it’s what you think you see that you don’t get; a common complaint of hiring managers is that their new employee seemed so promising at first, then started exhibiting inappropriate behavior, decreased productivity, an increasing amount of ineptitude or some gut-wrenching combination of all of these! 

Employees are risky investments. They’ll either boost your company’s bottom line or chip away at it – dollar by dollar, day by day. A smart hiring decision scores a win, makes you feel good; a bad hiring decision is a loss — of both time and money. And whether you’re willing to face it or not, you, and everyone around you, will have good reason to question your decision-making skills! 

The risks of taking on the unknown go way beyond just hiring. It’s also impossible to successfully manage existing staff members when you have no idea what motivates them. Some employers make the costly mistake of treating everyone the same way or the way they themselves like to be treated, thinking this not only makes life easier but also ensures consistency, equity and efficiency in the workplace. Think about it, though. The reality is that “one-size-fits-all” never fits anyone well! 

This style of management seldom works long term and often leads to mutual dissatisfaction, frustration and sub-par performances; employers see disappointing workers as slackers, while unhappy subordinates conclude their boss is just a really bad manager. This kind of ongoing discontent typically leads first to arguments and then to terminations or resignations. 

Managing Different Personalities

It’s easier than you might think to find ways to motivate the individuals who are your staff. Keep lines of communication open and be ready to adapt your managerial tactics, at least to some extent, when overseeing a group of people. You may normally be a “hands-off” boss, the type who lays out some general objectives then expects subordinates to resolve their own dilemmas, devise their own plans and think for themselves. While your independently minded employees will embrace this approach, those who want input and guidance from you will not; make an effort to stay available to them. Know your own behavior, appreciate the differences in the individual personalities of your staff, then figure out who’s who. 

Knowing Who’s Who

While it may take time to uncover a person’s true work pace, level of assertiveness and need for structure, personality can usually be assessed more quickly. Outgoing individuals are easy to spot. They’re talkative and seem to promote themselves well. They’re full of life and usually not afraid to seem a little silly, take themselves less seriously.

However, these people are not necessarily aggressive or competitive, so hiring one of them to sell your products or assume a position of high-ranking authority might be the wrong move. You need to be sure they can capitalize on their infectious charm and sparkling personality by pressing hard enough to put business first, meet goals, and achieve objectives. Be on guard against would-be employees who seem too good to be true. They may be just that. 

Spotting Fakers

Some people will do or say almost anything to get hired. They’re able to present themselves as one person in the interview, while their true self, the one they don’t want you to see, is kept well hidden. For example, self-confidence, like beauty, is sometimes only skin deep. Dig into a personality and you may find that your seemingly strong, solid, self-assured applicant is really just a conscientious, eager-to-please accommodator who’s  prepared well for the interview and learned what to say, how to respond, where to stand and what to wear in order to impress you. 

Behavioral Assessments

Employers looking to reduce the financial losses associated with excessive turnover are becoming increasingly aware of how vital it is to hire the right applicants and understand the behavior of their employees — and they’re utilizing personality assessment tools to help them do this. The goal is to find the best possible candidates for open positions and key in to the hot and cold buttons of existing staff members.

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