Five people to avoid, as you recruit to scale up your business

‘May you be safe, may you be happy, may you be without suffering and may you be at ease, as you build your business’ was her mentor’s blessing. Inviting the wrong people into your business can be the biggest contributor to early burnout, says Sreela Banerjee. In her view, women are more likely to apply this joined-up thinking, with a view to side-stepping avoidable stress. Self-efficacy has a lot to do with it.  She calls on Shakespeare to help make her point.

So, you are expanding and recruiting the first two people who will join you in your journey. This is difficult recruitment, and in some ways is a bit like choosing friends. This person needs to share your vision, and be supportive. So what are you looking for, when you make the first appointment?  Here are five thoughts to keep in mind as you get to know potential new partners :

1. Wallowing in negativity? Leave this person alone, until they work their way out of this frame of mind.

Have you ever felt coming out of a cup of coffee with someone, that somehow you feel drained? If you think back over your various encounters, do your find that most of the time, this person is angry and resentful, suspicious of everyone?  We all know someone like that. I’m not just talking about the negativity bias, from which we all suffer to a greater or lesser extent. I’m talking about a constant wallowing in the negative, as a habitual way of being.

“Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so” said William Shakespeare.  Constant negative thinking is often toxic; it might be due to clinical depression but there is no doubt that it can end up destroying relationships.  If you love such a person get them some help.  But minimise your contact with this person. You might feel you are being unkind for doing so, but this is one situation where your own health and that of your business comes first. Move along.

2. Celebrating greed – or is it healthy competition? Take another look

So much of our culture tells us to want more, achieve more, earn more. And to a degree that kind of desire and ambition is what makes a society succeed. Look at the work of Niall Ferguson, for more theories about why the western world was so successful. He argues persuasively for consumerism – but if greed is obvious, ask yourself : Will that level of personal ambition fit in with your corporate aims? That is the pertinent question.

3. Controlling behaviour – undermining your objectives? Steer clear

Controlling people know absolutely everything – that is the first thing that often becomes apparent. Subtly, the controller will hijack any agreed plan (usually at the last minute) so the outcome is what they wanted it to be in the first place.  Here are some professional guidelines for spotting controlling behaviour.  It is hard to work out what is happening of course, at first.

But when you spot it, what do you do?  When you ask questions are you getting a believable set of ‘I don’t really know, but I guess this might be so – it will take me a week or so to take a view.’? If so, carry on the conversation – they don’t apparently know it all, thank goodness. I may be wrong, but it is unlikely that your business success is on his/her agenda. Neither is your well being, and particularly if you are building your business, you need to be well first.

4. Making a virtue of jealousy? It may bring you down in the end

Those plagued with envy or jealousy are  incapable of being happy when good things happen to anyone else.  We all know someone like this. After all huge businesses are built on this human trait – Facebook depends on envy as its currency of choice, right?

They think that if you are cheering for a friend, then you are either insincere, or a fool.  Keep away, lest it touch you and change you. It is an age old thing – Shakespeare again –  Othello kept hanging around Iago, and believing him – this is what he says after he has killed his beloved Desdemona :

‘…not easily jealous, but being wrought
Perplex’d in the extreme; … whose hand,
Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away
Richer than all his tribe’.

Don’t invite jealousy into your life or your business. You will spot the difficulty in how their intervention is phrased. Comparisons slightly unfavourable to you, made consistently? Consider the CV again, and see if all those other skills which brought the person to the chair opposite outweigh this factor.

5. The perpetual victim? You didn’t sign on for the role of scapegoat.

Potentially one of the most dangerous people you can have around you is the perpetual victim. How do you spot one? Easily – everything has an ‘external’ cause or explanation; they never take ownership of their own lives.

They have what experts in the field call a lack of a sense of ‘agency‘ – they look at their own issues and mistakes and always find others to blame, from their work colleagues and friends to their own parents, partners, or even children. It is almost impossible to help someone like this, even if you are their chosen mentor – because whatever you do, you will inevitably end up on that list of people whose fault it was for something that went wrong in their own lives or careers.

What to ask at interview if this is what you suspect?   Anything which seeks an explanation of a change point in the CV in front of you – listen for attributions of blame elsewhere. More than two or three? Look through the CV again to check what skills and experience might make you still want them in your team.

Image: negative vibes via Shutterstock

1 thought on “Five people to avoid, as you recruit to scale up your business”

  1. Great article Sreela. I part own a small family run business that has been operating for over 35 years. It is vital our day to day activities run like clockwork and most of our employees can do several different rolls, so if someone is ill or away on vacation things keep moving as normal. We work as close team and depend heavily on each other. Some years ago we employed a person who had a classic case of perpetual victim. Until then I had not come across anybody like this and to be honest I was unsure how to deal with them. As a company we understand that know body can get things right all the time but this person, even with ample training, was getting the basics wrong time and time again, slowing down the rest of the workforce. Each time errors were addressed external factors were to blame. They took absolutely no responsibility for their actions. It had a real impact on productivity and team moral. No good at all!


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