Health HAZARDs at work

Some years ago we were doing lot of busi-
ness with broadcasting organisation. I became well acquainted with one of their mid-level executives. This guy, who was in his mid-40s, always impressed me with his acumen and his character.
But I was puzzled by his diminished status at the organisation. He was clearly brighter than his bosses, many of whom were several years younger than he was. So I asked him how he got shoved off the fast track.
“There are two reasons,” he said. “One, I’m not ambitious. Clawing my way to the top isn’t that important. Two, I’m not good judge of character. I trust everyone. So, people have disappointed me.”
There’s tonne of wisdom in that remark. If there’s one quality that separates the winners from the also-rans in business, it isn’t brains or ambition. It’s the ability to gauge another person’s character correctly.
Winners know who to trust and avoid; who will support them or who will slow them down. They look at an organisation’s personnel as if it were cast of characters in play. Then they pick out the heroes and villains, and proceed accordingly.
I don’t think we’re born with the ability to judge character; it’s an acquired skill. You mentally note what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour, then you see who meets the standard and who doesn’t.
But first you need to set your standards. Here are eight character flaws to identify the most dangerous people in the workplace.

1. People who never do what they say they will
In my experience small percentage of people are always true to their word. The majority of people usually keep their promises, then there’s the small percentage who rarely do, and don’t think it’s problem. They are flawed and dangerous. You can’t avoid them, but you can’t rely on them. If they disappoint you twice, shame on you.

2. People who push their work on you
Either through ignorance or strategic incompetence, they’re always shunting their responsibilities onto someone else. They’re easy to identify; delegate to them, they’ll return it half done. They bound the problem back to you. These people can kill your career, because they are asking you to do the work of two people.

3. People who are late and don’t apologise
This is more than poor manners; it’s personal attack on you. They’re saying their time is more valuable than yours. Avoid them.

4. People who tell you, “I’m too busy”
People who are truly busy don’t admit it, or boast about it.

5. People who are always drowning
Some people are mysteriously unlucky. They complain about their colleagues, customers, clients and careers. Perhaps it’s this non-stop negativity, but nothing ever goes right. Keep away. They’ll infect you with their misery.

6. People who steal your ideas
No one wants to associate with thief. But some people are so adept at borrowing your creativity, they don’t see it as crime. They praise your idea, team up with you to develop it, and before long have blurred all evidence of your original authorship. Trust the wrong people with your ideas and they not only advance at your expense, they’ll eat away at your soul.

7. People who reject your ideas (because they didn’t think of it first)
I’m not sure which person is more dangerous — the one who steals your idea because he knows it’s good or the one who buries it because it came from you. Don’t discard the idea. Try another audience.

8. People who won’t let you off the hook
There’s something to be said for being rigid and demanding, for expecting everyone to keep their word. But nothing is absolute. Total inflexibility is flaw.
One of the pleasures of doing business with friends is that you always have cushion for unforeseen error. Friends will let you back out of promise, if, through no fault of your own, circumstances arise that prevent you from keeping it.
If business associate is so unyielding that they can’t bend when you’re in trouble, they’re no friend. As general rule you only need one incident to learn this about someone.

Mark McCormack is the founder of International Management Group.

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