3 Personality Types You Don’t Want on Your Staff

May 1, 2009

Negative Nellie, Bitter Betty… Sound familiar? Here’s our advice on spotting a spoiler.


We’ve all had the experience of supervising or working with a nightmare colleague - Negative Nellies, Aggressive Adams, Bitter Betties, and many more. The trick is not to hire these culture killers in the first place. But even the most seasoned recruiters admit to being duped by people who, during interviews, seem perfectly pleasant, only to turn into rattlesnakes once they get the job.

What works best? Instead of asking potential employees what they would do in a given situation, ask what they have done in a variety of past situations. That should help foil the fakers who’ve already studied the common hypotheticals and trained themselves to give “the right” answers. When recounting their actual work experiences interviewees are much more likely to inadvertently complain, criticize, disdain, blame, or raise other red flags.

Read the descriptions below, or download our easy to reference grid to hire smarter and avoid the headaches:

The Office Martyr

Who he is. He’s constantly reminding everyone how underappreciated he is, and forever seeking approval and recognition for all the hard work he thinks he’s putting in. Office Martyrs are annoying, often unproductive, and, umm, did we mention annoying?

What to ask. “Describe a time when you went above and beyond at work.” “Describe your work style and how many hours you tend to work each week.”

What to listen for. Given the opportunity to pontificate on his greatness, the Office Martyr tends to exaggerate his workload and self-sacrifice. If he’s telling you that no one works as hard as he does and he essentially carries the whole office on his back, steer clear.

The Not-My-Job-er

Who she is. She’s never willing to do anything beyond the four corners of her written job description. She’s constantly passing the buck or task and hiding her slacker tendencies behind her familiar refrain: “That’s not my job.”

What to ask. “Tell me about a time you reached out for additional responsibility.” “Describe your role on a team you’ve been part of at work” “How would your colleagues describe you?”

What to listen for. The Not-My-Job-er is a classic blame-shifter. After arriving late for the interview (and blaming the weather), she’ll answer most questions with excuses. If she starts to tell you about how she would have been successful had her colleagues not held her back, show her the door.

The Territorialist

Who she is. A.K.A. control freak, information hoarder, and data miser. The Territorialist builds a moat around her tasks and job knowledge and won’t let anyone across. Her path to job security is to make sure that no one else knows anything about what she’s doing or how she’s doing it.

What to ask. “Have you ever been in an office situation where there was a conflict of responsibility and if so, how did you handle it?” “Describe a frustration you have about your current position.”

What to listen for. She’s unlikely to say directly that she uses knowledge as power over her colleagues, but since the Territorialist truly believes that she is the only one who can really do the job right, her stories may reveal a loner mentality. If the word “we” isn’t in her interview vocabulary, send her back to her castle.

Abigail Beckel is the managing editor for Physicians Practice. She can be reached at mailto:abigail.beckel@cmpmedica.com.

This article originally appeared in the May 2009 issue of Physicians Practice.