Creative Leadership

The 5 People I’ll Never Hire Again

Working with our team at Cooke Media Group, I’ve produced hundreds of film and video projects over the years, and in the process hired thousands of people. I’ve worked on every continent, and about 50 countries. After all that experience hiring and sometimes firing, these are the five types of people – on a film set or in the office – I will never hire again:

The Whiner – This is the guy who you just can’t please. He doesn’t like the hours, the food, or the other people on the crew. Trying to help him just invites a new list of things he isn’t happy about. A whiner is ultimately unhappy with himself, so there’s really nothing you can do to make him change. So make yourself happy and hire someone else.

The Debater – I had a actress once who debated (or argued) about everything – and not just stuff related to the project. She loved to discuss theology and issues surrounding the Bible. So all day long she would bring up issues like “Does God exist?” or “Can we believe the Bible?” All interesting subjects, but not on a film shoot under pressure! I’m trying to direct the crew, and she’s debating the virgin birth with the sound engineer. Honestly, she wore me (and everyone else) out. Hire people who are sensitive to what’s happening around them, and know how to be in the right moment at the appropriate time.

Mr. Negative –  This guy was so negative that when he walked into a room, it actually felt like someone had walked out. Constantly finding fault, always trying to point out why my ideas wouldn’t work. I appreciate realistic feedback, not constantly negative feedback. While a Whiner reminds everyone how unhappy HE is, a Negative person points out what’s wrong with YOU and your ideas.  I honestly think he was trying to help, but you can’t have that much negativity around you and survive. I’m happy to let him be a downer for someone else.

Chatty Cathy –  Remember the “Chatty Cathy” doll?  You pulled a string and she’d start talking.  But sometimes she got stuck and wouldn’t stop.  This was a woman who couldn’t keep her mouth shut – ever. In client meetings, she had an opinion about everything – even things she knew nothing about. I pulled her aside time after time, but she just wouldn’t learn. She didn’t respect authority, or the rules of civility. A serial interrupter, she alienated clients who could never get a word in. I had to let her go just so I could hear myself think.

His Way or No Way –  I like my team to be creative and think for themselves, but this guy had to do everything his own way. With a team, you can hash things out, but you eventually need to come to a consensus and move forward together. Not this guy. He had to do it his way or no way. Nothing destroys unity like someone who will not play his or her part. I decided to let him be independent on his own, and I hired someone else.

Creating a great team is a delicate balance. But part of the secret is getting the right people together to begin with. Always be vigilant about bringing the right people to the table from the start. It makes it so much easier to do great work.

How about you? What are the type of people will you never work with again?


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  1. 1. Just read your book OBT. Got it for Christmas and finished it last night.
    Loved it.
    Helped my with a few little things that were BIG roadblocks.
    2. I see parts of myself in all 5 of these (at times)…
    : /

    1. Thanks, and I know what you mean. We’re all flawed human beings, but when we let one negative trait overwhelm all the others, it becomes a serious problem. As Aristotle said, “Know Thyself.” Thanks for posting!

  2. The one I will never work with again has an ax to grind with the universe and they have chosen me to chop away their frustrations on. It usually sounds like, “But you’re just jealous of me” or cloak it in religious terms, “But that’s not what God is telling me.” I lost a very fruitful ministry to international students because I let the wrong people near the work. PAINFUL lesson learned.

  3. Great article! As one of the troops-in-the-trenches, I would have to say if I had my choice, I would not work for someone who values the stick (bile-type sarcasm and disparaging comments against an individual/work in front of their team) is a better method of motivation and self-esteem-building. I also struggle with leaders who are unwilling to recognize they lack knowledge. I’d rather a leader recognize that they lack something, and rely on their support staff to help until the leader is up to speed. (Hmmm, I did not intend to be so long winded!)

  4. The Whiner, Negative, Debater, Chatty & His Way are identified by Littauer as negative sides to the basic personality types.

    Positives: Relationship and People skills, great in front of a crowd.
    Negatives: Left unbalanced, they can trend toward Chatty Cathy or Debater (if they also have Choleric strengths).

    Positives: Born leader, visionary, naturally has a plan of attack, innately knows how to get things done.
    Negatives: Left unbalanced, they can trend toward debater, workaholic, controlling.

    Positives: A good team resource who is detail oriented, striving for perfection, aware of potential issues with regulations, laws, schedules, etc. Great with scheduling and financial issues.
    Negatives: Left unbalanced, they can trend toward avoiding personal relations, obsessed with punctuality, needing a schedule, wanting others to be perfect.

    Positives: Adaptive, mellow, pleasant, respond well to leadership, great team players, peacemakers. (Your favorite personality type?).
    Negatives: Can become too laid back, not self starters, let others decide too much, too compromising.

    Your uncomfort with the personalities described is very telling. Basically, you are a strong leader (Choleric) who is not looking for another “boss”. The “problem traits” you list are quite common with self employed persons as they don’t answer to anyone on a regular basis and, therefore, haven’t needed to become balanced. They all have at least a small piece of the choleric. Your greatest discomfort, I’m guessing, would be with the “His Way” personality, who is merely another born leader…and that person needs to be in a situation where they can have some authority.

    There is great liberation in coming to an understanding of the personality types which puts you in the driver’s seat of your emotions, and reduces the drama of personality conflicts. You can actually come to the point of enjoying the benefits of each personality as you view the interactions and maximize (manipulate) the potential of each team player.

    1. Actually John, I’m more of a Sanguine personality on this scale. (Likewise, on the DISC profile, I’m an off the chart “I” person.) As you say in the Sanguine profile, I do have some Choleric, but I’m more of a “people person” than a strong leader. (Can I also say just how much I hate the terms Littauer came up with? Who in the world wants to be “Phlegmatic”????
      Good stuff John, thanks for posting!

  5. I’ve had the unfortunate “pleasure” of working with: The Criticizer- they used it to control, bully and harass. From how you opened a door, talk on the phone or personal working order of tasks, it was always wrong. Nothing was right and could only be done by them, but it never got done and landed back in your lap… too late. Critical people are not user friendly.

    The Charismatic Charmer- will charm you to no end and make you believe they’ll deliver the goods when, where and how you want it…. but they don’t, and they never have, yet people believe them because they’re so convincing. They’ve graduated from the BS school with honors. They’ll take your organization’s reputation to the bottom.

    The Gossip – this person talks about co-workers every chance they get. Their work time is spent in non-stop gossiping. They pit co-workers against each other. They’ll make you believe you can trust them because and they would NEVER talk about you… until you hear what they just said about you from three other people in the same hour. This person is non-productive and toxic.

    It’s always best to not rehire those who were fired no matter how desperate you are to fill a position. I had a boss who hired back people (who they once fired) who stole from the ministry, a horrible gossip who caused lots of problems, insubordination, a contractor who had recently sexually assaulted an employee (who was still employed there), and considered bringing back a notorious bully…. all because a position needed to be filled and they knew how to do it.

    Desperation meets stupidity.

  6. Excellent list. I would add “Mr. Know-It-All,” who is a close cousin of Cliff Clavin on “Cheers.” He is an expert on how every one else should do their jobs, constantly offering unsolicited advice at which times he often transitions into Mr. Negative above. Often his “expertise” in the jobs of others does not translate into skill at his own assignment. Other times he might transform into Mr. His-Way-or-No-Way and, therefore, unteachable and inflexible. Refusing to hire Mr. Know-It-All, no matter how good his resume and reel appear, is ultimately an act of mercy…for other employees, the client, and myself.

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