Steve Is A Jerk! (And Everyone Knows It But Him.)

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Author David Towler

Assessments are for more than just pre-screening applicants or testing for MS Word proficiency.

Few of us think poorly of ourselves. In fact, some would say that a lot of people actually think too highly of themselves. We’ve all met someone who is a stuffed shirt and who thinks that they walk on water every other Tuesday. They’re the people who try to one-up everyone around them, who name-drop and who reference their degrees frequently. They can be incredibly insensitive or arrogant and they usually don’t recognize the fact that others perceive them as overbearing jerks. If you’re a fan of the show “The Big Bang Theory,” think of Dr. Sheldon Cooper as a good example - sans the comedic tone.

Such people are insufferable at parties, but imagine what it’s like to have to work with someone like this, or worse, for one! Over 40 years we’ve had many clients with this problem and by the time they called us they were usually desperate to rid themselves of the person.

Most of us are not very good at seeing ourselves the way that others see us and even fewer of us try but there are ways to show problem people how they are problems. Amazingly, they often can be helped to be better; not cured or made perfect, but made tolerable.

Many people don’t know that assessments exist for more than just pre-screening applicants or for measuring skills like mechanical aptitude, math skills, customer service, sales ability and using Microsoft Word. The truth is, there are hundreds of highly effective, reliable and deadly accurate testing products for all kinds of other things that employers often don’t know about or take advantage of. These are the kinds of assessments that help organizations coach and develop individuals or change their corporate culture. They’re what we used with these next three clients.

One client, a large manufacturer had an engineer sent from head office to manage their ISO 9002 process. The guy was a real problem. He had no people skills. He was brusque, short tempered, difficult to work with, demanding, insensitive, arrogant and rude. Not surprisingly, everyone who had anything to do with him absolutely hated him! Unfortunately they needed his expertise and had no ability to fire or replace him, but he was driving them nuts.

What they needed was a way to show “Steve” that he was a jerk and how it affected those around him. They needed a way to hold up a mirror to show him how others saw him. Luckily, there’s a way to do that.

In Steve’s case, we administered a 360-degree assessment called the Management Effectiveness Profile System. It asks an individual to rate themselves on 10-point scale by answering questions about their task skills, people skills and interpersonal skills. Then the people who work with, for and who supervise the individual complete the same assessment about him or her. All of this is done completely anonymously and a customized 160-page report is generated. The individual is shown exactly where the gaps are between their self-perception and what people around them experience.

In Steve’s case it wasn’t a surprise that he ranked himself high at 8’s and 9’s almost across the board. However, his co-workers ranked him as low as a 1, 2 or 3 on the same scales in many cases. As you might expect Steve wasn’t very pleased with the results. In fact, he was so upset that his response was to dismiss it completely. He came to the debriefing meeting, threw the report on the desk and said “This is complete bulls--t! None of these people understand what I do anyway and I don’t have time for this s--t. I’m going back to work!” and he stormed out.

We began to get a sense of what they’d been dealing with.

Steve was an extreme example and the Company sent him out for 6 weeks of one-on-one counselling combined with a mandate that he either make the necessary adjustments outlined in the assessment report or go find other employment. Apparently he did and life was better for everyone.

In another case we were asked to help a senior management team gain insights into their individual attitudes, motivations, and perceptual filters. This helped to reveal the thinking styles that helped or hindered their ability to fulfill their potential and to work in a team. The 360-degree tool we used asked individuals and their peers over 240 questions and generated a personal development report that calling attention to the individual's strengths, as well as, areas needing improvement.

While debriefing one of the participants he burst into tears and explained that the report had made him realize that he was deeply unhappy in his job, was highly stressed and overworked. His marriage was on the rocks and his doctor had recently told him that he was courting a heart attack. It was a very difficult debriefing. About two years later we got a call from him. He had quit his job shortly afterwards, gotten some counselling, repaired his marriage and was calling from a yacht where he and his wife were taking a round the world cruise. He credited the assessment with showing him exactly where his difficulties lay and for providing a road map to making changes. He’d regained control over his life, saved his marriage, had lost 40 pounds and was happier than he’d been in years. He thanked us and said it was the best thing that had ever happened to him.

In the last example a company had a long-tenured shipping manager who had suddenly become very difficult to work with. Unfortunately for him, the Company had computerized everything around him and his skills simply weren’t up to the task. He was suddenly incompetent, confused and very angry. We administered several assessments including a job stress inventory and lo and behold, he registered off the scale! He was stressed out of his mind, felt like he was being intentionally pushed out and was scared of losing his job. Once the problem had been identified, the solution was easy, he was given an assistant and mentoring and things returned to normal. Only one week before they’d been talking about offering him early retirement just to get rid of him. Fixing the problem was a whole lot cheaper than recruiting and training someone new.

Assessments aren’t a cure-all but they really can help people (and companies) become better, more effective, more productive, stronger and happier.

If you or the organization you work for is struggling, if inter-departmental communication is a problem or if there are people at your work who are difficult to work with, then we can help. There are all kinds of assessments that will help address problems like fractured teams, conflict, poor leadership or interpersonal skills, development needs, job stress, workplace ‘fit’ and of course personality.

If you have a “Steve” in your office then we have a solution for you.

Some of the available titles appear below.

Campbell Hallam Team Development Survey
Dealing With Conflict Instrument
Employee Satisfaction Survey Report
Global Personality Inventory
Job Stress Survey
Leadership Development Report
Management Effectiveness Profile System
Managerial Personal Style Assessment III Test (With Career Development Report)
Occupational Personality Questionnaire - Managerial-Professional Development
Organizational Climate Workbook
Parker Team Player Survey
SigmaRADIUS 360
Thomas-Killmann Conflict Mode
Work Personality Index-II
Workplace Personality Inventory-II




Creative Organizational Design has 100s of assessment tools designed to help employers screen out other people's rejects, assess skills, aptitude, attitude and 'fit' within an organization. For more information about the options available and help selecting the best tools for your needs please contact us. David Towler is President of Creative Organizational Design, a firm offering nearly 40 years of expertise specializing in employee assessments and which has over 2000 different product titles available. Please send comments about this article to dtowler@creativeorgdesign.com. For more information, please contact us.

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