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ATD Blog

Hire People you Hate


Mon Mar 18 2013


We have all heard the phrase innovate or die except the reality is that your business is most likely a slow moving ship.  We work in a sea of meetings, Outlook appointments, conference calls and power point presentations where we often over-think ourselves and the business world where we work and live. Thinking, planning, and research is a good thing, but it is often the fear of failure that holds individuals who manage a team or a business back.  A simple organizational change takes months or even years of planning in a large organization before implementation while the smaller more nimble business speeds ahead.  Average organization according to workplace change expert, John Kotter takes 18 to 24 months.  This quick and fluid move to change is one of the major competitive advantages for the small business and startup culture. We loathe change even small ones like Facebook’s new social graph because we cannot speed ahead.  Business is not the usual as it steaming ahead by leaps and bounds fueled by technology through mobile devices, big data and cloud computing.   We are resistant to change as we are reminded of the bubbles burst in the Great Depression, the Dotcom Bust and our most recent economic recession.  We have to learn a new way, change or thinking and that takes effort and time.  Change in most large businesses is seen as hurting not helping the machine.

But change and innovation can be used to create distinctive market competitive advantages.  While the competition weighs the risk black swans like Google and Apple are moving and adapting to change full speed ahead.   


Chances are you or your department sets up roadblocks to change, innovation from the moment a new employee who is different and seen as a threat walks into the door. We may not like one another but we like to keep our jobs and the threat of loosing our home, our retirement or our way of life is enough.  We are safe, happy, and content as a cog in the machine of work.  We prefer to operate in business as usual with what is familiar.  And it is not our fault.  This is the way we are hard-wired to be. 

Change or innovation forces us out of our comfort zone creating anxiety and irrational thought, thus forcing us to make predicable and safe decisions purely based on what we believe is rational thought except that it is not.  We are rooted in routine.  It’s the reason I order the same cup of coffee every day before I go to work.  Pushing us to be innovative requires the brain to develop a completely different neuro pathway and connection so that the mere idea of a change or innovation can occur. 

 Even the hiring process supports our safe decision-making.  We create a logical process using hiring technology and software focused on safety, qualifications and keyword ranking and search while the prospective hire must remain hyper-vigilant focused on an escape route and a fight, flight or freeze response.  These experiences have hard wired for innovation, change and new thought. 

Qualified candidates who make an impression of knowledge, insights, and superior experience in the areas where the interviewers lack are seen as a threat to the hiring manager’s own self-preservation.  A 2012 study by Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management demonstrated that manager’s hire based a candidate’s hireability on “personal feelings of comfort, validation and excitement over identifying candidates with superior cognitive or technical skills.” 

This is business politics at its best where individual self-preservation kicks in.


We should be hiring those rebel rousers in for more than an interview. That one candidate that gets under our skin, irritates us because they are knowledgeable in an area we are not.  It is impressive but as business professionals we are competitive and like to be the best so we distance ourself from best candidate because they remind us of what we know not. 

Athletes hire personal trainers or coaches to push them, motivate and to take them to places they have never been.  They are respected and paid well for their expertise and skills to push us mentally as well as physically to places and goals that seem unreachable or unachievable. 

We are not hired to be liked.  We are hired to perform.  We are not hired to be a friend.  We are hired to get the job done and excel in an area in which are team members and boss are not.  We hire someone we hate and yet we respect because we understand that to innovate and to push our boundaries we have to be open to change and a new point of view. 

We hire someone we hate to motivate, infuriate, and light a fire to drive results and to make us better than we were before.  

Hate is such a strong word, but uncomortableness and change also elicit strong emotional and physical responses like fight or flight.  I call this uncomfortable yet necessary because this change should drive the science of work. Managers, leaders and organizational teams must get comfortable with being uncomfortable and working with those outside their traditional social circle to really drive workplace change and business innovation. 


Fill your department and organization will professionals you respect, think different, challenge the rules and drive you completely up a wall.  Most companies are not set up for innovation and yet companies are creating safe zones where innovation and change can take place. LinkedIn, Google and other technology companies have created intraprenuer programs and think tanks within their confines to push boundaries within the confines of the process-driving machine where we work.   

An intraprenuership program might not be an option at where you work but taking a realistic look at your team, their skills and the manner in which you encourage innovation, ideas and creativity is.  The question is are you up to the challenge?  Are you ready to take a chance by hiring, promoting and mentoring employees and team members who push you further to the places you or your business you have never been.  Are you in favor of hiring people you hate?

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