Dear Human Resources Department,
Your work culture is toxic. How do I know? Almost inevitably, your advertised job opening goes something like this: “Fast-paced company seeks flexible, self-starting multitasker with strong attention to detail who thrives in a chaotic environment.”
Let me stop you right there, HR person, because what you advertise is not a human. Now, I get that you have to fill a position in which the last person quit, having had a nervous breakdown. I know this because I was one of those people having breakdowns when I used to work at companies like yours. I get that you are advertising for an opening which, a couple years ago, was the job of six people. I know that’s not your fault (it’s the CEO’s). But let’s get real, here. You are not going to find someone who does the work of six people and also thrives in a “chaotic environment.” A people-pleaser will get all of the work done. It will probably be someone who has yet to uncover the root of their low self-esteem, which compels them to answer your ad. But a person like that will not thrive in chaos, they will languish. There is exactly one type of person who thrives in a chaotic environment, and that’s a psychopath.
Do you really want to hire another psychopath? I’m sure you’ve hired many of them in the past. Psychopaths are awfully charming, especially in interviews. It might look like a good idea, at first. They always look great on paper. So great, in fact, who needs to bother meticulously checking their references? Working in HR, it must be a relief when someone so self-confident walks through the door and convinces you they are the answer to all your staffing needs. Psychopaths project all kinds of confidence, but lack empathy, which make them uniquely suited to stepping on others to get ahead. Funny though, how the “chaos” you hired them to handle never goes away. In fact, perhaps now they are your only consistent employee because everyone else in their department keeps having breakdowns around them. So obviously, you do what any discerning HR person does: you promote them. Eventually, the psychopath you hired will become the CEO, and your job will be merged with five others while they’re off promoting their New York Times best-selling book on achieving high productivity in chaotic workplaces.
I have a proposition for you. Instead of trying to hire people well-suited for chaos, why not seek to reduce or eliminate the factors that contribute to a chaotic environment? Usually that starts with offering the right support. Even in environments where the “chaos” is not co-workers, but the population you serve, such as a school or a jail, there’s a lot you can do to support a calmer, safer, more inclusive environment for everyone.
Remember that insecure, people-pleasing employee you hired who is on the brink of quitting because of their insufferable, psycopathic boss? Promote that person instead. Offer them leadership training. I guarantee you will not find anyone more loyal and hard-working. Give your employees mental health benefits, and you will really see them thrive. Get rid of the psychopaths and replace them with kind, honest, empathetic people. Listen to employees when they are overworked, and make adjustments. As a human resources representative, you are the front line in deciding what kind of work culture your company has. Instead of advertising to people-pleasers and psychopaths, try building a healthy space that attracts creative problem-solvers, critical thinkers, and builders.
Someone capable, with healthy boundaries, who chooses to be self-employed
4 thoughts on “Hey, HR: If You Want a Productive Workplace, Maybe Stop Advertising for Psychopaths?”
This post blew me away, as I’ve never seen this problem addressed before. I have worked in multiple toxic workplaces with disordered upper management (one threw his chair out the office window). As a hard working, sincere person, I struggle with ‘playing the game’. It’s good to know it’s the game that’s the issue, not me. Thanks for the validation. These days I’m self employed as well.
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B O O M ! *mic drop*
Sincerely, another capable someone, with healthy boundaries, who chooses to be self-employed
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Yes, yes, yes!!! And wow, this is even more pertinent now. We CANNOT go back to business as usual when this pandemic is over.
I love it. Thank goodness someone is finally talking about this. Someone talking sense in a world full of crazy. It’s desperately sad to see how many toxic working environments there are out there. It’s even tougher when you work in an environment like that to then go home to one. Thank goodness for divorce and self-employment.
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