Send in the Clowns


As I was flipping through the channels the other night, I noticed a pattern. Making my way up through the 100s of channels, I saw multiple shows featuring “clowns.” These are not the kind of clowns you find at the circus or the kind of clowns that make you go, “haha,” but the kind of clowns that make you go, “meh” (or worse).

News shows, talk shows, reality shows…as I flipped through the channels, I was amazed to see people espousing ideas, behaviors, and attitudes that are generally reserved for the make-believe world of sitcoms and movie blockbusters. Their emotional outbursts, exaggerated smugness, and what can only be described as extremely poor attention-seeking strategies do attract viewers. We like to laugh at others. We like to feel an emotional charge now and then. We even like watching others make fools of themselves. And during my channel surfing, I sometimes find myself staring at the train wrecks too (several of my personal favorites come from MTV, Fox News, and MSNBC).

Sometimes the Glenn Becks, Chris Matthews, and Snookis of the world are entertaining. Not because they are intentionally funny, but because of the extreme, negative characteristics they display. I can’t imagine trying to get work done in an office space with someone who needs as much attention as Snooki or trying to reach anything resembling a compromise by Mr. Matthews. Even my ten-month-old son appears to display more emotional control than Mr. Beck. Although these people are fine in their roles, most would agree that having to interact with them day after day would take its toll (sometimes I can’t even bear it through a whole TV segment).

My personal opinions and facetiousness aside, some of these clowns’ behaviors are extreme examples of interaction styles we all encounter at work. Be it your Colorful boss, your Excitable co-worker, or your unbelievably Bold subordinate, you have met and worked with these people. Although passion, confidence, and social skills are desirable, taken to the extreme, these same characteristics will derail everyone sometime during their careers.

Luckily, we have the ability to measure individuals’ propensity to engage in these derailing behaviors. The Hogan Development Survey (HDS) allows us to be cautious about whom we hire, or to be proactive in coaching individuals who are predisposed towards certain undesirable actions (like writing a blog the night before it’s due). Knowing what could go wrong can be just as important as knowing what could go right. Remember, the next time you have to make a human capital decision, you could be dealing with “The Situation.”