Having a team with diverse personalities is a good thing; different types of people will bring different perspectives and viewpoints, and that will usually lead you to better outcomes. But there are some personality types that you definitely don’t want on your team. Here are five types that can implode even the best team dynamics.
1. The yes-man or yes-woman. Having a team member who unquestionably backs every decision you make and thinks every suggestion you advance is a brilliant idea can feel comfortable, or even flattering. But you really, really don’t want people on your team who won’t reveal what they truly think, because that’s how you end up with failures (project failures, hiring failures, strategy failures, and all kinds of other failures) that could have been avoided if people had shared their perspective. One of the best things you can do for the health of your team is to actively cultivate candid input and make it safe for people to disagree – and to name the issue when you suspect someone is regularly keeping their true opinions buried.
2. The contrarian. Contrarians often think that they’re playing a role by playing devil’s advocate – arguing against a plan or viewpoint for the sake of poking holes in it – but when it’s their regular M.O., it can suck up enormous amounts of your team’s time and energy. To be clear, it’s valuable to think through what might be wrong with a strategy or how a plan could go wrong (see the problem with yes-men in #1 above), and the best-made decisions factor in conflicting viewpoints, but when someone is going head-to-head in every conversation rather than picking their battles, it will have a corrosive effect on the dynamics on your team.
3. The brilliant jerk. When you have an employee who does great work but who is abrasive, unpleasant, and alienates people who should be allies, don’t brush it off as “just” interpersonal issues. Truly high performers don’t chronically alienate colleagues or make it tough for anyone to work with them. “Soft skills” like getting along with others and being generally pleasant are as much a core part of what you need from a staff member as hard skills are, and an employee who’s awful to work with can be as disruptive as one who falling short in any other skill area.
4. The fixed mindset. Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck writes in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success that people have one of two mindsets: a fixed mindset, which views intelligence and abilities as fundamentally predetermined, or a growth mindset, which views intelligence and abilities as works in progress and the result of learning and hard work. A growth mindset is what leads people to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, and accept and learn from criticism – exactly the qualities you want on your team. On the other hand, a fixed mindset will lead people to avoid challenges, give up easily in the face of difficulties, and ignore or dismiss criticism – which can keep your team from moving forward.
5. The defender. People who bristle at the slightest hint that their work isn’t perfect make it impossible to have the sort of candid feedback conversations that are crucial to developing skills, improving results, or even just tweaking a minor element of a project. Chronic defensiveness will also lead to a situation where the person’s coworkers will shy away from raising problems or making even small requests (like “could you turn your music down while I’m on the phone?”), and that can be toxic to the dynamic you need on a healthy, functioning team.