Do You Have Thick Skin?

Categories: Law Firm Management - Tags: , ,

By: Andrea Rothamel

Interviewer: Do you have thick skin?

Candidate: Hmmm…Yes?

Often am I hearing from job-seekers that this question is posed during interviews. It serves multiple purposes as such: An interviewer is proactively setting a tone for the interoffice dynamics, it serves as a warning to a potential employee that there exists a hostile work environment, and to confirm that the candidate has a strong and solid personality, capable of handling pressure.

The dreaded “Do you have thick skin” question is a bad idea and more importantly, it will fail to help procure a productive, long-term, valuable employee.

First, setting a negative tone will immediately send a potential employee into the defensive zone. It will instill fear and concern in the candidate. If hired, the dread continues. Yes, some owners, CEOs, managers and supervisors want to rule with an iron fist, feed an ego, or merely appease an overzealous type A personality, however, this management style will not help the business move forward. Setting aside all moral issues, a fearful employee will fail to make decisions on their own, fail to progress autonomously within the position, and will always be on the defensive. In such a volatile job market, employees are fearful of being unemployed as it is; there is no need to fuel the fire. There is a reason why we are seeing a progression of new companies embracing unusual office dynamics to boost productivity (ie; slides replacing stairs, bowling alleys in break rooms, free food and drink, etc…) They say a happy wife, a happy life. I say happy employees, happy business bank accounts.

Second, this question serves as a warning to a potential employee that there exists a hostile work environment. The interviewer seemingly is doing the candidate a favor by removing the element of surprise, if hired. I think not. People inherently want to do a good job, merely because they feel a personal sense of accomplishment, but they also want happiness on a larger scale. So do employers, want both accomplishment/productivity and joy. Most people spend more time at work than we do on the home front, or even on ourselves. Our jobs and businesses are our families, oftentimes taking priority over actual families. In order to run a successful business, both employer and employee must be motivated, passionate, and WANT to reach goals. An expectation of an employee to run the extra mile or appease a difficult client when they are being unjustly ridiculed, when they don’t want to be in the office, or when they despise what they do for a living, is preposterous. If employees are working in hostile environments, they can’t enjoy going to work each day. They won’t wake up with the enthusiasm they naturally seek, and therefore, won’t be enthusiastic to reach goals and make positive career and business decisions. Employees are a reflection of a company, as much as an owner, a CEO, or any executive or manager. Miserable employees create miserable clients.

Positivity breeds productivity.

Third, the interviewer wants to confirm that the candidate has a strong and solid personality, capable of handling pressure. Many people are out of work and employers seek to find moldable and flexible employees, capable of handling responsibilities at a minimal cost, willing to take initiative and willing to do anything to get the job done. Interviewers want to know if a little yelling will break them down into tears, because an owner, CEO, manager, or supervisor may be less than sensitive or sympathetic to individuals. Clients too, may be less than considerate. However, tolerating hostile environments by no means clearly equates to having the capability of handling high pressure situations. They are not the same. A quiet, meek, non-confrontational employee may very well accept workplace abuse out of fear, however, this does not make for an exceptional employee. Some may just ignore the attack, just as much as they are ignoring the work they are behind in, because they simply don’t care. Conversely, an employee tearing over a lashing may have the passion and motivation to succeed which is necessary for the company to grow.

So what now? It’s simple. Terminate employees who are insubordinate, disrespectful, tardy, unproductive and lazy. Foster those who genuinely have something to offer the company. Create a positive and productive workplace for employer and employee. In the event an employer chooses to say thank you for a job well done, give a free day off, recognize an employee going above and beyond, the receiving employee would be more apt to extending his or herself once again. A cohesive team is what is needed in any company. A myriad of people with thick enough skin to tolerate volatile personalities long enough to get a paycheck will not create progress. It will create a location for employees to do minimal work, to get a paycheck and certainly fail to help grow the greater cause; grow and strengthen the business.

If the revolving door is burning out (which is a massive loss of time, productivity and finances, in recruiting, hiring, training, etc.), most of the employees get headaches from the silent eye-roll they so frequently commence behind closed doors, the interoffice dynamics should be evaluated and addressed. Fear may motivate temporarily, but kindness generates long lasting respect, consideration, motivation, loyalty and the characteristics of people any business genuinely needs to soar and truly find success.

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