Coming Down to Chemistry - Originally posted to MFI 7/26/09

I'm not someone who really usually lets a first impression rule how I feel about people.  Most of the time, I'm willing to stand back and let how I feel about someone evolve before I make a decision one way or the other. Every once and a while, though, I have an interaction with someone in which I instantaneously either love or loathe the very core of them.  All it takes is that 4 or 5 seconds for a first impression and after that, I'm set on how I feel.  If I love them, then we bond and all is joyful.  If I loathe them, then I may someday come to tolerate them, but I will never much care for them as a person.  From time to time, these inevitably happen on the job.

Any owner or manager will tell you how incredibly difficult it can be to put together a team that works.  You might find a rock star assistant manager, but if they are constantly at war with your maintenance supervisor, then they're not such a great find after all.   Maybe you find a great maintenance tech, but they can't stand the way that you manage your people.  Or perhaps it's your porter who can't get along with the maintenance supervisor.  One of the biggest reasons that hiring for property management can be such a challenge is because our productivity and ability to "do a good job" is often in other people's hands and if we don't hire a good TEAM, then we'll never get anything done.

As evidenced by the picture to the right, there are just some things, and some people, that shouldn't be stored in close proximity 

with each other.  When I was walking through my local Costco a while ago and saw this, I kept praying that no one would have a run away cart, and wondering if the stocking manager was there the day that they taught how to make volcanoes in third grade science class.  (If you don't know what I'm talking about, Google Baking soda and Lemon Juice Volcano.  Or, if you're feeling adventurous, just "try this at home kids!")  You can store two volatile employees next to each other, maybe even for a few months, and they will probably be fine.  But, just remember that all it takes is a "runaway cart" and you've got a foaming exploding mess on your hands that could have been avoided with some forethought and planning.

Finding the right employee comes completely down to whether or not you know how to evaluate people's professional chemistry.  Personal chemistry can go a long way in setting you up for great professional chemistry, but it's not a touchdown pass straight to the end zone.  So how can you tell if that person will have good chemistry with your other employees?  It's about letting them in on the hiring process. Take that extra step and have a third interview with your team included.  Ask them their thoughts before you hire someone,maybe even try the person out through a payrolling company for a few days to see how they work with your team.  At how much it costs to hire someone, and how much it costs to get the wrong person off your payroll, it's well worth the extra days and extra money to get it right the first time around.

How do you deal with the chemistry problems in your current office?  First, I recommend Dealing With People You Can't Standby Brinkman and Kirschaer.  This book is easy to read and written well enough to get you through dealing with even the most obnoxious of employees successfully.  From the sniper, to the know it all, to the marshmallow, the book knows the people you're working with.  Only one note of caution... you might see yourself in some unflattering light.

Also,one of my managers recently shared with me that her company sent them all to a workshop about personality types and how to work with different people.  The workshop was based on the Human metrics system developed by Carl Jung and Isabel Myers-Briggs.  You can find an online version of this test here. She told me that it gave her some great insight in to how to manage different people and get around a lot of the chemistry issues that can happen in on site teams.

When you're hiring, how do you tell if your applicant is "the one" or just another one?  Do you have a magic formula for getting your employees to see eye to eye?  I'm interested to find out!

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Penmanship Counts!