I’m a Professional Judge of Character – Trust my 1st Impression

There have been several notable examples of my, and others’, questioning my first impressions of someone. On all of these occasions, my first impression was correct and unfortunately, questioning it caused negative turns of events. In that, as a psychologist, I am what most people would consider “a professional judge of character,” I have tried to remind myself that my first impressions are more likely to be correct than the first impressions of someone with no education or experience in psychology. My second guessing of first impressions has led to the following negative outcomes: (1) I disliked someone intensely, both based on an initial telephone call and first meeting, then decided to hire her because I feared I was too quick to judge her, only to regret this decision immensely when my worst fears about her proved to be accurate; (2) I had an unusually negative encounter at a conference, when an attorney heckled me during a presentation, then, a few months later, hired me for mock trials and jury selections, until the time he turned against me when my mother’s death precluded me from selecting a jury for him; and (3) a loyal and long time employee started dating someone whom I immediately despised, but, in the name of making my employee happy and giving his girlfriend the benefit of the doubt, I was nice to her, generous with financial support, etc. up to the point that she gave my employee an ultimatum to choose her or his job and he chose her (resigning via email with no notice). These, and other, experiences serve to remind me that, although it is never wise to “jump to conclusions” upon meeting someone for the first time, more often than not, my professional opinions about someone (or something) are correct and therefore, I must trust myself to do the right thing, as it applies to protecting myself and my company.

One aspect of owning a business never gets easier – hiring.  I feel like it is always a gamble.  And, I’m apparently not a good gambler because I’ve taken chances on hiring people who turned out to be ill equipped to do our work, or worse, a really bad fit, a bad choice, maybe a bad person.  We’ve written about some of these previously, and some have been minor irritants – which taught us to modify our hiring procedures.  The worst was one about whom Melissa was dubious.  She was right. It took more than a year for him to show his bad self, but he did and it was costly.  The reality is that, even with careful vetting, it is challenging to evaluate people and how well they will fit into a work environment, a social group, or any setting.  Melissa discusses clients also – the most difficult of whom are those who let their guard down just a little, revealing something that they generally keep hidden.  One memorable client was a client twice, as Melissa’s mother used to say, the first and last time he was a client.  Another took years to reveal himself.  A few others have, due to other life issues, including addictions, proved difficult but these are people whose extenuating circumstances impacted their behavior.  In hindsight, I wish we had hesitated on a few of the hires – and heeded Melissa’s impressions.  They were drains on us in many ways, including financial. As for the clients, we were happy to take their money and provide them our expertise as long as they didn’t cross a line.  But, there is only so much one can take and while it is hard to turn down their money, it was the right thing to do.  For our own sanity!

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