‘Plays Well with Others’

Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash

The idiom “plays well with others” is defined as “to be amiable and cooperative when interacting with others.” The phrase is a common statement of praise for school children and is often used in the negative to describe adults who are competitive or aggressive in their work interactions.

“Affability is more important than ability,” I often say, especially when I’m talking to startup companies about hiring employees. In other words, hiring people who get along — play well with others — is more important than hiring someone really smart or really good at a particular task.

Companies with few employees find this extremely relevant. While it certainly helps to have talented individuals contributing to your growth, it can literally destroy a company to have someone with a bad attitude, a negative outlook, or a toxic personality.

“When you have 1,000 employees and you have 1 or 2 who are discourteous, rude and uncooperative, it’s inconvenient and annoying,” my former boss used to say. “When you have 10 employees and 1 is obnoxious, it’s destructive and impossible”.

I have to agree, which, again, is why I state “affability (being understanding, compassionate, reasonable, patient and friendly) is more important than ability (displaying skills such as being a master programmer, outstanding marketer, top sales, etc.).”

If you can’t get along with others, you can’t work for me. It only takes “ one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch “ (you knew I was going to throw that in). An employee who is constantly negative can set the tone for the entire company.

Once when I worked as a manager in a different line of work, a group of my 24 employees (22 of them!) came to me and said, “This person has to go. We are losing productivity, we are suffering as a group, we are failing to achieve our goals because of their constant complaining, procrastination, argumentative attitude and negativity. We’re serious! You have to make a change.”

As a manager, I knew it was true. I had avoided taking action simply because it was the easy way out. From that time on, I vowed I would never again ignore taking action on a toxic employee; I would deal with the situation — either set up a corrective action plan or terminate their employment.

That’s a topic for a whole other blog post, the idea that “people whom you want to leave, never leave.” Therefore, you have to take action for the good of the company; the negative influence must be removed. It usually doesn’t leave on its own volition.

When you’re hiring, think on that proverb. (Also keep in mind that firing individuals can be complicated and difficult.) Hire carefully.

When you’re screening companies to come into your incubator, screen for social potential in addition to market potential. Look for individuals who will listen to advice, who will consider alternatives and who DON’T think they “know it all.”

Train your CEOs to evaluate people carefully for their attitude and understanding, rather than just looking at job experience and academic degrees. Emphasize team-building, camaraderie and helpfulness in contrast to independence, arrogance and ladder-climbing.

Many good employees who have left a job because of another negative, unreasonable employee, and companies cannot afford to lose good employees.

Look for affability, instead of ability. You want people who “play well with others,” especially if you want them to work with others (and you!). You’ll be glad you did!

Mark Long has long experienced the intricacies of business incubation, acceleration, coworking spaces, makerspaces and other entrepreneurial assistance venues around the world. He shares his experience, outlook, background knowledge, studies, and observations in regular posts at the IncubatorBlogger. Feel free to follow him there — or follow him and UF Innovate right here.

University of Florida Innovate supports an innovation ecosystem that moves research discoveries from the laboratory to the market, fostering a resilient economy and making the world a better place. Based at one of the nation’s leading research institutions, UF Innovate comprises four organizations: Tech Licensing, Ventures and two business incubators, Sid Martin Biotech and The Hub. Within the UF Office of Research, the three organizations form a comprehensive system to take technologies from the lab to the public, bringing together the five critical elements in the “innovation ecosystem”: facilities, capital, management talent, intellectual property and technology-transfer expertise.

Originally published at http://incubatorblogger.wordpress.com on January 21, 2020.

Includes Tech Licensing, Ventures, and two business incubators, The Hub and Sid Martin Biotech. We are an innovation ecosystem.