If you haven’t yet seen it, there is a phenomenal (and by phenomenal, I mean completely offensive, juvenile and NSFW) about an animal called the honey badger, who just doesn’t care about anything (or in the words of the video, doesn’t give a s#!t). While this is very amusing to watch on video, it can be completely frustrating in business. So, whether you are hiring employees, working with service providers or partnering with competitors, here are some steps on how to avoid working with a “honey badger”.
Ask probing questions: Before you jump in, ask questions that hone in on issues that are critical to you and your work style. Ask them to describe their nightmare employer or client. Ask them how many weekends they have worked in the past three years or what time they usually leave the office. Test them on key skills that they say they have. For example, whenever someone says they are proficient in Microsoft Excel, I ask them to tell me how they would use certain basic formulas, which often leads to finding out that the individual has exaggerated their proficiency. You can even give them a take-home case study and see what kind of effort they put into it as a gauge of how much they care about their work.
Try them out first: Try one or several people simultaneously on an unpaid, trial basis and have them compete for the job or for you as a client. If the individual isn’t willing to put out a killer effort to land the opportunity, the chances are that they aren’t going to be on any better behavior once they start working with you full-time.
Do a social media background check: How does the person handle themselves on social media? Do they overshare? Do they ever speak negatively about a client, customer or their employer? Doing a Google search and peeking into Twitter, Facebook and/or their blog is a quick way to get a sense of how someone conducts themselves and whether they care about those that they work with.
Pay attention to their emails and phone calls: The way a prospective employee, service provider or partner communicates with you in an email or phone call is likely the way they communicate with everyone. If the way they communicate or handle themselves is not how you want your brand handled, use that as a litmus test for honey-badgerdom. I have made the mistake of overlooking emails and calls that were too gruff or more like a stream-of-consciousness only to find out that’s the way that person behaved when representing my business.
Do detailed reference checks: Great resumes, testimonials or friendships shouldn’t supplant the need to do a few reference checks. Make sure to ask questions that get the person providing the reference talking and ‘read between the lines’ on answers. Focus on the traits that are important to you. Ask questions about the style of the person’s communication, if they are more of an attention to detail or visionary worker, or other questions that don’t require the person providing the reference to throw anyone under the bus, but still key you in to their style.
Listen to your gut: One of the most underrated mechanisms we have for avoiding issues is to listen to our own guts. If something seems off or if any red flag is raised, don’t brush it aside. If it doesn’t feel right to you, then wait for something- or someone- better to come along.
If you do your homework, you can avoid working with individuals with cavalier attitudes. While nobody may care about your business as much as you do, you still want to find people with a strong work ethic and desire to excel, instead of those pesky honey badgers.