Minor Derailers: Are They Just Annoying?
In brief encounters with people, minor derailers are either not noticed or mildly irritating. This is why interviewers rarely pick them up. But what happens when they are part of our daily work life? What about their impact on the team? I learned early in my career how toxic these minor derailers can become.
I was in my mid-20s, interviewing a candidate to be my assistant. She would be my first, and I had yet to develop my interviewing skills. I welcomed her into my office and asked her the first of a series of prepared questions. She answered the first question and then stared at me sideways. As I continued, this behavior became more pronounced. I felt as if she was angry at me or that she was daring me to disagree with her.
However, despite her aggressive posture, her answers were good. Most importantly, she appeared to be well organized, a trait that I sorely needed.
She performed her job well, but others avoided her. Our office had three people who were very emotionally sensitive, and they were afraid to ask her for help. Soon, all the simple requests I hoped she would handle were routed through me. Furthermore, she created tension whenever the team gathered for lunch or celebrated an event. After about six months, my boss confronted me about her impact on the culture, and I knew she had to go.
She was my first hire and encounter with how a minor derailer, like aggression, can create major problems for an organization.
Minor vs. Major Derailers
A minor derailer is a character issue that can be managed or changed through focused individual efforts, sometimes with the help of a coach or therapist. A major derailer is much more difficult to change. Psybil® measures two major derailers and six minor ones. The major derailers are self-deception and misanthropy (bullies). People with these major derailers either do not see the need to change or lack the desire. The minor derailers create discomfort for both the individual and the organization, which creates pressure to change.
There is no universal taxonomy of minor derailers. Several psychometric assessments have derailers with descriptive terms like “The Dark Side of Personality.” We do not purport to have a definitive set, but we have identified a new set of derailer scales requested by our clients. They include:
Note: Psychologists use the terms ego-syntonic and ego-dystonic to describe personality issues. Syntonic refers to character issues that facilitate someone’s ego or identity. Dystonic means the character issue is not aligned with their ego and makes people uncomfortable.
Clash of the Derailers
Each of these derailers has a nemesis among the other five. When people must work closely with their nemesis, the problem compounds. As in my initial example, when someone is high on sentimentality, they are extra sensitive to people with high aggression, and aggressive people perceive the sentimental ones as weak. Energetic people’s failure to manage details irritates the perfectionists, who they believe fail to keep pace. Unconventional people love to rock the boat, which is the opposite of the stability goals of the highly amicable. The amicable people’s serenity needs clash with the aggressive others’ anger outbursts.
One person with a minor derailer can usually be managed. Two compounds the issue. Multiple combinations exponentially increase the potential for toxicity. When the pairs are “nemesis,” they accelerate the harmful behavior of each. When the derailers are the same, they reinforce each other, making them harder to manage and change.
There is a tendency for consultants to focus on the positives and to be solution-focused. Popular assessments like Gallup’s “StrengthFinder” reflect this trend. This approach has a lot of value when balanced with understanding derailers. By understanding these character issues, we can create better workplaces where people’s successes flourish.
If you are curious about derailers and their impact. Click here to read a deeper description and see how our clients experience them. If you want to learn more about assessing these
To understand minor derailers, nemeses, and their impact on Psynet Group’s clients, click here to read the longer article.