Asking the Wrong Thing of Someone

Is a person failing at a task when they simply do not have the right temperament to do the task?  (I’m not talking about skill here.)  Or did the person who set them to the task set them up to fail?  Granted in the all too frequent situation of job insecurity these days, many people stretch in one way or another because any job that brings in a paycheck is better than the alternative.  But we’ll set that aside too.


There are people who pick up rather easily on tasks, even someone complex ones, and others who will be great at the task but must be given time to learn it at what would seem to be a glacial pace to that fast learner, but is just right.  Both of these temperaments will excel at the task once the training is done – but if the more deliberate learner isn’t given the time to make the task his or her own they will probably fail.

public domain image

public domain image


Most people work better when they know their boundaries – my job starts here, covers this area, and ends here; anything outside that area belongs to someone else.  A person with a collaborative mindset will fit perfectly into a job with overlapping responsibilities, while a person who is best when working entirely independently will struggle.  A person who likes narrow boundaries will implode in a situation with nebulous boundaries – particularly if they are also cautious.


When I’m interviewing a candidate, I like to ask them what sort of student they are – not were, but are.  This will tell me a lot about their temperament.  Will they ask me to better define the parameters of the question – do I mean back when they were in school?  What do I mean by student?  Or will they dive in with a canned answer that they are up for anything and love to learn?  This isn’t a trick question on my part (I don’t like trick questions.)  No, I want to make sure that I won’t be asking the wrong thing of anyone.  I don’t like to be set up to fail, and I will make every effort not to do so to anyone else.


Failure is a part of life, and can be useful sometimes.  But we don’t need regular and unceasing doses of it with no end in sight.  Being in a job where you are asked to do something counter to your temperament regularly is quite wearing.


Have you been there, what was your solution?


© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved


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2 thoughts on “Asking the Wrong Thing of Someone

  1. Dan Antion February 5, 2014 at 2:50 pm Reply

    That’s an interesting question to ask. I need to remember that. Thanks.

    • Beth Anne Reed February 5, 2014 at 9:03 pm Reply

      Glad that you found it worth thinking about, Dan.

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