I once worked with somebody who looked really good on paper.
Her designs were incredible.
She’d spend hours getting a new look right, running back and forth to me for approval, chewing on her lip to see what I thought.
Her writing was just okay, but who cared, right? So long as the newspaper pages looked good.
Then I heard she was causing drama with other employees.
Then I heard she couldn’t stay in a relationship to save her life.
Then I heard she talked trash about me because she wanted my job.
Then I heard 8 of her 10 direct reports hated her. 7 of them quit that year.
These things, while probably not deal breakers in and of themselves, mixed together to paint a picture I didn’t see then but should have:
This was a shiny person.
A shiny person always looks good on the outside. That’s how they get you.That’s how they still sneak their way into jobs. But here are ten signs to find out if you’re dealing with one right now.
~~1) SHINY PEOPLE FEAR TRANSPARENCY
Unconditional honesty is a shiny person’s biggest fear. They don’t want you to know them. They want you to know the filtered, curated, guarded version you see every day.
Shiny people will never let you get closer than arm’s length, only appealing to your humanity when they want sympathy, compliments, or a raise.
~~2) SHINY PEOPLE GOSSIP
All the time.
Innocent as it may seem, gossip is a telltale sign of a person who is trying to make themselves look good by making other people look bad. It may be slight. It may be subtle. It may seem innocent. Question them about it and they will deny, but the goal is always the same: destroy the relationships around them and watch the chaos.
By the way, if someone is gossiping to you about other people, they will gossip to other people about you. I guarantee it.
~~3) SHINY PEOPLE WON’T GET BETTER
And I’ve believed that lie before. I’ve been in the middle of conversations that went:
“If only we got them the right resources.”
“If only we’d given them the right training.”
“If only we found them the right motivation”
Then, after the shiny person drains the team of all energy, does poor to mediocre work for 2 years, and then leaves, the conversation went:
“If only we’d gotten rid of them sooner.”
~~4) SHINY PEOPLE DO NOT TAKE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK
I’ve been this guy.
“You just don’t understand me!” I would mutter under my breath.
The shiny worker will be at best non-responsive, at worst belligerent whenever they receive criticism. Criticism implies they are less than perfect. Less than perfect implies they would have to get better.
And shiny people won’t get better.
~~5) SHINY PEOPLE DO NOT DEVELOP OTHER PEOPLE
Because God forbid anyone get better than they are. The shiny person will always hedge. They will omit information. They will hide things.
At his core, the shiny person is deathly afraid of being replaced. Perhaps aware distributing everything he knows actually would make him better (and shiny people won’t get better), he keeps every card close to his chest.
By the way, if you work for a shiny manager — LEAVE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
~~6) SHINY PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS HAVE DRAMA IN THEIR PERSONAL LIVES
Including, but not limited to:
- A constant changing of contact information
- A cycle of broken relationships
- A pattern of being late
- A reason to be offended every day
- A relocation 12 times in the last 2 years (this really happens)
- An increasingly sour mood toward the end of a paycheck cycle
- A disaster at EVERY social event they attend
- A deleted Facebook account (more than once)
- A set of lost keys, a lost wallet, lost files…
- A parade of people who “did them wrong”
One of these things will always be happening. It won’t get better. Shiny people don’t get better.
Make no mistake, all these things can happen to talented, un-shiny people as well.
You won’t hear about them though.
~~7) SHINY PEOPLE WILL TURN THINGS IN ON FRIDAY ONLY
Once is meaningless. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a pattern.
This is starting to become one of my main markers for judging performance.When someone turns in deliverables on Friday only, it means they do not have the drive or the initiative or talent to fit it into the rest of the week.
For a shiny person working a traditional schedule, one task will take one week. It does not matter how challenging the task is. It does not matter when the deadline is. The work will always expand to the time allotted.
Besides, if they did more work, they’d get more work, and they’d have to get better.
And shiny people won’t get better.
~~8) SHINY PEOPLE DON’T HAVE AS MUCH INFLUENCE AS YOU THINK THEY DO
The Shiny person will pretend to have many friends. He is close (but not too close!) with everyone in the office.
I once worked with a person who buddied up whenever a visitor came in the room. He would strong arm people into taking his side in meetings. On the surface, he seemed to have a lot of pull. In reality, we were all much happier when he left.
~~9) SHINY PEOPLE WILL NOT TALK ABOUT WHAT THEY DON’T KNOW
This is part of the facade, the mask, the game. Insecurity drives the shiny person to stick to their guns.
“I can’t show weakness!” they think.
If someone pretends they are NOT a pink, fleshy, flawed human being, watch out. It is a great irony of the world that people who constantly talk about what they know are not nearly as talented, intelligent, or useful as people who never mention how good they actually are.
Protip: When you’re looking to hire, notice when someone starts talking about what “WE” did at my last job as opposed to what “I” did. That’s a red flag.
~~10) SHINY PEOPLE FORGET TO MAKE A NEW POT OF COFFEE
Or change the toilet paper roll. Or empty the trash can. Or put new paper in the printer.
After all, that’s the job of someone much less important.