Monthly Archives: October 2015

TRICK OR TREAT: HOW TO AVOID HIRING A NARCISSIST

Narcissists are a blast to interview and work with — initially.  In the fullness of time, however, working with a narcissist is a nightmare.  Firing a narcissist is no fun either:  they do not shy away from litigation, because in narcissists’ minds they are always right.

Because narcissists interview so well, it is important to understand how they act and think.  This way employers can avoid being “fooled” into hiring a charismatic narcissist who will cost them dearly down the road.

WHO AND WHAT IS A NARCISSIST?

Narcissistic personality disorder is a disorder in which a person is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity, mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and others.

The term “narcissism” comes from Greek myth. Narcissus, a handsome Greek youth, rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo. These advances eventually led Narcissus to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his love, Narcissus “lay gazing enraptured into the pool, hour after hour,” and finally changed into a flower that bears his name, the narcissus.

Many experts use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose narcissism. DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:

  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerating your achievements and talents
  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
  • Requiring constant admiration
  • Having a sense of entitlement
  • Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get what you want
  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Being envious of others and believing others envy you
  • Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner

Although some features of narcissistic personality disorder may seem like having confidence, it’s not the same. Narcissistic personality disorder crosses the border of healthy confidence into thinking so highly of yourself that you put yourself on a pedestal and value yourself more than you value others.

WHY DO NARCISSISTS INTERVIEW SO WELL?

Narcissists typically interview exceedingly well.  Why?  According to a widely published study, narcissists make great first impressions.  They tend to be well-dressed, use charming facial expressions, display self-assured body movements, and use verbal humor on their targets.  These traits are relevant because they “are related to four generally valued aspects of targets: attractiveness, competence, interpersonal warmth, and humor.” In addition, narcissists tend to be highly extraverted, and extraversion is one of the most visible and most accurately perceived personality traits. High levels of extraversion are important because extraversion is a leading indicator of leadership emergence.

According to Select International, “narcissists have an almost magical ability to present themselves favorably to strangers. Their skills have been honed for years in an obsessed struggle for power and esteem. They know exactly what you want to hear, feel and see in a candidate. They will show you extraversion, social boldness, solid decision making abilities and a proactive stance to addressing problems. They focus you on their track record of innovation, creativity and accomplishments, and they skillfully mask their shortcomings. So directed are they that the skilled interviewer may get a “too good to be true” feel about the interview with the narcissist. Their self-descriptions may sound like you are reading from a textbook and their stories of work experiences may resonate like tales of epic heroism. Yet, without some measures of personality, correctly diagnosing a narcissist in an interview is close to impossible.”

In one study of narcissistic behavior, participants met for leaderless group discussions over several weeks. After the first discussion, narcissistic group members were described as “confident, entertaining, and physically attractive,” but by the end of the study they were rated negatively and described using adjectives such as “hostile, arrogant, and cold.”  In other words, narcissists appear to be skillful at initiating relationships but unable to maintain them over time.

HOW TO WEED OUT NARCISSISTIC JOB CANDIDATES 

Eliminating narcissists from your job candidate pool requires two elements:   a perceptive interviewer who conducts a well-planned interview — with questions and comments that elicit narcissistic behavior.  The task is not easy, but here are some tools to guide your company’s interviewer(s):

  • Ask the candidate about his or her best attributes and achievements, and look for signs of bragging or exaggerating, or droning on excessively
  • Deep into the interview talk about yourself and/or share a positive or negative experience you have had; watch the narcissist’s eyes glaze over or watch him immediately talk about his  good or bad experience without the self-awareness to think or care about you (this tip applies at social events and parties as well)
  • Narcissists are typically high energy, interesting, and very talkative in interviews — distinguish their talk and energy from proven experience and ability
  • Narcissists rarely err — in their own minds; probe them for specific work instances in their past that they regret or would change; if the candidate wouldn’t change a thing about his past or it’s always “someone else’s fault,” you may be interviewing a narcissist
  • Try to observe your candidate in a variety of settings before you make the decision to hire him or her; that includes not only in-office interviews, but also at lunch or dinner, at happy hour or a social event, and in other potentially revealing settings
  • Narcissists often distort the truth when they’re with you in face-to-face situations; discover from as many sources as you can about this candidate’s actual credentials (unfortunately, I have seen more than one company stop performing a background check because its owners were sure — solely on the strength of the “great” interview — that this was the perfect candidate)
  • Do not engage in confirmation bias:  after a seemingly “great” interview do not discount or dismiss bad information about the candidate (e.g. prior failed businesses; questionable associations; incredible explanations about past history)
  • Do not rush your decision or immediately hand over the keys to the kingdom to your new employee or partner; I have seen many a quick romance fail the test of time
  • A recent study showed that men tend to be more narcissistic than women

CONCLUSION

When hiring, first consider the job candidate that you already know — an internal candidate with a proven record.  If you must hire an external candidate, which is often the case, do not be awed by the narcissist’s charm and energy.  Distinguish between confidence and arrogance; between self-knowledge and self-importance; and between the pursuit of excellence versus the need for power.

In sum, conduct a thoughtful interview that brings out the best, and worst, in candidates.  Always question yourself when you believe a candidate is too good to be true — you just may be right.

Contact Art Bourque of Bourque Law Firm with any questions or comments about this article or regarding additional techniques for hiring (non-narcissist) employees.

UPDATE: DOL NEARS IMPLEMENTING LANDMARK RULE ABOLISHING OVERTIME EXEMPTION FOR EMPLOYEES MAKING LESS THAN $50,000

2016 is almost upon us.  As previously discussed, businesses need to plan now for new regulations that will go into effect abolishing the overtime exemption for all currently salaried employees that make less than $50,000 per year.

When enacted, the regulations will greatly reduce businesses’ ability to claim executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, and computer exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The regulations will affect millions of workers and their employers.

WHEN EXACTLY WILL THE NEW REGULATIONS GO INTO EFFECT AND HOW WILL WE KNOW?

I am receiving a number of questions about the new regulations, including “when exactly will they go into effect?” and “will we have any advance notice?”

Here are the answers:

  • The new regulations are almost sure to go into effect in 2016.
  • Businesses will likely have 60 days’ notice before the change in the law.

Because of the 2016 presidential and other elections, there is virtually no chance the DOL would wait until 2017 to implement the new regulations.   Neither the DOL nor the Obama administration will risk a conservative victory and a shift back towards “pro business” policies.

Earlier this week I emailed the DOL regarding how much advance notice we can expect.  I received the following response:  “We will not know the effective date of the final rule until the Final Rule publishes sometime in 2016.  Typically, the effective date is sixty days after publication of a final rule.”

CONCLUSION

Plan now for the new rule changes — which are discussed in more detail here and here.  This way, when the 60 day notice arrives, your business will transition smoothly — as opposed to undergoing a rushed fire-drill that may lead to mistakes.

Speaking of mistakes:  understand, the DOL will be closely watching businesses to ensure they do not attempt any end-runs around the new regulations.  So, while business creativity is normally to be applauded, make sure that your business does not pay, classify, or otherwise treat employees in a way that might violate the Fair Labor Standards Act.

In any event, HR Law Insider and Bourque Law Firm will stay on top of any new developments in the pending rules and will immediately announce when they are enacted.  Until then, enjoy Bruce Springsteen’s awesome salute to Bob Dylan’s salute to the fact that The Times They Are a Changin’:

 

THE 10 BEST WAYS TO PREVENT EMPLOYEES FROM LEAVING AND COMPETING AGAINST YOUR BUSINESS

The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies.  Anonymous

Competition is the backbone of business in this country.  It forces companies to hire and train quality employees and to develop unique processes that provide an edge over the competition.

All too often, however, employees use their employers to extract information and training so that they can start their own business and compete.  This article shares highly effective ways to avoid getting burned by employees leaving and competing against one’s business.  While businesses can never fully prevent employees from leaving and competing, they can make it very difficult and costly to unfairly compete.

1.TREAT AND PAY YOUR TALENT WELL

A recent survey by CareerBuilder found that thirty percent of workers reported that they regularly search for job opportunities even though they’re currently employed.

What makes an employee look for another job? A previous CareerBuilder survey found that 66% percent of discontent employees cited concerns over salary and 65% said they don’t feel valued.  Others who are likely to leave their job: workers who are dissatisfied with advancement opportunities at current company (45%), workers who are dissatisfied with their work/life balance (39%), workers who feel underemployed (39%), workers who are highly stressed (39%), workers who have a poor opinion of their boss’s performance (37%), workers who feel they were overlooked for a promotion (36%); workers who have been with their company two years or less (35%), and workers who didn’t receive a pay increase in 2013 (28%).

The data provides a simple lesson for employers:  to keep employees from leaving and competing against one’s business, value them and pay them well.

2.  HAVE IMPORTANT EMPLOYEES SIGN NON-COMPETE AND NON-SOLICITATION AGREEMENTS

Even the best employers — who treat and pay their employees well — lose employees who go on to compete against them.  In Arizona, employers can effectively delay and deter that competition by having employees sign non-compete and non-solicitation agreements at the outset of employment.

Here is an article I wrote on the benefits of a good non-compete and non-solicitation agreement, versus the considerable and unnecessary downside of not having one.

3.  GUARD YOUR CONFIDENTIAL AND PROPRIETARY INFORMATION

The law protects those who protect their confidential and proprietary information.  Therefore, both your company handbook and non-compete/non-solicitation agreement should contain specific and detailed language prohibiting the improper use or dissemination of the company’s confidential and proprietary information.

4.  LEGALLY MONITOR COMPANY COMPUTERS

Monitoring computers and other devices is an effective way to (1) discourage employee theft and goofing off and (2) uncover theft or other misconduct as it is occurring and/or after it has happened.   Employee monitoring thus reduces the chance for unfair competition and, if it occurs, makes it easier to establish the misconduct.

Computer forensics experts can determine if an employee connected a device such as a removable USB storage device or if a CD was created which contained confidential data.  A true expert can even identify the make, model and serial number of the removable storage device, when it was first connected and the last time it was used.  The expert can also identify which data was deleted and often times can even recover the information. Printing a document also leaves a trail which can be uncovered and can provide key information about the theft itself. Frequently, websites visited by an employee will bring context to the theft or even constitute direct evidence.

Note:  employees should be informed at the outset of employment, or at the outset of monitoring, that monitoring may occur to, among other things:  ensure the security of company information, prevent theft, and enhance productivity.  Failing to advise employees that monitoring may occur may give rise to civil or criminal wiretapping or other claims.

5.  CELL PHONES RARELY LIE 

Cell phones travel everywhere with your employees.  Because of this, they are sometimes used for the wrong reasons — when employees secretly take steps to leave and compete against their employer.

If your company issues cell phones to employee, it may monitor them (again, after proper notice).  Because cell phones are the “preferred” device for employees to use when starting to compete, issuing phones that one can monitor during employment and inspect upon the employee’s departure is an effective way to deter and uncover misconduct.

iPhones, Blackberries (has anyone seen a Blackberry lately?), and Android phones contain information which can provide significant insight on what an employee is doing or was doing leading up to the theft of data. For example, a forensics investigation of an Apple iPhone will generally result in the recovery of 50,000 – 60,000 files, most of which the employee never realized existed or thought they had deleted. For the iPhone, the files recovered include all voicemails that were ever left on the phone, all emails ever sent or received, and data users often believe is deleted but can be recovered – including text messages, contacts, call logs and pictures. The blending of modern smart phones with GPS technology can also pinpoint a departing employee’s location at a particular date and time.

Conversely, if your company does not issue cell phones it will be very difficult to determine how the phone is being used during work time.  Also, when the employee leaves the employee will retain the cell phone and the information in the cell phone.  Equally bad, your customers and other employees will easily know how to contact your ex-employee — whose telephone number will stay the same.

In conclusion, carefully consider how cell phones can be used by your employees, whether they should be monitored, and how they will be treated upon the employee’s departure.

6. PRESERVE EVIDENCE OF EMPLOYEE MISCONDUCT

It should be standard operating procedure to have your IT department properly secure all computers and other data storage devices (cell phones, etc.) that may be necessary to assist in any subsequent investigation.  The IT department should store in a secure area any computer or electronic information storage device before anyone attempts to search or access data on the device.

Computer forensic experts can copy, evaluate, and mine data from hard drives and other electronic devices assigned to former employees where there exists a belief the employee may have engaged in misconduct. If a computer is immediately taken out of service, most computer forensic evaluations will permit the recovery of files and emails that have been deleted from even the computer’s recycle bin.

Also, the internet access history of a computer may potentially result in a wealth of information that can be used in any subsequent proceeding. As stated above, a forensic investigation can further determine if any external device was installed on the computer and, if so, what documents and information may have been down loaded and when.

7.  BE LIKE SHERLOCK:  FOLLOW THE EVIDENCE TRAIL AND BE PROACTIVE

If you suspect or uncover misconduct, follow any evidence to its logical endpoint.  This can mean, for example, that you interview other employees identified in any communications or that were close to the ex-employee; it may mean that you reach out to customers serviced by the ex-employee to ensure they are happy with your company’s services and that their business has not been co-opted; or, it may mean that you go to third parties (e.g. Verizon or Sprint) for cell phone data.

A disloyal employee should bring out the Sherlock Holmes in your business.  As in many mysteries, the evidence is often hidden in plain site.

8.  CONSULT WITH LEGAL COUNSEL

Consult with legal counsel immediately if there is a reasonable chance that an employee or ex-employee could inflict lasting harm on your company.  Experienced employment counsel should be able to quickly determine the enforceability of your non-compete and other agreements.  Counsel can also determine whether the wrongdoer has violated any statutes (e.g. the Uniform Trade Secrets Act) or whether your company has any common law claims (e.g. breach of the duty of loyalty; conversion).

Further, legal counsel can provide a company with a plan of attack, including how to gather evidence to support your claims and damages — should a lawsuit be necessary.

9.  DEMAND THAT THE EX-EMPLOYEE STOP THE UNLAWFUL CONDUCT

A demand letter is typically a letter from the company’s attorney setting forth the misconduct and demanding that it cease and that the ex-employee pay any damages that have been caused by the alleged misconduct.

It is almost always prudent to send a demand letter before filing a lawsuit. First, the demand letter may cause the ex-employee to stop the misconduct, rendering a lawsuit unnecessary.  Second, judges like it when parties try to resolve disputes short of a lawsuit.

Demand letters should be carefully drafted.  Among other things, demand letters set the tone for the dispute, reveal the party’s level of sophistication, and can be used against the drafter if there are any admissions or omissions.

Finally, consider whether to send a copy of the demand letter to the ex-employee’s new employer (unless the employee started the employee’s own business), or whether to send a separate demand letter to the new employer in which the new employer is itself implicated in the misconduct.  This is a huge decision:  on one hand it may be prudent to put all potential wrongdoers on notice, yet on the other your business may be cultivating a new enemy and a two-front war.

10.  TO SUE OR NOT TO SUE, THAT IS THE QUESTION

Oftentimes an ex-employee will ignore a company’s demand letter or impolitely respond: “pound sand!”  In this situation, a solid cost/benefit analysis is needed to determine whether to stand down or file a lawsuit.    A business owner must determine:

  • What will it cost in lost business and/or employees to allow the misconduct to continue?
  • Will inaction send a signal to other employees and competitors that the company is a pushover — thereby encouraging others to engage in similar misconduct?
  • What are the odds of prevailing in court and what will it cost?
  • Should the lawsuit include the ex-employee’s new company?
  • Might the ex-employee file a counterclaim alleging damages (e.g. for unpaid wages, breach of contract, and/or discrimination)?

The answers to these and other carefully considered questions allow a company to intelligently go forward — accepting the consequences of its reasoned decision.

CONCLUSION

There are various reasons that compel employees to leave their companies and compete.  Unfortunately, there are many schemes that less than scrupulous employees devise  to unfairly compete — including helping themselves to customer lists, downloading proprietary processes, and pirating employees and customers.   Follow this article and reduce the chances your company will be burned by one of its own.

If you have any questions regarding protecting your business from unfair competition or employee misconduct, please contact Art Bourque of Bourque Law Firm.