Quit Using Your Personality as an Excuse for Behaving Badly

Personality2One of my pet peeves is people who use their personality as an excuse for their behavior. “I can’t help it, that’s just who I am” is the phrase that’s often uttered to rationalize or justify an action, position, or attitude. In some ways it’s almost the perfect defense to any argument, isn’t it? “You mean you want me to change who I am?” How can you ask someone to change the very essence of what makes them who they are?

There’s no doubt that our inborn temperament and natural personality traits shape the way we perceive and react to our environment, however, we are in control of the way we choose to respond to situations. Part of being a successful and trusted leader is learning how to regulate your thoughts, emotions, and natural personality traits so that you can respond in a manner that is appropriate for the situation at hand. Using your personality as a crutch to stay in your emotional comfort zone will only limit your leadership potential and alienate those around you.

Your personality is not an excuse for…

Shirking job responsibilities – Every job has mundane or tedious tasks we don’t like doing or may not even be good at performing. However, it’s a cop-out to use your personality to shirk those responsibilities, or even worse, pass them off to someone else. “I’m not a detailed person” or “I have more important things to do than this paperwork” are examples of this kind of attitude. If you want to be a trusted and respected colleague, you need to take responsibility for all the areas in your job description and not ignore the others or push them off on someone else.

Being rude to people — If you frequently find yourself saying “I’m just being honest and telling it like it is,” then you’re probably relying too much on your default nature of being direct and to the point. Those are great traits to possess, but they shouldn’t be used as an excuse for being harsh or inconsiderate with people.

Not giving feedback when feedback is due — It’s difficult for most people to deliver constructive criticism to others, but people often hide behind their personality traits as an excuse to not give feedback. Whether you’re introverted and shy and find it difficult to engage others, or an extroverted people-pleaser that can’t stand the idea of someone not liking you, you have to learn ways to give feedback. You owe it to yourself and others.

Avoiding or inciting conflict — Along the same lines as giving feedback, dealing with conflict is probably the most common area where we stay in our emotional comfort zone. This is especially dangerous for people who tend to fall on the edges of the spectrum in dealing with conflict – either avoiding it or gravitating to it. Whatever your natural style of dealing with conflict, it doesn’t mean that’s the only way to deal with it. Just as important as knowing your natural tendencies, it’s important to know how others tend to deal with conflict so that you can “speak the same language” when trying to resolve issues.

Blaming others — It’s easy for us to blame others for whatever shortcomings we may have in our life or career; it’s much harder to honestly examine ourselves and take responsibility for the choices we’ve made that have led us to where we are today. For example, if you have a personality need to always be right, and you demonstrate that by constantly arguing and debating with colleagues, you shouldn’t blame others when people stop including you in projects, meetings, or decisions. “They don’t want my opinion because they don’t respect me and don’t want to hear the truth”…no…they don’t want your opinion because you always think you’re right and it’s annoying!

Our personalities are what make us the unique individuals we are, and the beauty of organizational life is that we’re able to take this diversity and blend it into a cohesive whole that’s more productive and powerful than the individual parts. Learning to be more aware of our own personalities and those of others, combined with a willingness to stretch out of our comfort zones and not always rely on our natural instincts, will help us lead more productive and satisfying lives at work.

11 Comments on “Quit Using Your Personality as an Excuse for Behaving Badly

  1. Hi Randy

    I found out that when people say things like you quoted “They don’t want my opinion because…” that there are basically two reasons for saying so:
    1. They want to be sure that everybody has been waiting all day for them to speak
    2. It is a perception of people who decided to be “professional victims”

    I honestly think that people who want to be right all the time are typically too busy with themselves to notice that others are not so much into their opinion. Or they just missed your remark about being rude.

    Have a great week.


  2. Thanks Randy! Also great comments to recalibrate by when my frustration w myself and/or others is on the rise! Most likely I am frustrated w myself for one of these reasons! And surprise! : they are frustrated w me! Great guidelines by which I need to stand back and re-assess.

  3. Great guidelines by which to recalibrate myself when my frustration is on the rise – either w myself or with others. If this is the case, most likely others are frustrated w me then too! All terribly inefficient and not much fun, I might add!

  4. Hi Randy,

    Great article – I really like the section about blaming others. As a leader, my team knows that credit goes to the entire team, but the blame comes to me – I bear ultimate responsibility. Even if I didn’t physically do the wrong action, could I have prevented it somehow. Could I have created an environment where that mistake couldn’t happen? Could I have improved the training? Could I have found someone to help the person?Could have I assigned the task to someone else? You get the point. By accepting responsibility, my mindset goes from negative (blame) to positive (problem solving).

    Finally, I would propose another area – not developing your followers, especially if you’re an introvert. Some might say that this is a subset of shirking your responsibilities (you are, after all, responsible to help your team grow), but I personally feel that this is important enough to merit its own category. You need to help each member of your team to see and ultimately achieve their potential, even if they don’t believe in themselves (yet). You may feel somewhat uncomfortable at first, but you will rapidly overcome this obstacle when you see the look of pride and accomplishment on peoples faces.



    • Excellent points Chris. I have the same philosophy as you….success goes to the team, and I’m responsible when something goes wrong. That attitude creates a tremendous sense of trust between leader and team members.

      Thanks for adding your insights,


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