The Prima Donna

The Prima Donna
a vain or undisciplined person who finds it difficult to work under direction or as part of a team

Whether you are in the auto repair, collision, tire, transmission or other automotive related business, you have experienced a prima donna. If you’ve been in the business long enough, you’ve undoubtedly hired and fired a few in your time. If you are like me, your solid vow to never hire another turned out to be a promise with an expiration date, because you still managed to hire another regardless of the pain the last one caused.

Why do we do it? Why do we hire individuals who bring the unmistakable prima donna cloud of entitlement, ego, and arrogance to inevitably wreak havoc on our company and morale? One word comes to mind: faith. When we see the warning signs of a prima donna, many of us tend to reason that the cause of their condition is external– maybe they’re coming from a bad situation at their previous place of employment, or the last shop owner just couldn’t manage his employees any better. That is to say, we have faith that we can surely do a better job of managing the prima donna and harnessing their talent. Our own egos then become a part of the hiring process and that is where the problem begins.

If you need evidence of this ego problem, look no further than the hiring process for many businesses. Still today, very few business owners or HR managers take the time to call past places of employment or references when reviewing potential candidates. Not because of laziness or failure to follow procedure, but because of a lack of interest in finding out the opinion of the previous employer or references. No weight is given to what the previous employer might think of the candidate, their work potential, their ability to work with others– because you’re a different kind of employer. Problems don’t carry over here. This egocentric position is the perfect leg up for less than perfect candidates.

The reality is there are many talented people in the marketplace, and you can’t always pick out the prima donnas before hiring them. What you can do is make sure your business environment doesn’t support their habits if they do get in the door. Creating a team-oriented atmosphere is the first step to making sure you have the conditions for your employees to succeed and for ideas to be shared. You can’t change people, but you can change your culture. Encourage your team to interact through problem solving meetings, give people a chance to share new ideas, and embrace changes your employees suggest. Letting your team share and own the solutions is a crucial building block to creating a business that values progress and produces more as a team rather than as individuals. The few individuals who are truly prima donnas won’t survive long in an environment where collaboration and teamwork thrive. Remove the throne, and watch the prima donnas disappear.

Written by Danny Sanchez