7 Types of People Who Fail in Finance

In the fast moving, competitive field of finance it pays to build a team of employees who can work well together to help a company meet its goals and objectives. However, organizations tend to struggle from time to time with people who show a lot of promise but fail to deliver consistent results as a result of a number of negative behavioral traits that drag their work, or even the work of their colleagues, down.

Here are seven different personality types that can inject poison into the unique corporate culture of a finance firm.

1. The Pontificator

Who Are Pontificators?

Pontificators tend to lurk around and blow their own horn at inopportune times, usually when you have a report due in two hours, right before a meeting starts or when you are rushing to the bathroom. Pontificators are focused on themselves and spend less time thinking about the organization or team goals. They also tend to tear down colleagues with biting remarks and suck up to the boss, but when they meet someone with significantly higher standardized test scores, or in a well-regarded position within the firm, they worship that person.

Why They Fail

Pontificators waste people’s time and irritate everyone. They drain the group’s energy through demotivating and aggravating remarks, with teamwork suffering as a result. A well-functioning organization can boot these people out after input from members of the team. Unfortunately, pontificators can be high-performers and some managers are reluctant to let them go.

2. The Selfish Jerk

Who Are Selfish Jerks?

“Selfish jerks” may occasionally profess to care about the organization and team goals – if this opportunistically helps with their image within the company. These people are really only aligned with their personal desires.

When the company experiences some kind of adversity – when it becomes critical for each worker to rise to the occasion — the selfish jerk takes off for a new organization in a heartbeat or works at protecting their job. The selfish jerk is typically well-versed in financial subjects and industry benchmarks. They are obsessed with researching industry statistics on salary and bonus. You might find them running a covert operation trying to figure out what co-workers are making in terms of salary and bonuses.

Why They Fail

These types of personalities repel managers. Finance professionals who show promise as potential leaders possess managerial and leadership characteristics. The underpinning of leadership is service in the interest of the company and the team. Selfish behaviors lead to a nasty corporate culture that nobody wants and includes “one-upmanship,” territorialism, backstabbing, sabotage and lack of teamwork.

3. The Nerd or Doormat

Who Are Nerds/Doormats?

The nerd or doormat has succeeded in a plethora of academic subjects in high school and college. They are widely-read, but unfortunately, doormats have completely ignored their communication skills and have difficulty conveying even simple issues in a succinct and understandable manner. Since doormats are usually bright individuals, they may be against receiving training or courses that will help improve their communication or management skills.

Why They Fail

The doormat’s desire to be left alone – and avoid co-workers when the need for teamwork arises – produces costly miscommunications and disconnects. Often, if there is conflict within the group, the doormat cannot muster the necessary backbone to stand up for what is right. They are passed over for promotions for more assertive colleagues.

4. The Procrastinator

Who Are Procrastinators?

Procrastinators have succeeded in school and in prior work experiences. Their track record of success leads them to believe that their accomplishments were more a function of individual personality than hard work, insights and sheer execution. The procrastinator has become complacent and waits for quasi-emergencies before stepping up.

Why They Fail

Being late with monthly, quarterly and annual financial reports is unacceptable in finance. Alternatively, when procrastinators turn work in on time, the quality suffers significantly. In finance, bottlenecks produce missed deadlines or poor work product. In an effort to make the team more efficient and effective, managers often fire the procrastinator.

(For more, read Time Management Tips for Financial Professionals.)

5. The Excel Lightweight

Who Are the Excel Lightweights?

The Excel lightweight probably excelled in college accounting and finance classes. The lightweight’s ability in understanding mainly the theoretical concepts, however, is no longer sufficient in the real world.

In a finance setting, a practical skill such as advanced Excel knowledge is a driver for garnering increased responsibilities, higher productivity and spreadsheet formula accuracy. How can you succeed in finance without excelling in its major form of communication, spreadsheets? The Excel lightweight doesn’t understand much about keyboard shortcuts, macros, advanced formulas or add-ins.

Why They Fail

The Excel lightweight causes blowups from time to time in the form of inaccurate Excel numbers and formulas. Those with little or no prior real world experience think that their superior knowledge of finance theory easily translates into practical application on the job.

The Excel lightweight can cause tremendous amounts of re-work as well as an investigation into the root cause of the spreadsheet or database problems, especially with large projects. They can also destroy careers. Embarrassment and anger runs amok and is directed towards the Excel lightweight’s managers by higher-up executives or clients.

(To learn more, check out Microsoft Excel Features for the Financially Literate.)

6. The Error-Prone Dummy

Who Are the Error-Prone Dummies?

The error-prone dummy is typically a junior analyst or junior associate who had connections and may have gotten into the firm through the back door. They might have gone to the same college as the interviewer or have a relative who is an investor in the company. You won’t find senior people that are error-prone dummies, because they’ve already been ushered out, even with their connections.

Accuracy, dependability and reliability are critical success factors in finance. Unfortunately, the error-prone dummy spends time daydreaming about prospective nighttime activities or is more interested in college football scores than work. Their work product suffers, and the team is often stuck wasting time redoing the work or researching what went wrong.

Why They Fail

They get fired because doing so is an effective cost-saving action. Error-prone dummies are not able to catch redundant adjustments, incorrect industry assumptions, overly-optimistic forecasts and missed calculations. If finance is viewed as a game of football, then the error-prone dummy is equivalent to a player who never catches a pass or fumbles the ball when he does catch it.

7. The Apathetic Cyborg

Who Are the Apathetic Cyborgs?

Apathetic cyborgs do not care. They will work only as much as needed to prevent being fired, and nothing more. In a setting where people are rushing to meet deadlines, the apathetic cyborg never displays passion. Don’t bother telling them anything of importance, as it’s likely going out the other ear.

Why They Fail
The apathetic cyborg is perpetually uninformed. It doesn’t matter if the compliance department repeatedly blasts emails about the importance of complying with the latest insider trading policies or that the CFO determines 12 percent is the new cost of equity for the company. The apathetic cyborg risks non-compliance with critical regulatory statutes or provides field operators with the wrong cost of equity percentages to use to evaluate new projects. Because the apathetic cyborg is out of the loop, they can be out of the company sooner rather than later.

The Bottom Line

If you want to succeed in finance and within your organization, constantly gather feedback from your peers and managers. There are unique issues and objectives that are critical within finance: teamwork, meeting deadlines on reports, alignment with organizational objectives, Excel prowess and a clear understanding of initiatives.

If you know where you stand, you will be in a position to take concrete action to improve certain areas. Finance is a competitive field and there are not many chances given to those who are on the radar for getting the boot.

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