Don’t Hire Squirrels To Be Your Top Dogs

By Linda D. Henman, Ph.D.

People are not your most important asset. The right people are.
Jim Collins, Good To Great

Bad hiring decisions cost organizations, both in dollars and lost opportunities.  But getting the right people in the right places doing the right thing is not easy.  It requires painstaking efforts and objective information.  But what is a squirrel? Simply put, a squirrel is a destructive creature that does not belong in your organization.  It is an individual that, no matter how much you try, will for now and always be a squirrel.  You can’t fix squirrels.

Ten Reasons Not to Hire Squirrels

  • Not champions of innovation, squirrels are known as the “living fossils.”  They haven’t changed in 5 million years.  What are the chances they will be able to handle expected, much less unexpected change in your company?  And respond to shifting priorities?  Won’t happen.
  • Squirrels resolve conflict by foot stomping, tail flagging, chattering, and chasing. Not many people like conflict and even fewer are good at resolving it, but squirrely responses to conflict will get you sued.
  • Aggressive and uncooperative, 32% of adult males have torn ears. Do this just one time in corporate America, and you have huge problems.
  • Not good team players, squirrels are asocial and solitary.  If the job requires any kind of collaboration, teamwork, or coordination of effort, a squirrel is not your rodent of choice.
  • When confronted with a threat, squirrels stand motionless, swallow hard, and chew fast—so much for overcoming obstacles.  Most companies require more of a “can do” spirit that squirrels just don’t seem to be able to embody.
  • The brains of squirrels are seldom engaged.  The stomach rules.  Some part of the brain has to work for success in most companies.  The stomach should play a much lesser role.
  • Because their sweat glands are in their paws, squirrels are lousy handshakers.  Will this help build rapport with clients?
  • There are 1600 different species of squirrels, but they are all seed-stealing thieves.  Squirrels are sometimes tough to classify by the specific genus, but they all share the characteristic of being thieves.  There’s no place for an employee who will have a paw in the till.
  • Squirrels spend most of they day sleeping and are usually only active around lunch time.
  • Although cute and furry, squirrels are gnawing beasts that destroy property and make not attempts at restitution.


Smart companies, ones that want to select and retain talent in industries that are characterized by pirating, know that they must pioneer new ways to hire smart, develop talent, and teach the non-technical aspects of leading.  Remember, a squirrel is just a rat in a cuter outfit.

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