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The Risk of Hiring Uncoachables

The Risk of Hiring Uncoachables

Whether your office is a field, court, or high-rise building, chemistry is essential to your team’s success. Chemistry starts and finishes with the people you hire, and trust to bring your team to the next level whether that is a championship title, or a new round of funding. All it takes is one uncoachable member of the team and you can kiss chemistry goodbye. “Uncoachables” can have tantalizing talent, but hiring them puts the entire fabric of your company at risk.

First let’s reference some historically uncoachable team members: Randy Moss, Barry Bonds and Terrell Owens. Randy Moss infamously proclaimed, “I play when I want to play.” Translation: “No one, not even my boss or coach can tell me what to do.” Terrell Owens made his arrogance known by celebrating after each catch, and publicly ridiculing his team for not getting him the ball enough. Barry Bonds almost always sat alone in the dug-out, and reportedly introduced himself to the new teammates by reminding them of the times he hit home runs against them in his past. In each of these moments, the message was clear: this wasn’t about the good of the team, it was about an attention seeking individual and their own agenda. In team sports (much like a job) as soon as you start working for yourself and no one else, the good of the company comes second.

How do you recognize an “Uncoachable?”

In the interview when you ask, “what’s your biggest failure?” (which you ALWAYS should) you’ll hear crickets. Or something like, “I work too hard.” Just so you know, that’s a lie. If they cannot admit to something from the very beginning and explain how they overcame the situation, odds are they won’t be willing to admit to something later either.

Back to the athlete analogy: when it comes to notoriously difficult and uncoachable players we often hear they keep to themselves in the locker room or are antagonistic/arrogant. Now, their skill may be undeniably phenomenal but a “nose in the air, sharpie in my sock,” attitude is toxic to a team and not worth it. Barry Bonds may have been an all time home run hitter, but I cannot think of one time watching the SF Giants when I saw him surrounded by his team in the dugout. No support given, no support received.

Uncoachables will lash out when you or another employee is trying to help them by correcting a mistake. They perceive help as criticism and a challenge to their skill and ego. This means whatever knowledge they came to your company with, is what they’re leaving with. In the Uncoachable’s mind, no one has more to offer than they do themselves.

This is what you risk…

All of these indicators are something you need to be aware of as a hiring manager or team leader in order to maintain the cohesiveness, productivity, and happiness of your team. The office is a learning environment, and should be collaborative. Like a machine, if you remove the nuts and bolts, everything will stop working.  A good employer has employees that are motivated by the company’s mission. The glue that holds everyone together, the “it-factors” that inspire, are internal motivators – the company’s values aligned with the individuals. At SmartRecruiters, our shared goal is to get people back to work by making hiring easy. An uncoachable’s goal would rely solely on stock options. An uncoachable will come in and destroy the comradery achieved by the shared values.  Because, they don’t share these values. Their goal is to get ahead – alone.

This is what hiring an uncoachable says to your team…

Terrell Owens, Barry Bonds, and Randy Moss are all incredibly talented athletes. No one can argue with that. Yet few of their former teammates say, “I want to work with him again.” When you hire an uncoachable – keeping them simply for their skill – you tell the rest of the team, “You are not as valuable.” You tell them that despite their ability to learn, grow, develop, and work with a team you’d rather have this guy run 100 yards down the field or hit a grand slam in between the all-too-frequent suspensions. You’re telling your team that you reward bad behavior.

The risk of hiring an uncoachable is too high. And trust me, the “sprints” of skill are not worth the damage to your team’s morale.

About the Author: Lexie Forman-Ortiz is the Community Manager at SmartRecruiters. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology & Communications from the University of Kansas she decided she never wanted to stop talking to people. She believes in creating great workplaces, developing talent, sharing knowledge and using social media for good. Follow Lexie on Twitter at @LexieFO.

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  • Great article Lexi! Thank you for sharing. Being coachable is one of the handful of qualities we list in our job descriptions as a “must-have”. Here’s a direct excerpt:

    Qualities we <3
    – You’re passionate
    – You're team-oriented
    – You’re friendly
    – You're coachable
    – You're humble

    So important!

    P.S. Don't forget about Allen Iverson: "We're sitting here, and I'm supposed to be the franchise player, and we're talking about practice. I mean listen, we're sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we're talking about practice. "

    Had to throw that in there!

    • That is by far one of my favorite quotes ever. I could have gone on for days with uncoachable examples. Perhaps that is a post to come. Thanks for having me!