Posted by: kerrywills | October 10, 2014

Attitude vs Aptitude

I have been on several projects now where there are project resources who are very talented in their particular field but who have a pessimistic and almost toxic impact on the team morale. These are the people who know a system or business area very well and therefore everyone comes to them for information. Because of this they get a sense of entitlement which makes them believe that they can act however they want and say whatever they want. Examples I have seen in my own career include…

  • Aggression towards vendor partners
  • Aggression towards other team members
  • Flagrant comments about management and other team members
  • Negative attitude about the project goals


I suspect that because they are viewed as critical resources that management glosses over the attitude and doesn’t make a strong stand. My view is that, on my projects, I take attitude over aptitude any day. I would much rather have an optimistic resource who views themselves as part of the team than an expert who makes the project horrible for everyone who has to work with them. I have been on projects where I have rolled off talented people because their attitude was toxic and causing problems for the entire team. Obviously the issue needs to be identified and brought to that person’s attention, but if the attitude does not change then I believe action is required.


  1. Nice one, Kerry. But then where do these guys with aptitude get their attitude? Dig deeper.

  2. […] Kerry Wills would rather have a newbie with a good attitude than a jerk with a lot of expertise. […]

  3. You make a great point about attitude. Attitude is one of those qualities that is lost or ignored when people are viewed as interchangeable “project resources.”

    On a related note, I would suggest “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. It is a fast read and provides one of the best models for how to think about building a team (and the problems that prevent true team work).

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