People who “don’t suffer fools gladly”​, must be uncomfortable living with themselves.

Probably seems quite provocative but during 30 years of interviewing I have probably heard this phrase more than any other. Often said with a swelling chest and a good deal of pride and supposed proof of toughness when things become difficult.

11039031 - boss dismisses employee. isolated

But what does it mean and what does it say about the person making that claim? Though it may depend on the definition of ‘fool’ I usually take it to mean anybody you manage who does not do what is expected of them or makes a mistake.

Is the interviewee saying to me that they are intolerant? Are they claiming proudly that they are a poor listener? Do they wish to demonstrate that they put the fear of God into anybody that gets something wrong? Do they wish to make subordinates feel bad about themselves?

How does it feel to be managed by someone ‘who does not suffer fools gladly’. When, as happens to us all, something goes wrong; we make a mistake or a project falls apart we often ashamed or self critical. What is needed is support to exercise self compassion (see my earlier post on ‘value yourself’) and understanding, probably encouragement to learn from the problem. The last thing you need is someone who ‘does not suffer fools gladly’.

When things go wrong we often become tangled in a web of: blame; criticism; self doubt and feeling bad. Self acceptance and support from our managers can lead to effective learning and a much healthier and happier work environment.

When the claim is made ‘I do not suffer fools gladly’, I am sure it is made as an easy thing to say and the belief it sounds good. As an interviewee do you need to think more carefully what the phrase says about you?


Who am I? A chap living in Nottingham, United Kingdom who perhaps has a much higher level of enthusiasm than ability leading to an interest in many things but mastery of none. A father of three no longer dependent children, or so they tell me, and husband to a one-time nurse who now works with me (or rather I work for). I attempt to take photographs and occasionally fluke half decent shots though thank goodness I no longer have to buy film. I endeavour to practice karate but with advancing years spend more time instructing them participating but actively participate in the more gentle tai chi. Professionally I have spent the last twenty years in recruitment – not always the most highly regarded ‘industry’. For my part I take great pleasure in helping companies to find the right people and a lot of satisfaction out of seeing them thrive and succeed. More recently I have spent a lot of time helping people who have, or fear they may, lose their jobs. For many putting a CV together is so difficult and then finding opportuniteis can be a major challenge. Interviews can be a different problem altogether but with a little help most people can perform a lot better than they otherwise would.

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