Managing Derailers

Derailers are indicators to help individuals know themselves; they inform the individual about the likelihood of how these individuals will react during times of stress, extreme comfort or circumstances of boredom. Knowing one’s dark side is an important first step in being able to cope with stressful conditions.

In this document, D-TECK proposes a list of these 11 traits, identified by our partners at Hogan Assessment Systems, alongside recommendations of ways to approach situations or process information or social interactions in a professional environment.

Furthermore, general tips on how to handle times of stress or crises are listed, and can be applied by anyone, whether the individual is a colleague, a supervisor or even yourself.

Missed the previous articles in this series? Read Eleven Performance Derailers to learn what defines each of them, or Derailers During COVID-19 to understand their impact in this time of crisis.


About the Proposed Recommendations

For each of the 11 derailers, two factors are proposed for the individual to keep in mind during stressful times. Furthermore, an actionable recommendation is proposed.



  • Try to seem relaxed and optimistic during stressful times, as this will communicate to staff and colleagues that perseverance will pay off.
  • Remember that emotional outbursts will upset staff, reduce their productivity, and negatively affect their performance.

Action-Oriented Suggestion

Start analysing the situations in which you become frustrated and upset; learn to recognise the signs that you are about to lose control – leave the situation and take time out. For instance, you can review your calendar to flag potentially stressful events and plan ahead to self-monitor effectively.



  • Become more aware of a tendency to separate the world into heroes and villains.
  • Question the assumption that others deliberately attempt to demean, frustrate, or exploit you. Instead, look for the positive intentions people might have.

Action-Oriented Suggestion

Start developing the capacity to better trust at least some other people, or at least keep one’s doubts to oneself. For example, identify 1 or 2 relationship(s) that you would benefit from improving by demonstrating your willingness to collaborate and let go of possible past grudges.



  • Recognise that when others ask for your opinion, it is usually because others believe that you have something important to say.
  • Challenge the belief that mistakes signify failure and inadequacy and see them instead as opportunities to learn and to improve.

Action-Oriented Suggestion

Identify a situation/context where you recognize that your lack of decisiveness could have been frustrating for others. Furthermore, start providing more suggestions for solutions rather than raising objections.



  • Observe others’ emotions to differentiate expressions of positive feelings from those of negative feelings; accept that feelings are important to most people and that other people can be injured easily.
  • Respect that the tendency to be blunt and direct in communication can impede success in building consensus in team-based projects.

Action-Oriented Suggestion

Start asking other people for feedback on your performance; after important meetings, ask others what they heard and demonstrate an interest in their answers.



  • Consider the possibilities that others have achieved positions of authority because they are competent and conforming to expectations, and this is not a threat to self-sufficiency.
  • Generate explicit timelines for completing tasks, making a commitment to follow these self-generated expectations while limiting the promises made to others to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Action-Oriented Suggestion

Start giving others honest (but appropriate) feedback about your intentions/where you stand on an issue.



  • Remember that overconfidence can be a turn-off to others. As a collaborator, show interests in others’ input and take the time to listen to others’ input so that every member feels important.
  • Stop regarding team interactions as opportunities for competition in which only one person can win; remember the real competition is outside the organisation, not within it. Instead, ask yourself how you can better create win-win situations in your dealing with others.

Action-Oriented Suggestion

Identify more opportunities to share credit with your colleagues for successes and missions accomplished. When things go wrong, remember to objectively assess what you could have done differently in this situation.



  • Recognise that career success depends on the support of others; as a result, consider strategies for building their loyalty and trust.
  • Consider apologising to those who may have been hurt or disappointed by past actions rather than trying to explain the situation away. Also consider being more transparent from the start in some situations.

Action-Oriented Suggestion

Start partnering with someone who is good with details and follow-up to balance your strengths and areas of improvement.



  • Discover alternative strategies for making a point – emotional displays attract attention but may sometimes alienate others.
  • Beware of confusing activity with productivity; notes and to-do lists can help ensure that specific tasks receive adequate attention.

Action-Oriented Suggestion

In meetings, start listening rather than talking, asking others if you have understood them correctly. Ensure that you are leaving enough room to others to participate fully in the discussion by sometimes skipping a turn or two even if you want to talk.



  • Recognise that stimulating and visionary ideas are often hard for others to understand. Careful consideration of strategies for implementation and well-planned communication will give creative ideas greater credibility.
  • Focus efforts on ideas that seem most interesting to others; this allows for a greater number of ideas to be acted upon.

Action-Oriented Suggestion

Start checking with trusted colleagues regarding the practicality of your ideas before taking them public. Consider what others, from their different perspective, need to hear to be convinced.



  • Recognise that the best solutions to problems may not always be cost effective: good enough may be as valuable as perfect.
  • Challenge the belief that work that is less than perfect will always be criticized.

Action-Oriented Suggestion

Increase your tendency to delegate tasks to subordinates and letting them make their own mistakes, without falling into the trap of criticizing those who may be facing unrealistic standards.



  • Consider that people understand that disagreement is not tantamount to criticism or rejection.
  • Recognise that independent thinking will increase your credibility and stature with those in authority, not diminish it.

Action-Oriented Suggestion

List all the reasons why your manager, your team and your peers would respond favorably to your being more independent/decisive in your point of view.


General Coping Strategies During Times of Stress

Take care of yourself every day.

People cope with stress better when they get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, eat nutritious meals, drink only in moderation, meditate, and otherwise take some time out for themselves on a routine basis. Those who are waking up early or staying up late to get work done around their children’s schedules and who are not taking care of themselves are more likely to see their dark sides emerge. You need to take care of yourself and encourage your colleagues and family or housemates to do the same.

Focus on what you can control.

Research shows people can tolerate high levels of stress when they feel in control, while even low stress levels can have debilitating effects when people feel they have little control. We cannot control what decisions are made by external influencers, but we can control the practices we put in place every day, how we manage our schedules, how we divide our time between work and family activities, how we show up for work, and how we respond to team members. Helping everyone identify what they can control and stay focused on that will enable people to keep their dark-side tendencies in check.

Maintain support networks.

Offer support to others and take solace in others. You might not always be able to do in-person visits, but you can connect via phone, video conferencing, email, and social media. Sharing difficulties with others who are willing to lend a sympathetic ear can go a long way toward keeping your stress level in check. Leaders should check in with employees on a regular basis to see how they are doing and if they are staying connected with family and friends.


In Conclusion

Derailers might be perceived as weaknesses or detractors of work performance and interpersonal relationships, but they also provide opportunities for great personal growth. Experience is the forge of leadership and interpersonal relationships, and by maintaining focus and keeping your dark-side tendencies in check, you will emerge from times of stress even stronger.


Our experts in organizational psychology can help assess individuals. Our D-TECK reports evaluate the strengths and areas of improvements in a professional context for 11 types of profiles, including personality, management skills, cognitive abilities and general aptitudes and skills.

If you have any questions, you may contact us at or via our website


Derailers are considered misused or overused strengths in situations where individuals are not self-monitoring themselves. Context is key in determining the impact of a derailer; in certain situations, a derailer might not have major impact, or could even be perceived as positive (for example, in an organization where a particular derailer is commonly found amongst its contributors). Hence, we invite readers to consider their context to make sense of the impact of their derailers.
Furthermore, this document serves as an informative resource only. This document, by itself, does not hold any value in terms of formally assessing or coaching individuals.