If  self-driving cars become commonplace there will be at least one unintended consequence: it will eliminate a good way to assess the true character of a coworker, colleague or customer.

Just as anonymity on the Web allows petty cowards to express their hidden ugliness, the anonymity of being behind the wheel brings out the worst in some people.

For example, I once had a boss who, first time you met him, seemed like a warm and friendly guy. A former top salesperson, he was outgoing, personable, and immediately and intensely likable.

When he out on the road, however, he was a holy terror. He used his radar detector to go twenty to thirty miles over the speed limit, often while smoking a cigar and talking on his cell phone. An multi-car pile-up waiting to happen.

My boss's driving behavior revealed his true character: he didn't care who got hurt as long as he got his way. And indeed, anyone who worked with him long term eventually realized that beneath the smiling facade was a sociopath.

His driving provided a glimpse of who he really was and if I'd driven with him before he offered me a job, I would have turned it down.  With that in mind, here are my observations on how driving habits reveal character and personality:

  • Rolling Stops. People who don't come to a full stop at a stop sign can't be trusted to handle details. They literally and figuratively cut corners, both on the street and in the workplace.
  • Tailgating. People who tailgate (i.e. leave less than one car length per 10 mph) are unimaginative. They assume that nothing can go wrong and are caught by surprise when the unexpected happens.
  • Road Hogging. A road hog insists on going either below or at the speed limit rather than pulling over and letting a line of cars pass them.  This is classic passive-aggression; road hogs will bog down any and all initiatives at work.
  • Finger Salutes. People who feel it necessary to express profanity at other drivers (especially while driving away) are usually frustrated and a bit cowardly. At work, they can be counted on to backbite and gossip.
  • Over-honking. These are people who honk longer than necessary, like a full second (rather than a polite tap) at a driver who hasn't noticed the light has changed. Over-honkers tend to be both overly-critical and overly-sensitive to being criticized.
  • Texting. Driving while texting is more dangerous than driving while drunk. Anybody who texts or emails while driving is a dangerous fool and cannot be trusted with any responsibility whatsoever, at work or anywhere else.
  • Speeding. Habitual speeders are like my former boss. They don't really care about other people and they don't think the rules apply to them.  At work, they are the jerks that make everyone else miserable.

Based upon my years of experience, the best and easiest-to-get-along-with coworkers, colleagues and customers tend to be courteous when they drive and, when confronted with the bad driving of others, tend to shrug it off.

On a personal note, I wish I could say that my driving style is a role model. In truth, though, over the years, I've been personally guilty of many of the faults I've noted above. 

However, as I've worked to improve my character (becoming a father made a huge difference), my driving style has cooled down. I'm certainly not perfect, but I'm trying to be a work in progress.

Published on: Jul 30, 2016
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.