• November 2013

Don't Let "Worse-Than-Jerks" Ruin Work for Everyone

By Lisa Earle McLeod
Keynote Speaker and Author
McLeod & More, Inc.

Don’t you wish there were a test you could use to keep jerks out of your office? You know, those people who seem nice during the interview process, but, once they’re hired, make life miserable for everyone.

Or worse, the people who are perfectly harmless while they’re one of the rank-and-file but, the moment they get promoted, they turn into complete bullies. The jerks of the world ruin things for everyone else.

If you’ve ever been the victim of a workplace jerk, you know that sometimes the word jerk just isn’t strong enough to describe their abysmal behavior.

Author and Stanford University Management professor Robert Sutton suggests, “You might call these people bullies, creeps, jerks, weasels, tormentors, tyrants, serial slammers, despots, or unconstrained egomaniacs, but for me at least, the word A$$#@!* best captures the fear and loathing that I have for these nasty people.” (Sutton uses a word that begins with “a” and is oft uttered in the halls of corporate America, but not used in polite conversation.)

Normally I’m not a fan of profanity, and I can’t even print the title of Sutton’s book in Be Inkandescent magazine, but Sutton is so determined to rid the workplace of these awful you-know-whats that he wrote a book entitled, The No A$$#@!* Rule. (Warner Business Books, $22.99)

As a former Fortune 500 flunky, I was immediately intrigued by the title.

I mean, who doesn’t want to rid the world of all the you-know-whats? (Let’s call them “As” for the purpose of this article.) I was shocked to see the “A word” in a prestigious business journal. Sutton’s original article (www.BobSutton.net), titled the same as his book, appeared in the Harvard Business Review, and he was deluged with emotional emails from people describing the fear and despair they had suffered at the hands of As.

Sutton says that, “While potentially offensive, no other word quite captures the essence of this type of person.” He’s even created a two-part test to identify whether or not a random jerk is fully deserving of the A label.

  • Test One: After talking to the alleged A, does the “target” feel oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled?
  • Test Two: Does the possible A aim his or her venom at people less powerful than himself or herself rather than at those people who are more powerful?

Imagine the pain and heartache companies would save if they used this simple test during the hiring or promotion process. Sutton suggests that organizations would do well to calculate their “Total Cost of As,” or TCA.

It’s hard to estimate exactly how many hours managers devote to you-know-what management or to predict future legal costs incurred by As, but everyone knows that As drag down an organization.

The damage inflicted by these people is often underestimated when they’re perceived to be high performers. Yet Sutton cites an example of a company whose top sales performer was such an A that, despite his big sales numbers, he actually cost his company $160,000 a year in turnover, management, and overtime through problems caused by bad temper, insulting behavior, and late night email rants.

Not surprisingly, when confronted with the cost of his behavior, he flew into a rage and was eventually fired.

So how do you live your life and do your job without letting the As get you down?

First, take the test yourself and make sure you’re not one of them.

If you can safely say that you’re one of the normal people, insist that the A test become part of your company’s hiring criteria.

Because, after all, life is too short to work with a bunch of As.

About Lisa Earle McLeod

Lisa Earle McLeod is a sales leadership consultant. Companies such as Apple, Kimberly-Clark, and Pfizer hire her to help them create passionate, purpose-driven sales forces. She’s the author of “Selling with Noble Purpose: How to Drive Revenue and Do Work That Makes You Proud,” as well as, “The Triangle of Truth,” which The Washington Post named a “Top Five Book for Leaders.”

She has appeared on “Today,” and has been featured in Forbes, Fortune and The Wall Street Journal. She provides executive coaching sessions, strategy workshops, and keynote speeches.

Click here to learn more: www.lisaearlemcleod.com.