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A Jerk-Free work place and The 11 Commandments for Wise Boss


The prospect of having a jerk-free work place is so exciting that when you read Robert I. Sutton (author of ‘The No Asshole Rule’, 2007) about it, in his book ‘ Good Boss, Bad Boss’ (©business plus, 2010), you simply get engrossed to it till last pages.

Jerks (actually Robert uses more practical, commonly used phrase, but I prefer decency over bare truth) are everywhere, they are pain to everyone, team-breakers and a sure shot way to collective failure. Funny, even jerks would prefer a jerk-free work environment.

Robert cites example of a Fortune listed company, how they implemented a jerk-free work place mechanism which eventually changed the fortune of the organization to higher successes.

To define a jerk is easy, for, everyone knows about it, even the jerks, many of them surely, know what they are. Some quick tips nonetheless come handy to distinguish them.

- Some phrases are very common among the jerks, like, ‘I don’t take problem-I give them’, it’s not my problem, I told you so (which he never told actually),

- Show-off : material stuff from swanky cars to corner offices, to positional show-off (frequent referring how many people ‘work for me’), introducing a colleague at a neutral place as, ‘he’s my subordinate’ or ‘he works for me’,

- Badmouthing, only a jerk, and an insecure jerk surely, would attempt to make himself (or herself) look better by disparaging others.

- Profanity, rudeness, littering, falsifying and many more, including the ones which can’t be written, are clear signs of a jerk.

Robert in response to share two most evident traits of a jerk, writes that most poisonous jerks consistently do two things :

1. They put themselves ahead of the company or their colleagues, and

2. They put themselves ahead of the clients.

For a jerk-free work place, best way is to catch them before they get in. To filter them out is not easy but possible, he quotes as below:

1. Screen out via intense background checks and interviews. A jerk-slayer can always catch them raw. One of the key take away of intense filtering process is the interview by the assiatants who will be working under the incoming executive.

2. He cites example of the referred company, wherein interviweing boss asks to interviewee, soul to soul sternly, ‘if I discover that you’re a jerk I am going to fire you’. It works, he quotes, while generally most candidates aren’t fazed but the suspects turn pale, and not to be seen again.

The Jerk-free work place lesson ends here, but as bonus I would quote from Robert I Suttor The 11 Commandments for Wise Bosses :

1. Have strong opinions and weakly held beliefs.

2. Do not treat others as if they are idiots.

3. Listen attentively to your people; don’t just pretend to hear what they say.

4. Ask a lot of good questions.

5. Ask others for help and gratefully accept their assistance.

6. Do not hesitate to say, “I don’t know.”

7. Forgive people when they fail, remember the lessons, and teach them to everyone.

8. Fight as if you are right, and listen as if you are wrong.

9. Do not hold grudges after losing an argument. Instead, help the victors implement their ideas with all your might.

10. Know your foibles and flaws, and work with people who correct and compensate for your weaknesses.

11. Express gratitude to your people.

(Disclaimer : Usual disclaimer applies. Material quoted here has been obtained from Good Boss, Bad Boss by Robert I. Sutton. (2010). New York)

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