Never buy a book by its cover, right?
We do it all of the time.
Call it gut instinct.
Maybe good marketing.
Books tickle the imagination by colour, images, and headlines.
I fall prey to the marketing tools of book publishers by buying books based on their covers. The bad ones piss me off. I don’t finish them. I throw them on the shelf, thinking, “one day.” That day has never come. There’s always a newer book stealing my time.
Imagine you just lost your job. Your jerk boss kicks you out like a pawn. No notice, no warning. Just bam. You’re promised a promotion so you work extra hard. One day, you work 18 hours to the job, the next day you’re on the unemployment line. Mortgage still got to get paid. Car payment is due. The fridge needs food, and the lights need to stay on. And you’re expecting your first baby.
That was me in February 2005.
Searching for hope, I went to the bookstore.
My eyes fell on the book “The No Asshole Rule”, by Robert I. Sutton.
Here’s what is written on the back cover:
“The definitive guide to working with – and surviving – bullies, creeps, jerks, tyrants, tormentors, despots, backstabbers, egomaniacs and all other assholes who do their best to destroy you at work.”
Dr. Sutton says that assholes need to be removed from the workplace. They are poison to culture. Assholes are usually high achievers. They are rewarded for measurable results. Their stink can’t be measured. They aren’t held accountable for ill effects. Assholes generate poor morale, poor work by counterparts, employee attrition, and lost revenues.
“Was I the asshole?”. Maybe. No one ever told me I was doing anything wrong.
The guy who let me go was an asshole. He treated me like a criminal on my last day. No reason. It was called a corporate restructuring.
He hid his inhumanity by using terms like restructuring, downsizing, rightsizing.
Some businesses cut labor costs as sales slide downward.
We didn’t have that problem.
Our problem was the asshole kind.
Employees were pawns. I wasn’t the first to get this treatment. There were many treated the same way weeks before.
In 15 years of business ownership, we never restructured anyone.
We fired a handful of people for theft. You steal, you’re gone.
I fired one asshole. He was the most profitable employee I ever had.
One Saturday, four cooks left the restaurant and said they wouldn’t come back until I fired their manager.
After they explained what had happened, I had a choice – him or them.
When forced into a him-or-me situation, I usually chose him.
This situation was different. It was the whole kitchen team.
I chose them.
I didn’t see his asshole-ness through the money he was making me.
If you have assholes in your company and you have the power to get rid of them. Remove the poison quickly and surgically.
Although they’re high performers bringing in new money, they’re rotting it one asshole move at a time.
Tony Hsieh of Zappos fame said, “Culture trumps everything”.
He learned the value of the asshole rule when he hated going to work at his first business, LinkExchange.
Building Zappos, he laser-focused on culture.
Amazon acquired it for $1.2 billion.
Remember the story of the stinky kid in school. If you don’t know who the smelly kid is, it might be you.
If you look around your office and you don’t see any assholes, question your own behavior.
The easiest way not to have assholes in your company is to not hire them.
Don’t judge them solely on experience or past success.
Evaluate candidates on soft skills like caring and nurturing.
Assholes care about personal gain.
They put profit ahead of people.
In a non-asshole company, people come first, always.
Organizations that put people first get more profit long-term.
It’s also more fun.
Fun keeps employees engaged in the reason to show up.
The Chief Operating Officer who kicked me off his team was eventually kicked off the team too.
15 years later, the once-mighty business with 35 employees was reduced to 7.
The ship had holes in her hull. But the captain was too busy making money to see the cost.
Check out this video about an organization full of assholes. It’ll make you laugh.