Your Company Needs You to Be a Jerk

Are you being a jerkPatrick Lencioni is one of EOS’s favorite authors—just see our recommended reading list which contains four of his books. He also writes terrific articles. One great one recently is his point of view about The Jerk Factor. The gist of the article is that there is a difference between being a Jerk and being a jerk. Jerks with a capital J are obnoxious people that no one wants to associate with over time.

In EOS terminology, we exhort our clients to be open and honest. That is what Lencioni is referring to when he talks about being a jerk, with a lowercase j.

He also says that there are two kinds of jerks—active and passive. Passive jerks are too afraid to risk the sting of being considered a jerk by their peers. They keep their observations to themselves. Active jerks stand up to be counted. They say the things that need to be said for the greater good, recognizing that for a while people will think they were jerks.

How to Be a Jerk at Work

Here are some examples of being a jerk in a small company.

  • Any leadership team member to the sales leader: “Mary, your #1 sales rep, by volume, consistently has the lowest profitability numbers for products sold, has the worst customer satisfaction numbers and is the source of more than 65% of customer support issues. He hurts us more than he helps us. What are you going to do about this?”
  • Any leadership team member to the engineering development leader: “Harry, your #1 engineer, according to you, consistently violates our core value of ‘respect for all others.’ His sexist remarks have been documented numerous times. Why is he still employed by us?”
  • The finance team leader to the owner of a family business: “Bob, we have a problem in the Accounting department. Your niece, despite a well documented and implemented training program, has not become a productive user of our new accounting software. As hard as she tries, it’s not working. We have to find her another position in the company for which she is well suited. Don’t you agree?”

Anybody on the receiving end of questions like these may think of you as a jerk initially, but the damage being done to the company due to inaction far outweighs the pain. This isn’t easy. It takes a great deal of trust in the business. But it is the right thing to do.

These are hypothetical people issues, but it applies to process issues as well—doing things the same way because we have always done them that way. EOS offers tools for dealing with either of these kinds of issues—the People Analyzer and the Getting What You Want tools. You can download them for free.

What is the most difficult situation you have had to face in your business? I hope you’re not being a passive jerk about it!

Next Steps


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