18 February 2011

Zero tolerance for @$$holes.

At the risk of either rendering myself unemployable or appearing to succumb to a management fad, I will admit that I endorse the "No @$$hole Rule". This principle is outlined in a book that explains why even one @$$hole in the workplace is enough to poison it for everyone else.

Here are some examples of @$$hole behavior described by the book:
1. Personal insults

2. Invading one's personal territory

3. Uninvited personal contact

4. Threats and intimidation, both verbal and non-verbal

5. Sarcastic jokes and teasing used as insult delivery systems

6. Withering email flames

7. Status slaps intended to humiliate their victims

8. Public shaming or status degradation rituals

9. Rude interruptions

10. Two-faced attacks

11. Dirty looks

12. Treating people as if they are invisible
I encourage you to ask yourself, "am I working in a toxic environment?" and, if so, "who is the @$$hole creating it?" If you can't figure out which of your co-workers it is, then maybe it's you.

In my workplace, maybe it's me. The latter possibility is what makes me fear the consequences of persuading people to implement a "zero tolerance for @$$holes policy", but fiat justitia ruat caelum is ever my motto.

In the nonprofit sector, I often see sweet, hardworking, productive, intelligent people suffering under the supervision of bosses who probably fit into the @$$hole category. They keep trying to raise their games to please such bosses, as if being sweeter, more hardworking, more productive, etc., will somehow change the status quo. It usually won't. These sweet but misguided people are often so dedicated to the nonprofit's mission that they keep hanging on and trying harder, believing that it's worth it to endure hellish working conditions in the hope of making a difference.

The author of "The No @$$holes Rule" is all about "building a civilized workplace and surviving one that isn't," but in so many nonprofit organizations, it's the better part of valour to quit and move on, rather than try to change or adapt to a setting where
  • Your boss is never satisfied with your work.
  • You do not receive the pay, job title, and recognition that you deserve.

  • You and your colleagues are pitted against each other.

  • You feel humiliated on a regular basis.

  • You are expected to lie in order to maintain the management's party line about your organization's policies, operations, or success rates.

  • Crucial decisions about your work are made without your input or even your knowledge.
I only wish that I could guarantee that implementing your very own zero tolerance for @$$holes policy will result in a happy ending, such as immediately finding a new job where you are ecstatically happy. I can't guarantee anything. There are two key factors that make it impossible to promise a completely satisfactory resolution; the nature of the current job market in this economy is one of them. The other factor is the one that has shaped every single aspect of every single work situation you've ever experienced: you. If you're an @$$hole, or if you're a glutton for punishment, then you need to change, or you'll bring that with you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that you offer two lists of how jerks behave in the workplace - one by the author of the ""No @$$hole Rule," and one that I assume you created yourself.

The second list (the one you created) is right on point, at least for nonprofit workplaces.

Feeling humiliated...being expected to lie...feeling that you have no knowledge or control over decisions that affect how you do your job - these are all things that I've experienced in truly dysfunctional nonprofit organizations.

I agree with you that it's usually a mistake to stick it out in such a workplace in the hope that
"being sweeter, more hardworking, more productive, etc." will change a toxic environment. It almost never will.