The candidate seems ideal in almost every way... except one. But that one factor is too toxic to ignore.
I recently overheard the following conversation at a local coffee shop.
"So, why aren't you getting any more users?"
[Said with frustration] "No one knows about it. We're working our asses off building this thing, but no one's trying to actually sell it."
"You need a better marketing guy. I know a guy in Atlanta you could talk to. He's awesome, but he's a jerk."
I bet you that this guy not only called the jerk from Atlanta, but he probably hired him. Desperate times call for desperate measures. When your skin is being stripped away by what feels like a modern-day quartering, anyone who shows up with the balm is welcomed in and offered a seat at the table.
Don't do it! Don't let them in and for God's sake, don't give them a seat at the table.
I promise that you'll live to regret it. No matter how good they are, there are unseen consequences that last well beyond the short-term benefits.
Here are three reasons why you should never hire a jerk:
They are time sucks.
I refer to this phenomenon as the Pigpen Effect. We all know Pigpen from The Peanuts cartoon. He kicks up dust wherever he goes, oblivious to his wake, and leaves sufferers to clean up the mess.
In the same way, jerks at work are often clueless to the drama they're creating. After they move on from the scene, others have to repair the damage and soothe hurt feelings, getting very little real work done.
They erode what's good in an organization.
Everything you've done to build morale can be instantly undone with an eye roll, a degrading remark, or a backhanded compliment.
Some remarkable research, born out of the mathematical modeling of group behavior, was able to pinpoint how positivity and negativity work together to tip us either toward flourishing or floundering.
Marcial Losada, a Chilean psychologist and business consultant, discovered a 3:1 tipping point of positive to negative interactions necessary for teams to flourish.
Behind a one-way mirror, Losada evaluated teammates' statements as either:
1) Positive or negative
2) Self-focused or other-focused
3) Based on inquiry (asking questions) or advocacy (defending a point of view)
Not surprisingly, he found that high-performing teams (based on measures of profitability, customer satisfaction ratings, and evaluations by peers, supervisors, and subordinates) peaked to a positive to negative ratio of about 6:1.
By contrast, mixed-performance teams hovered just above 2:1, and low performing teams fell below 1:1.
Through some statistical wizardry, Losada was able to accurately predict how well a team would fare on future projects, bounce back from adversity, and remain connected as a team. The high-performing teams fared better. Much better.
Shocker, I know.
Losada's equation demonstrates the indispensability of three things: positive interactions, asking questions, and focusing on others.
Jerks tip the scale toward negativity and erode the very foundation of what an organization needs in order to thrive--trust.
They are creativity sucks.
Tolerating aggressive personalities makes everyone walk on eggshells, dissuades direct communication, and teaches your employees that you're a pushover.
More importantly, when there is no predictability in your environment, stress is heightened and the natural fear response kicks in. At that point, all your unnecessary functions--like creativity, judgment, and critical thinking--are sidelined for an expedient get-away. After you manage to escape your predator, you can get back to innovating.
The trade-off for hiring a jerk, no matter how good he or she is, is not worth it.
What you might gain in fastidious attention to detail and unrelenting work ethic, you will pay for in inefficiency, insomnious anxiety, and bad moods.
Dr. SHELLEY PREVOST is a co-founder of Lamp Post Group, a venture incubator in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She curates kick-ass cultures by infusing principles of positive psychology in her role as Director of Happiness. @thegladlab