Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
So there I was in a meeting when the boss said, his face a little puce:
We're going to rip the heart out of those bastards, then we're going to stomp on their heads.
And, in another meeting, another boss mused, a touch of spittle drifting across the edges of his lips:
This isn't just a competition. This is war! Do you understand? War!
You might notice some things in common with these two statements. They're both a touch crass and they were both uttered by men.
I confess to not feeling motivated -- or even marginally uplifted -- by either statement. (Or by either boss, in truth.)
Yet this sort of go-get-'em-and-when-you've-got-'em-kick-'em-hard sort of attitude has been common -- and, in many companies -- required for a little too long.
I was moved, therefore, by a recent revelation emerging from that home of confident belligerence, Goldman Sachs.
The bank has long been known for its, well, muscly ways. This has given it -- like a lot of Wall Street -- a frightfully macho image.
Yet, during a recent Fortune conference, the bank's Rana Yared, a partner in the merchant banking division, offered an interesting revelation.
She confessed that of the bank's partners, only 25 percent are female. However, 50 percent of her team is now female.
She credited the removal of a single word from recruitment materials. That word? Aggressive.
You see it so often. You're supposed to believe that flying around the place with a snarl of intimidation is the requisite attitude that leads to success.
Yared, however, offered a very simple truth:
I don't know what 'aggressive' means other than obnoxious.
It's not as if aggression is something prized in many other forms of human relationships. Why would it be so welcomed in business? Oh, because business is a war and everyone must foam at the mouth.
In my own business life I've noticed, at least as often as not, that aggression is simply a mask for fear. Aggression can sometimes be a substitute for not having any true confidence in your own abilities. If you inhabit the part, you'll be seen to be the part, right?
Yared and her team found different questions to ask instead of Are You Aggressive?:
Are you intellectually curious? Are you assertive when you form a view? Do you have an insatiable desire to learn, and can you articulate your view with training?
It's taken some companies a long time to learn that aggression doesn't make too many employees feel good, especially women. And I'm not merely speaking of the Houston Astros here.
There are many ways of winning, just as there are many definitions of what winning actually is. There are also many ways of behaving in order to create and foster a winning team.
As generations change and their life perspectives differ, companies are realizing that their ethos -- the way they do business and the way they treat people -- matters hugely in retaining staff and creating a more diverse, modern organization.
Perhaps some companies should be a little more, well, aggressive in policing the words they use to attract new staff.