Have you ever had to suffer through working with an obnoxious co-worker or boss? Unfortunately, the answer is almost certainly yes. In a recent survey of 250 professionals sponsored by Connectria Hosting, 83 percent of respondents said they'd worked with one or more jerks during the past five years.

It shouldn't have to be this way, says Rich Waidmann, President and CEO of Connectria Hosting. He feels so strongly about this that he's instituted a formal "no jerks allowed" policy at Connectria, and launched the No Jerks Allowed movement to encourage other employers to do the same.

"My decision to start this movement stemmed from some pretty horrible, jerky work experiences when I first started my tech career in the 80s. There were a lot of big egos, and it felt like any time you asked a question it couldn't be stupider," he explains. "When I started Connectria, I knew that one of the key principles I wanted to have in place was a No Jerks Allowed philosophy."

When the concept got a big positive reaction from both prospective employees and prospective customers, Waidmann decided to take it to a bigger audience. "Being kind and considerate can go a long way towards making the workplace, and the world in general, a better place," he explains.

Sounds like a nice ideal, but--given how hard it is to staff and run a business these days--is a formal no-jerks rule a good idea? Yes, Waidmann says, and there are compelling reasons why he may be right:

1. It will help with recruitment.

Hiring employees with key skills is more difficult these days than ever. If you're a start-up or small company with fewer perks to offer than your larger competitors, creating a no-jerks rule is an effective way to grab a prospective employee's attention. Most are very drawn to the idea. As Waidmann puts it: "Who wants to deal with jerks? No one."

2. It will help with retention.

Maintaining a jerk-free environment will also help you hang on to skilled employees once you've hired them. It's a powerful tool, but it's important to note that setting and living up to a no-jerks rule may not be easy, and that while it will help with retention, it also may lead to dismissals.

"If you decide to adopt this philosophy, you should probably take inventory of your potential trouble spots--i.e. people you know don't fit in well with your culture," Waidmann says. While most people will take to the new policy quickly, there may be a few holdouts who'll need coaching, he adds. (Here are some strategies for coping with the toughest personalities.)

"Plan for those up front, and make sure that you don't allow exceptions," Waidmann says. "It has to start at the top of the company. Put the philosophy in writing, and immediately implement a hot stove rule--just as you'd touch a hot stove and get burned, the same should apply here," he says. "If someone is guilty of behavior that doesn't align with your company values, it's important to address it immediately. If you have employees who are chronic abusers of the policy--regardless of their title or importance--it's critical they be asked to leave." (Here's more on how to decide when it's time to fire someone.)

This may sound harsh, but keep in mind that these employees have agreed in writing to a set of behavioral standards. "Don't lose faith in the No Jerks Allowed philosophy if you have to take this route," Waidmann adds. "The benefits to your company and your customers are profound."

3. It will make your workplace more productive.

Fifty-nine percent of survey respondents reported that working with jerks led to lower employee morale. And 42 percent said it caused employees to choose working alone over collaborating with others. Forty percent reported decreased productivity, and 34 percent said working with jerks prevented them from getting work done. Statistics like these make it obvious why a jerk-free workplace is more productive and efficient than a jerk-tolerant one.

4. You'll have happier customers.

Obviously, if you have zero tolerance for unpleasant people in your company, the odds of a customer being treated unpleasantly go way down. Beyond that, employees who work in a pleasant and respectful atmosphere are more apt to behave that same way to customers. They're also likelier to be happy, and to highly value their jobs, both of which will be reflected in their customer interactions.

5. It will become a powerful part of your brand.

At least that's how it's worked for Connectria Hosting, which displays its No Jerks Allowed logo prominently on its home page. Waidmann reports getting emails from both customers and prospective employees about how much they love this approach.

6. It will make your company a pleasanter place for everyone, including you.

Employees report in this and other surveys that workplace culture is a major factor in their job satisfaction or lack thereof. So creating a no-jerks rule will likely mean a happier workforce that is more satisfied with their jobs. It might even increase your own job satisfaction. After all, you won't have to work with jerks anymore either.

Published on: Mar 18, 2015
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