Always fire A**holes

no asshole rule

Last week on Twitter in a discussion around leadership someone mentioned the “no a**hole rule”. Hadn’t specifically heard of it, but will now add this book by Robert Sutton to my reading list.

As someone who lead businesses for years and, over the last decade, coached, mentored and advised others, one of the most frequent questions brought to me runs along the lines of:

“we have this person working for us that is really important to our business, so I can’t afford to fire them, but they are an a**hole, so what should I do?”

Here is the distilled wisdom of decades of experience with such situations.

Always fire A**holes

Fire them, and do it right away.

The long term cost of keeping a toxic individual will always, always outweigh the short term cost of whatever it is you will lose by not having them on the team.

As Netflix put it in their original culture deck from 2009 (a fantastic read, see here): “On a dream team, there are no “brilliant jerks.” The cost to teamwork is just too high

Again and again, I’ve seen this, both the costs that happen when a leader does not act, as well as the long term benefits of acting quickly and decisively.

Oh, and if you are a leader with an a**hole in your business, a brilliant jerk, you are possibly reading this and now justifying why you are keeping them.

If you are clear that they are not someone who used to be great and simply having a rough time and acting oddly, but instead they are, yup, an a**hole, do it. Fire them.

Final thought. If you have this type of person on your team, or perhaps a pattern of them over time, perhaps it is time to challenge yourself and the culture of your business as to how they are attracted, hired, retained. Just a thought.


Also published on Medium.

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