Do we need more jerks?

I hope you get a chance to read my column today in the TJ.  I will post it hear sometime next week.  It’s a bit clunky and the argument is thin but the kernel of the idea is one worth exploring.  I was chatting about it with Nadine Duguay, the energetic head of 21 Inc. the other day and that conversation formed the basis of the column.

Do we need more jerks?  There’s a large body of evidence to suggest that a lot of highly successful people are not particularly nice.

I think we should talk about this.

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3 Responses to Do we need more jerks?

  1. mikel says:

    There’s also a lot of NOT successful people who aren’t very nice (we probably notice it less because at least those people have a good reason not to be nice). It depends how you measure success. I’d argue the opposite pretty strongly because its true that in the past entrepreneurs needed to be sort of like actors and athletes-self obsessed by vocation. However, ones who last,depend pretty highly on the work of others. A lot of small businesspeople have large turnover for the simple fact that they are jerks.

    And if you look at the content of many business and technology schools this is largely changing. Environmentalism and ethics are large parts of most academic training nowadays, which means the next generation of entrepreneurs are getting into business for very different reasons than their predecessors.

    Singlemindedness doesn’t necessitate being a jerk. A perfect example of that is this blog. I’m thinking that at least SOME measure of your success has been attributed to this blog, which has been going on for quite some time-almost single mindedly posted almost every day (until recently). Although many critics have panned you for some of your views which they may disagree with, the word ‘jerk’ probabably doesn’t come up often. In short, I’d call you a success story, but not a jerk (now, Charles Leblanc on the other hand..mind you, he’s at least seen some political changes according to his blog, so maybe being a little bit of a jerk isn’t such a bad thing).

    I think the LAST thing our society needs is more enhanced emphasis on people becoming jerks simply because it MAY make them more successful.

  2. Gary Willett says:

    Dear Dave
    I read your article this morning. I also just finished reading “Snake In Suits” by Babiak and Hare.

    As an HR person, I’ve had my share of recruiting and interviewing. I think we have our share of energetic people in the workforce. What we need is a culture that will channel that energy in the right direction and for the right reasons; i.e the good of the majority of the team.

    I compare the problem employee (the jerk) to bad breath. Everyone knows it’s there, everbody talks about it, but who has the courtesy to offer a mint; or share the fact that he is disruptive to the team.

    I enjoyed your article
    Thanks
    Gary

  3. > There’s a large body of evidence to suggest that a lot of highly successful people are not particularly nice.

    This suggests to me that our system is broken, because a large number of the people it enables to be highly successful are jerks. A well-designed system would grant success to skillful and well-meaning people with a sense of social responsibility.

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