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The False Negative of the No A##hole Rule...

Everyone knows the No A##hole Rule.

A##holes are bad. A##holes are toxic. A##holes can ruin teams, lives and yes - the culture of your company if they are left unchecked. Trump

I'm going to just accept all of that and move on. A##holes suck.

But something happens to a lot of execs and HR pros who buy into the No A##holes rule. We flip the script and buy into what I'll call the False negative on the no A##hole rule.  That false negative goes like this:

"If someone's not an A##hole, that means they're a good teammate and can be effective in our company."

That's not only inaccurate, it's dangerous.

The dirty little secret about difficult people who are highly assertive is that they get things done.  Assertiveness, as it turns out, is necessary in our companies. We need people to push for results, for accountability and to make others uncomfortable when either of those things are in short supply. 

But overreacting to difficult people changes that. Once we have experience with a real jerk in the workplace, we automatically think that a skilled person without assertiveness can be effective in a role that requires assertiveness.

Not a jerk but we think they can get it done?  False negative - we scored them as not a jerk but there's a problem in our measurement - they don't have the assertiveness required to be successful in the role we're hiring for.

Need an example? Look no further than Donald Trump. Most people can't stand him and can't imagine him being the POTUS. The same people automatically are drawn to other candidates who probably don't have what it takes to stare down Iran and have that "he's just crazy enough to do something stupid" vibe that keep everyone slightly off balance and alert.

The next time someone's repping a passive candidate who's great in every way but is being considered for a role that requires hard core assertiveness, take a pause and think.

What you need is someone with the ability to be an A##hole - but doesn't cross that threshold every day.



There is a huge difference between being assertive and being an a**hole. Assertive people speak up and and maybe piss off a couple people. An a**hole though? He/she pisses off a large majority.

Perfect example is Donald Trump and his comments about immigrants. Yes, we need an open dialogue about immigration and that conversation is going to be uncomfortable but to put them all into one basket of "criminals" does nothing to move the conversation forward.


Another angle to look at your topic is that companies want assertive people who wont be a litigation liability. In my experience, people generally don't want to sue a**holes unless they feel belittled and demeaned (especially concerning a protected characteristic like religion). I tell people all the time that people don't sue their boss because the "law was broken," they sue them because they were treated like garbage.

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