Christine Barney|Mar 3, 2010

Recently I spoke at the United Way’s Women’s Executive Leadership Luncheon.  Rather than follow the format of speaking on my career path, I chose to talk about one of the key ingredients in my recipe for business satisfaction and success – eliminating jerks from the workplace.

The cliff notes version of the talk, “No Jerks Allowed: How to Build a Civilized Workplace” is that a civil workplace is not done solely for altruistic reasons by “soft and fuzzy” managers. (And don’t get me started on people who think because I’m a working mom, I’m a “nurturer” nut. I’ve known plenty of jerks who were women and mothers.)  Simply put, if you eliminate jerks you will see greater business results.  You will:

  • Reduce  the cost of employee replacement and training (research shows more than 25% of those who have hostile work environments leave their jobs)
  • Reduce HR staff costs  to deal with all the headaches
  • Reduce litigation, mitigation expenses (think harassment lawsuits and “anger management” classes)
  • Increase employee productivity and loyalty
  • Increase employee satisfaction thereby increasing customer satisfaction (your brand is defined more by what your employees and customers say about you than what you say about yourself)

I offered four simple rules to create a civilized workplace.

Rules to a civilized workplace

bb spent months and close to $300,000 redefining its physical workplace and investing in the technology needed to let everyone take advantage of the flexible options “Casa rbb” offered.  Our return on investment continues to come in every day in the form of new and retained clients and staff and national recognition.

As I spoke about workplaces stifled by a culture of fear and detailed the costs of “bully poison” I saw heads nodding in agreement all around the room. Everyone had personal experience with corporate sanctioned jerks – the executive who went through five assistants in one year.  The “prima donna sales person” who refused to do the paperwork and costs thousands in lost revenue. The corporate policies that humiliate, embarrass, and seek to stop behavior rather than encourage positive innovation. The meaningless paperweights inscribed with value statements that in no way represented the actual company culture.

When I was finished, many asked for copies of my presentation. Several asked if I would speak at their organizations.  I wondered if it would make a difference. I am an optimist so I believe it did. So, join me and fire a jerk today or eliminate a meaningless or stifling corporate policy.  Believe me, it will not only feel good, it will be good for your bottom line.

 

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