One of the most important aspects of running any successful business is creating a work environment where good people actually want to work. Of course, salary and benefits have to be relatively competitive, and offering decent offices and nice perks never hurts. But something that’s more important than any of that is making sure your workplace isn’t a “jerkplace.” What’s a jerkplace? Simply put, it’s an environment that tolerates jerks and jerky behavior —and one that kills any chance of teamwork and productivity inside your company.
We all know the types that qualify as workplace jerks: people with big egos, rude people, know-it-alls, the self-important, people that are impatient, idea and credit stealers, backstabbers, condescending people, chronic complainers, and the passive-aggressive types, to name some. Jerk behavior doesn’t just affect employees either. Customers can feel it too. Just like how kids can tell when mommy and daddy have been fighting, customers can smell a toxic culture from a mile away. It rears its ugly head with poor customer service and a lack of teamwork, which ultimately will affect your company’s bottom line.
Related: 7 Secrets to Employee Happiness
So in today’s highly competitive business landscape, what can you do to make sure your business is attractive to quality employees and customers as well? Adopt a companywide "No Jerks Allowed" philosophy.
Here are a few pointers to get you started.
It starts with leadership.
From my experience, implementing this kind of policy has to start at the top. If you’re the CEO and any of aforementioned jerks behaviors apply to you, immediately send yourself a cease and desist. Employees model the behaviors they see. So if you’re guilty of any of the behaviors, you have to come clean and let your employees know that everyone’s behavior from now on is fair game, including your own. Putting it front and center is the first way to rid jerk behavior from your environment.
Ensure your message fits with your values.
Recently, the CEO of global investment banking firm Jefferies Group sent a letter to its senior management requesting that simple thank you’s and general niceness should be trickled down to junior staff who represent the future of the company. Tailor your no jerk message to what values you want your employees to possess and the reputation you’d like your company to have. When I founded my company in 1996 and began using the no jerks message, I wanted to create a company of kind, hard-working people that took care of each other, our customers and the communities we live in -- and I have to say almost 20 years later, so far so good.
To make a no jerks policy work, you have to enforce it. Implement a formal policy, a binding “contract” of sorts, which includes a set of guiding principles in your employee handbook for every employee to sign.
The next thing you have to do is adopt a “hot stove” rule towards this jerk-free policy. Just as when you touch a hot stove and you get burned, the same has to apply to jerk behavior. If someone is guilty of exercising behavior that doesn’t align with your company values, it’s important to address it immediately, in the form of a private conversation with a manager or an HR member, for example. Have a formal process for dealing with the behavior. If there are employees that are chronic abusers of the policy—regardless of their title or importance—then it’s critical that they be asked to leave the organization. They have, after all, agreed to adhere to a set of behavioral standards.
It’s easy to forget in the midst of deadlines and career aspirations that a unique office culture with happy employees is worth its weight in gold. Most employees will take to a no jerks policy like a duck takes to water. Listen to the news and you can understand why this is so important. So many of the world’s problems start with people not being kind or considerate to each other. Talk the talk, and walk the walk. It starts with you.