Essays

Don’t Hire Assholes (and pass me the fallopian tubes)

O.K., so you would never intentionally hire an asshole. Unless, of course you are one. But that is another article. Corporate America has come to realize that hiring an asshole is bad business. As the old proverb says, “one bad apple spoils the barrel.” Or in this case one bad asshole.

        So, what to do? As an organizational psychologist, I can tell you that you can test for them. It’s kind of like drug testing. Asshole testing is problematic because a real asshole is pathological to the point that they can easily game the tests. I once took a Briggs-Meyer test in a class for my masters. I realized what the profile was for perfectly balanced and I gamed the test. Guess what? I tested as perfectly balanced – which I am not.

        So, what to do now? Well, I have a suggestion. If you hire an asshole, then their co-workers are the best judge. So, put them on probation! Oh, you already do that. But I knew that. I suggest that as part of their probation you make them work in several parts of your organization and let your employees do a kind of 360 degree evaluation. Put him or her on the assembly line, on the shipping/receiving dock, in the mail room, etc. You get the idea. Have them spend the first 3 months of their probation working at the subordinate level, followed by 3 months in their new job.

        You will be surprised what you find out. If an asshole is on the assembly line for one week, they won’t be able to fool their co-workers. For example, one or two co-workers may make pull a prank on them. Assholes can’t stand that and can’t hide their resentment. Nothing drives a self-centered, asshole crazier than to have a lesser human being make fun of them.

        It’s kind of like the new kid in the auto repair garage being asked to hand the mechanic a left-handed monkey wrench. This happened to me. My mother was a microbiologist at a well-known cancer research hospital. And at the tender age of 16 she got me a job there – in the morgue. Yes, you are wondering what kind of mother would do that to her son. Let’s not go down the Dr. Freud mother-son relationship, psycho-sexual, Oedipus Complex thing. The manager in the Pathology Unit asked me to the Supply Department and fetch a dozen fallopian tubes. Remember, I was a 16-year-old boy. I was at the “breast” and “vagina” stage. Well, that isn’t what we boys called them. Anyway, this is what pathologists find funny. I didn’t. Since I was only 16-years old, the pathologist didn’t end up on the morgue table.

        Pranks aren’t funny or healthy because it creates a situation where one person feels happy by humiliating another. Also, pranks have a wave of escalating into a cycle of worsening payback. But even the friendliest kidding will make a psychology insecure person or pathologically entitled person angry and resentful. And co-workers can sense resentment. That’s the feedback you need. You don’t want to hire some Harvard MBA who secretly resents others. Others being his or her co-workers. This kind of resentment plays itself out in different forms of payback that are seen or unseen. Either are bad for a healthy organization.