So, negative interactions (and the bad apples that provoke them) pack a real wallop in relationships at work and elsewhere. They are distracting, emotionally draining, and deflating. When a group does interdependent work, rotten apples drag down and infect everyone else. Unfortunately, grumpiness, nastiness, laziness, and stupidity are remarkably contagious.
My chapter in Good Boss, Bad Boss on “Stars and Rotten Apples” opens with the story of how I got to know a CEO named Paul Purcell. It was after his company, Baird, had landed on Fortune magazine’s list of the “100 Best Places to Work”. Fortune briefly explained, “What makes it so great? They tout the “no-a**hole rule” at this financial services firm; candidates are interviewed extensively, even by assistants who will be working with them.” Having written an entire book on that topic, I immediately contacted Leslie Dixon, their HR chief, and she introduced me to Paul Purcell. As I wrote in Good Boss, Bad Boss:
Paul told me that he had seen and suffered destructive assholes in past jobs, so when he got to Baird, he vowed to build a jerk-free workplace. When I asked how he enforced the rule, Paul said that most jerks were screened-out via background checks and interviews before they met him. But he did his own filtering too, ‘During the interview, I look them in the eye, and tell them, “If I discover that you are an asshole, I am going to fire you.”‘ He added, “Most candidates aren’t fazed by this, but every now and then, one turns pale, and we never see them again — they find some reason to back out of the search.” When I asked Paul what kinds of jerks are most poisonous, he said: “The worst assholes consistently do two things: 1.Put their self-interest ahead of co-workers and 2. Put their self-interest ahead of the company.”