Why it pays to not be a jerk as boss

Twice in the last couple of weeks I’ve reconnected with people who used to work “for” me – I was their supervisor, either directly or as second-in-command of a given department – and without any sort of solicitation said they enjoyed working with me and/or said I was a good boss.

Don’t worry, I’m not looking for more pats on the back (besides, I’m sure somebody out there has less happy memories of my tyranny). The point I’m making is that being a jerk, a weenie, a**hole, etc., can eventually come back to haunt you. Particularly if you find yourself out of work and looking for a job. And lo and behold, a previous underling is now a hiring manager.

How many bridges have you burned in your past just by being a jerk?

Luckily, I haven’t done that. There are still some places I’ll never return to under any circumstances. But there’s not trail of bodies in my wake, and usually folks were not happy to see me leave. They might not all have cared much, but nobody jumped up and down with joy at my departure.

And today that Don’t Be a Jerk policy paid off with a simple email from a former colleague inquiring whether I was interested in a temporary gig at a nearby university. Temporary gigs have a way of becoming permanent gigs if one plays one’s cards well enough.

So, yeah, interested I am.

And it definitely beats flipping burgers or delivering packages in the snow.

The object lesson here: Yes, competence is important. But you don’t have to be a jerk to be an effective boss, leader or manager. In fact, I believe everyone benefits when you’re not a jerk.

Now I just gotta remember to be nicer to my wife and kids so they’ll take care of me in my old age.

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