Jerks in the training room and jerks at work.

April 15, 2007


When my co-worker Tom Werner and I were working on setting up our WordPress blogs, we ran across SuccessFactor’s blog (which we liked the look of) and their post that day was about Bob Sutton’s book The No Asshole Rule . It looked like a good book so I bought it and started reading it.

Featured in the book, and listed on SuccessFactors Web site, is CEO Lars Dalgaard’s practice of having employees sign contracts in which they commit to not acting like assholes.  Check out SucccesFactors list (especially #5) five founding principles.  The ‘no jerks’ principle is expanded upon by Dalgaard:

“No jerks! Our organization will consist only of people that absolutely love what we do, with a white hot passion. We will have utmost respect for the individual in a collaborative, egalitarian, and meritocratic environment – no blind copying, no politics, no parochialism, no silos, no games, no cynicism, no arrogance – just being good!”

Yes! Exactly. Being surrounded with people who love their work equates to happiness and apparently increased productivity. See happiness is the best productivity tool.


How do jerks impact your training efforts and how do you deal with them? Here are some ideas for traditional stand-up trainers that I used.

When you notice that someone’s behavior is affecting others in the room, meet with them on a break…

[STATE ISSUE] Rick, I noticed you’re coming in late after a break and then asking questions to catch up. [ASK ABOUT ISSUE] Help me understand why this is happening. [LISTEN TO ISSUE]. Sue, I’ve got this big sale and I’ve had to make phone calls – that’s more important than this training class. [REVIEW WHAT WAS SAID] Rich, you really need…(time to make calls, whatever) and I need you to learn…(new product, process, whatever). [ASK FOR IDEAS] What ideas do you have to…[WORK OUT AN AGREEMENT] If I do X, then you’ll not walk in late….

What if you have to deal with it right then – while in the classroom with the whole group or if it’s a group issue? Same thing but you’ll have to step out of your trainer role to fix it.

Stop (no one is engaged anymore). Sit (same as the group). State issue (I see that you’re all rolling your eyes). Ask about issue (what’s up). Listen (we don’t want to be here on a Saturday). Review (We are all here because we have to complete this training class outside of normal work hours. We can’t change that.). Ask for ideas (Listen). Work out an agreement (If I talk to your manager tomorrow about the need to find alternate times for training like this, then will you hang in there until we’ve accomplished our goals here). Continue teaching and check in frequently to make sure everyone’s OK with how the agreement is going.

Oh, by the way, if you’re brave enough, here’s the link to ARSE: The Asshole Rating Self Exam.

Rainn Wilson, who plays Dwight Schrute, the martial-arts-obsessed kiss-up on NBCs The Office
from New York Magazine.

  • Karyn Romeis

    I would love to work in a place with a rule like that – just a pity the test is so transparent 🙁

  • Karyn Romeis

    I would love to work in a place with a rule like that – just a pity the test is so transparent 🙁

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