Originally published on October 29, 2015
It sometimes appears that the world has too many jerks — those who:
- Whine, complain, naysay, explain why an idea won’t work, and give up before even trying
- Are intolerant, biased, judgmental, and close-minded
- Worry only about themselves, do only what is best for themselves, and climb over others to get ahead
- Think they know it all, reject the opinions of others, and talk without listening
- Blame, criticize, and ridicule others, talk behind people’s backs, back-stab friends and colleagues, and throw their team members under the bus
- Shirk responsibility, back out of commitments, and cancel at the last minute
- Make excuses, deflect assignments, and fail to do their jobs effectively
- Avoid delivering bad news, withhold information, and hide from people
- Don’t reply to direct requests, communicate vaguely, and shade the truth
- Only do what everyone else does, follow the crowd, and always say yes to the boss
Don’t tolerate jerks. Get them out. If people don’t want to be a part of your organization, the damage that they do, I don’t care how highly they perform, I don’t care how unique their skill set is, if they are a jerk they are toxic, they are going to do far more damage than anything good that they are ever going to do in your organization.
We’re the only firm I’ve ever encountered to state that we are “relatively jerk-free.” Our culture is built upon specific core purpose, values, and principles.
The opposite of a jerk is a mensch. A mensch, according to Leo Rosten, is a
Person of integrity and honor — someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being a real mensch is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous. The term is used as a high compliment, expressing the rarity and value of that individual’s qualities.
In The Apartment, a 1960 Billy Wilder movie starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, the following dialogue involves being a mensch:
Dr. Dreyfuss: Why don’t you grow up, Baxter? Be a mensch! You know what that means?
C.C. Baxter: I’m not sure.
Dr. Dreyfuss: A mensch — a human being!
J.D. Sheldrake: What’s gotten into you, Baxter?
C.C. Baxter: I’ve decided to become a mensch. You know what that means? A human being.
We can use more mensches in the world. To expand on Dr. Dreyfuss’s definition, here are 25 ways to act with integrity and do the right thing, eight of which (numbers 17–24 below) come from the Scout Law.
Mensches don’t do any of the things listed above that jerks do. Instead, they:
- Act and think independently, uphold and defend their core principles and values, and take unpopular positions without fear
- Listen actively, acknowledge the points of others before stating their own views, and give serious consideration to those views
- Give credit, praise, and thanks to those who deserve it
- Take responsibility, remain accountable, do their jobs effectively, do what they say they will do, and honor their commitments
- Say what they mean, provide all relevant information, and back up claims with facts
- Communicate openly, authentically, and accurately, provide advance notice whenever possible, and deliver bad or unpopular news as soon as possible
- Respond in a timely manner to legitimate requests seeking a reply, and try to say yes whenever possible
- Persevere, come up with creative solutions, and encourage others to do the same
- Trust others until given a reason not to
- Keep calm, especially in the most trying situations
- Love to learn new things, are inquisitive, and strive to improve
- Are generous with their time, resources, and knowledge
- Are tolerant of others, including those with different backgrounds and views
- Are caring, empathetic, and concerned about the well-being of others
- Are positive, optimistic, and realistic
- Are ethical, honest, and fair
- Are trustworthy
- Are loyal
- Are helpful
- Are friendly
- Are courteous
- Are kind
- Are cheerful
- Are brave
- Do the right thing
- Do what is right — logically, financially, morally, ethically, and environmentally
- Do it the right way — honestly, accurately, correctly, and completely
- Do it right away — without procrastinating, making excuses, or avoiding what is unpleasant
What would you add to this list? Do you encounter more jerks, mensches, or people somewhere in between?