Don't Hitch Your Wagon to a Jerk

Last Updated Aug 9, 2009 10:27 AM EDT

Seems obvious that you wouldn't want to pin your career hopes on the coattails of a jerk. Problem is, jerks often get promoted and, as we know, good guys finish last.

But eventually, jerk behavior turns against its creator, and you don't want to be near one when the tide turns. No one offers a helping hand to a falling sleazebag.

Luckily for all of us, jerks are bad decision makers, says Tom Davenport writing on Harvard Business Publishing. This is their ultimate undoing.

"Jerks tend to think their own perspectives are the only ones worth considering, but good decisions require serious consideration of alternatives. Jerks think they're never wrong, but good decisions require acknowledging and learning from mistakes. Jerks are consumed with petty resentments and grievances, but good decisions require clear-headed, objective thinking. Jerks alienate other people, but good decisions require collaboration across a social network."
Remember this the next time you are tempted by the smarmy smile of a fast-rising meathead. Then take a nice guy or gal to lunch.

Have you worked for jerks? Of course you have! Did they get what was coming to them in the end? How did you deal?

(Image of parking jerk by Florian, CC 2.0)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.