Leadership

Daily Buzz: The Case for Competent Jerks

By / Dec 11, 2018 (MangoStar_Studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

In the likability versus skills debate, competency wins out, according to a new study. Also: what an office dog can do for company culture.

When it comes to your boss, would you rather work with a caring, likable leader or a jerk with a grade-A resume? It sounds like a trick question, but it’s not. In the work world, competency reigns supreme—even if that means dealing with someone who isn’t as respectful—according to a new study.

“If you believe the literature, you’re supposed to be honest, modest, and authentic,” says Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, in an interview with Fast Company. “But if you look at actual leaders, that describes nobody running either a company or the government. It isn’t Jack Welch, or Larry Ellison, or Steve Jobs. It’s not Donald Trump.”

That doesn’t mean that organizations should go out and hire, well, jerks. It means that there is heavier focus on skills and talent rather than personality.

“If there aren’t any consequences, then of course you are going to prefer people who are likable and fit your norms of social desirability,” Pfeffer says. “But if your success depends on how well those people perform, which is the case in many organizational settings, then you’re going to emphasize competence.”

Bring Fido to Work

Nothing brightens up the energy in an office quite like a dog. Take it from Shaunna Cahill, who regularly brings her pooch, Amy, into work with her at the Society for College and University Planning.

“Studies—many of them—have shown that there are several health and psychological benefits of stroking a dog,” she writes in a post for Association Success. “My less scientific evidence shows something similar: Several colleagues have remarked that having Amy around makes them less stressed and less prone to distraction. Her presence reminds you about the good, simple things in life, and emphasizes the human side of all of us.”

Although cuddly and cute, be warned that dogs won’t solve your office’s culture problem, but they can work to enhance it. “At its best, in the right environment, bringing a dog to work becomes a piece of the well-running organizational machine: It reflects, inspires, and becomes integrated in the positive and productive nature of the workplace,” Cahill says. “For me, Amy reminds me that work is but one facet of a rewarding life—and this helps me to approach my job with a clear and level head.”

Other Links of Note

Looking for nonprofit tech tools? The Wild Apricot blog shares their picks for apps that every organization needs.

It’s easy to get carried away with member perks. The Membership Guys make the case for keeping it simple in their latest podcast.

Stop setting small goals. A bigger goal might be harder to achieve, but it will challenge and motivate you and your team to succeed, says Harvard Business Review.

Sophia Conforti

Sophia Conforti is a contributor to Associations Now. More »

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