Why you shouldn´t hire A-holes – a scientific perspective

So this it. I´m in Philly, Pennsylvania, the City of Brotherly Love, and today was the first day of the MAPP program 2013/14. Obviously, I had planned to blog about this – but I´m still overwhelmed by all these new impressions, locations, and most of all, outstanding people. It actually is kind of weird (at least for me…) to all of sudden talk to or being taught by luminaries that you´ve previously known only from TED Talks and the like.

So instead, I´m going to share something with you that I read about yesterday on the plane in the German issue of the Harvard Business Review. They interviewed Robert Cialdini, the world´s foremost expert on persuasive communication. And he had something interesting to say on the issue portrayed in the headline of this article. In this case, someone qualifies for being an A-hole e.g. by lying and cheating on customers and/or colleagues.

There are some very obvious reasons why you don´t want to hire people that display these kinds of behavior. E.g., it may hurt your companies reputation, which then results in the decline of (repeat) business – which is harmful to the bottom line. That´s a no-brainer. But then, there are also some consequences that might not be that apparent:

A stitch in time saves nine

The problem with hiring an A-hole is that – in the long run – it might lead to having a company full of A-holes (which may not only cheat on customers and colleagues, but on the company as a whole, too). Here´s the deal: hiring an A-hole will lead to higher levels of stress and discomfort among the non-A-hole employees in your company. This is a consequence of the perceived mismatch between their own values and those values the company is obviously displaying by hiring the A-hole and letting him/her get away with whatever he or she is doing. It leads to higher levels of illness and absenteeism.

And: it will also lead to higher levels of turnover, meaning the non-A-holes will slowly but surely leave your company. This, as a consequence of person-organization-fit, will lead to the hiring of more A-holes as a replacement for the honest people that have left the company. You see where this is heading….

You can read more about this topic in one of Cialdini´s articles.

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