02 July 2013

So What Can I Do About These Douchebags?

Ever since Valleywag republished Part 3 of my somewhat epic rant about Douchebags in the Startup World, folks have been asking me what can be done - or if in fact anything can be done.

My response has been the same in all cases.

First - please read the first two parts in the three part series. I'd suggest starting with Part 1. If you work in startups or want to work in startups, this should give you some things to work on that will help you not be a douchebag.

Second - put pressure if you can on Venture Capitalists to stop funding douchebags.

But there is a third thing that folks can do - there is a third way in which we can push for changed behavior in the entrepreneurial community.

You can stop hiring douchebags.

If folks running startups - if managers at startups simply stop hiring douchebags (no matter how skilled they might be or how desperately they might be needed) it will be a huge help. It will be a huge help not just in terms of forcing a change in acceptable behaviors within the industry - but also with your own company.

I'll explain...

I believe it was Keith Rabois at the First Round Capital CEO Summit who introduced me to the "Brilliant Asshole" concept. The idea is that there is no worse hire than the Brilliant Asshole. This is the employee who you make excuses for their behavior because they are so gifted. You hired them (despite misgivings) and figure their upside outweighs the negatives.

The problem is that hiring (and keeping) the Brilliant Asshole demonstrates to all other employees that the rules are not evenly applied. Exceptions are made for brilliant people. You can be a total asshole if you are good at shit.

And people tend to think they are good at shit. And people tend to act a bit like sheep.

Next thing you know the good people are resentful and disengaged. And the mediocre people are all following the lead of the assholes. And the asshole are running the show.

So never hire a Brilliant Asshole.

The exact same is true of douchebags. Once you hire one single douchebag and tolerate their behavior, all the closet douchebags will emerge. All the suppressed anti-social behaviors will emerge. More douchebags will be hired (because like attracts like - but also because good employees don't want to work with a bunch of douchebags).

You hire a douchebag and you are going to be a douche company.

So stop hiring douchebags.

And think of all the stupid, petty interpersonal issues that you won't have to deal with anymore. Bonus!


At 10:34 AM, Blogger Jamilla Camel said...

I am a Bay Area native and someone who's worked in Tech in the Valley and in London, for mostly American companies for over two decades.

I have observed that our industry seems to self-select for both Asperger's and Psychopathy. A lot of the Douchey behaviors you describe correlate well with symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder and other DSM "disorders"!

I do have a very good friend with a clinical diagnosis of Aspergers (Engineer)but he has learned how to modify his behavior and responses, and shows the MINDFULNESS that many obnoxious people lack. He has consciously decided he does NOT want to be a socially autistic douche, and works hard every day to be the best human he can.

It can be done.


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