Jerks at work?

I'm participating in the blogjam over at Fast Company Now, which is a lot of fun. Check it out: Johnnie’s talking about changing the world and Jeff’s getting holistic about innovation--and all I want to talk about is jerks in the workplace! Here's what I posted there:

    While of course we’d all like to work with competent, likeable people, I found it really interesting that, when given a choice in this Fast Company poll between working with someone who is less skilled and likeable and someone who is more competent and a jerk, 90 percent chose more likeable over more competent.

    What I find even more fascinating is how people interpreted the question, particularly the word "skill," which people took to mean everything from intelligence to talent to creativity in the poll’s comment section and elsewhere (for example, here and here).

    If the question had replaced the word "skill" with "creativity," "talent," and "intelligence," would your answer change? Having interpreted "skill" as being more along the lines of knowing how to use the tools of a particular trade (a software program, say, or a hammer), I voted with the majority. But I could be swayed to the other side, mainly because I can’t imagine not being able to find something to like in a truly talented, creative, and intelligent person.

    Do these qualities trump jerkitude in your mind? Or do they actually make a person more of a jerk because all that talent, creativity, and intelligence might make them impatient with--and jerkier to--those who don’t play in the same sandbox?

    And, while you can teach skills (as I define them, anyway), can you train employees to be more likeable? Should you, given the value so many appear to place on likeability?

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