I like what Robert Sutton has to say about nasty people in the workplace (via Metacool). I’ve worked with, and for, some pretty toxic folks and it’s not fun. For a short time, I had one boss who camouflaged his toxicity pretty well. He was actually an internal trainer for time management skills who’d Peter Principled his way up to VP. He became pals with the CEO (who brought his own unique brand of toxicity) and was thus entrenched. I always felt a strange sense of surrealism with this guy, since he was so likeable in person. You could talk with him and have great conversations and make great plans together. But later, you’d get wind of some reversal that benefitted him and made you look foolish. And he’d never own up, of course. Happened all the time to multiple people who worked for or around him. His department was a little turnover bubble within the organization. Anyway, he eventually fell out of favor with the CEO and got fired. Then the CEO got fired shortly after. I was long gone by the time all that happened, though.
Nowadays, I have the distinct pleasure of working at a place where organizational values line up with my personal values. For the most part, we are able to avoid hiring nasty people. It’s not as explicit as Perkins Coie’s "no jerks" rule, but it seems to have a similar effect. First, we’ve got an employment contract that filters out a whole lot of people. Second, virtually every hire is interviewed by an ad hoc committee that is comprised of people up, down and across the organization. The committee is selected by the hiring manager and is typically cross-functional. That is to say, the folks on the hiring committee represent the whole organization, not just the hiring department. The committee generally provides a pretty good filter for the hiring manager. The results are usually favorable. That’s not to say that there aren’t toxic people where I’m at–there are a few. But they’re rare and generally marginalized.
In retrospect, I know that many of the ideas in the slacker@work manifesto are direct responses to working for toxic people. They’re a way to manufacture a little bit of a buffer (Tom DeMarco would call it slack) around oneself, in order to do good work despite the storm that rages outside the buffer. If you work in an environment that lines up with your own values, as I do, you’ll find less of a need to employ the tricks in the manifesto because you’ll be too busy doing meaningful work and being appreciated.