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Geeks Prefer Competence To Niceness

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the catching-more-geeks-with-vinegar dept.

IT 300

Death Metal writes "While everyone would like to work for a nice person who is always right, IT pros will prefer a jerk who is always right over a nice person who is always wrong. Wrong creates unnecessary work, impossible situations and major failures. Wrong is evil, and it must be defeated. Capacity for technical reasoning trumps all other professional factors, period."

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and yet (4, Funny)

denttford (579202) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367099)

and yet we come back to a site run by /. editors.

Re:and yet (3, Funny)

jonnythan (79727) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367277)

Clearly we prefer incompetent jerks to either of the types mentioned in the summary :)

Re:and yet (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29367443)

It would be more ironic if this were posted by kdawson.

Re:and yet (3, Funny)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367717)

Warum tun wir das?

I would take (5, Insightful)

Danimoth (852665) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367125)

I would take someone bearable who usually does it right over either of those.

Re:I would take (2, Insightful)

fischerville (1458275) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367289)

Exactly. Given the question would you rather work for a) a jerk who is always right or b) a nice person who is always wrong, i'd pencil in: c) a nice person who is occasionally wrong. Otherwise, it's a false dichotomy.

Re:I would take (4, Insightful)

gnick (1211984) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367423)

I'm perfectly happy with my situation. A boss who is pleasant, willing to go to bat w/ HR/training/ES&H/upper management/whoever, has no technical skills, accepts that he has no technical skills, and yields to recommendations from us underlings on most issues that won't affect his performance review.

On a side note, The IT Crowd may amuse some. Brit show with an incompetent IT boss, a pair of competent IT grunts, and bad English humor (humour?).

Re:I would take (1)

45mm (970995) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367607)

Brit show with an incompetent IT boss, a pair of competent IT grunts, and bad English humor (humour?).

All you probably needed to say was "bad humour"


Re:I would take (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367745)

"may amuse" is an understatement. Anyone who has ever done any kind of corporate IT support will love it. Especially how Roy has a new Thinkgeek shirt in every episode.

Re:I would take (1)

jeffshoaf (611794) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367953)

Enjoy it while you can... The powers that be will see that one non-techie made a good manager of techies and assume that any non-techie will be a good manager - then you'll get a non-techie who thinks he understands techie issues, doesn't believe anything you say, and assumes that all techies are interchangible. Next step is out-sourcing your job; since all techies are interchangable, you'll be traded for someone who's a semi-techie willing try to do your job for much less money. And the boss won't understand that semi-techie != techie.

Re:I would take (4, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 5 years ago | (#29368023)

Good IT pros are not anti-bureaucracy, as many observers think. They are anti-stupidity.

Truer words were never spoken.

Re:I would take (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29367571)

No kidding...after all, there are competent folks out there who also have the personal skills. Really, this whole post is silly.

Re:I would take (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367587)

The problem is when we encounter a jerk who's always wrong. And it's usually the owner of the company >.<

Re:I would take (1)

denobug (753200) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367639)

To be exact, I would take someone who are professionally competent (making correct decision 80% of the time or more) and are at least in the 20% tile or higher in their attitudes and interactions with others. You actually need to be fairly strong willed at times to properly get your point across! That can be perceived as being a "jerk" by the person on the receiving end at the moment.

Re:I would take (3, Insightful)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367993)

You actually need to be fairly strong willed at times to properly get your point across! That can be perceived as being a "jerk" by the person on the receiving end at the moment.

No you don't. You need to have a persuasive argument and be speaking with rational people. If you surround yourself with people who are always "right", when life is mostly subjective, you'll be miserable.

Perhaps this explains why the IT crowd is mocked so easily - people who convinced that being 'right' makes them superior are suddenly thrust into the real world, where there are very few 'right' answers. It's easy to see who doesn't fit in, and when those people start complaining that the world should change to accept their brillance ... well ... the world continues to mock them. Because, lets face it - being right doesn't count for everything, and in a job where being 'right' is subjective (almost everywhere except IT), then niceness matters a lot more than competence. People can always learn and do better next time - but you can't take back the death threats you sent while upset.

Now, I suppose there are life and death situations where being right means survival. But seriously, how many people live in those situations? Not even doctors can choose 'right' or 'wrong'. Doctors choose what is 'best' in their opinion, which is why doctors sometimes differ in treatment recommendations. I have a hard time believing that a) the slashdot crowd works in life/death situations where right is not subjective, and b) that it is impossible to be both 'right' and 'nice'. Seriously, isn't this just creating a false dichotomy?

Re:I would take (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367925)

I prefer the person that is bearable and can learn competently.

There are few true geniuses in the world. The vast majority of people who have an chip on their shoulder probably wouldn't be a good team player anyway... and even if they are above average, with that type of attitude, probably would leave disaster in their wake when they leave - even if it's as simple and seemingly harmless thing as lack of documentation of what they were doing or making.

Just IT people? (5, Interesting)

TheRealPacmanJones (1600187) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367129)

I am an accountant and I know I have always preferred people who did their job well but I may not have liked that much. You can work around personality differences but you cant work around someone being stupid.

Re:Just IT people? (1)

Monoman (8745) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367185)

Obligatory - There is no fix for stupid.

Re:Just IT people? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367269)

But there is some fun to be had in holding up an ice-cream scoop or melon baller and claiming that there is...

Re:Just IT people? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367237)

Exactly. It works in almost every aspect of life. I worked in a sales environment for about a month and I can tell you, the guys who are great at sales, tend to be real assholes. But you know why they have a job? They're GREAT at it.

Even a receptionist can be a little snarky if she is so fluid with the paperwork that she can do more than is expected of her.

Re:Just IT people? (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367259)

Precisely. You can come to an agreement not to deal with someone face-to-face if their demeanor rubs you the wrong way. You can put a "buffer" person between yourselves, even. On the other hand, when your organization has some dumbass who is not only failing to do their job but requiring other people to come behind and fix the mistakes or clean up the messes, you have a major problem.

Geeks Prefer Competence To Niceness (4, Funny)

digitalsushi (137809) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367173)

Yes, this is why we put the liberal art majors in their own building.

Re:Geeks Prefer Competence To Niceness (5, Interesting)

hombrejava (875247) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367251)

I work at a national lab. We work with large number of students every summer. Some are smart, some are very weird, some are nice, some are not. Guess who gets to come back next summer? The smart ones who come to work every day and are productive. Nice doesn't work. I've worked with some stupid nice students, and all I do is damage control.

Re:Geeks Prefer Competence To Niceness (1)

smooth123 (893548) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367437)

Nice may not work but sucking up and good looking seems to work..... Ask geeks who are not good looking but are nice and competent. Many has lost to a suckup or a good looking ....... B U T is in the I of the Bee Holder

Re:Geeks Prefer Competence To Niceness (2, Insightful)

denobug (753200) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367693)

Nice may not work but sucking up and good looking seems to work..... Ask geeks who are not good looking but are nice and competent. Many has lost to a suckup or a good looking .......

A Nice and good looking person who can charm people doing their job? I think the proper term is "Upper Management."

Re:Geeks Prefer Competence To Niceness (4, Insightful)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367371)

Saying, "I told you so," isn't nearly as much fun when you have to clean up the mess. It's always the smart guy that ends up paying the price when the dumb guy / management screw up. Who stays late and fixes the code / saves the server when things break? The guy that knows what he's doing. He may feel like a hero afterward but mostly he just feels pissed off that he had to do it at all.

I can't count the number of times I've wondered why I'm in a meeting or why I've been consulted at all. If you aren't going to respect my opinion, you needn't bother asking. It only makes it that much more depressing when I have to clean up your mess later without so much as a, "yeah, I guess you were right."

Re:Geeks Prefer Competence To Niceness (1)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367419)

and that's why we're jerks.

Re:Geeks Prefer Competence To Niceness (4, Interesting)

Atrox666 (957601) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367967)

%100 percent our fault as geeks.
Geeks give away their power. We work for corporations or consult for them when they are not interested in any of our goals or values. Geeks are always bending over, spreading their ass cheeks and whining about getting fucked.
They have superior intelligence (generally) but shy away from running things or accepting authority.
What geeks generally don't get is that when you throw up your hands at a people/leadership oriented task you look as stupid as the people you (rightfully)deride for throwing up their hands at the slightest computer issue. When you back off from business tasks and say "I don't do that I'm a techie" you look as silly as a person who has an Outlook problem and says "I'm not a techie I don't do that"
How many IT departments in non IT companies can actually say that they are treated like a part of the business and not just like an irritating expense.

Re:Geeks Prefer Competence To Niceness (1)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 5 years ago | (#29368013)

Yes, this is why we put the liberal art majors in their own building.

This is also why engineering and comp. sci have their own buildings.

And administration, and food services, and maintenance, and bio-chem, and ... etc. etc. etc.

Geeks prefer easy women (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29367175)

Very, very easy women.

Re:Geeks prefer easy women (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367891)

"Mr. Laurio, never trust a beautiful woman. Especially one who's interested in you." - Magneto, X2

Yep (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367177)

A jerk might be a Jerk but if he's a reliable jerk I'll take him over someone who's really nice but often makes mistakes. I always feel like niceness is their way of compensating for absolutely sucking. It's a survival mechanism when you're a failure. Give me a Jerk whom I can count on to get the work done well over a nice failure. After all it's work and we aren't there to be nice to each other.

Re:Yep (3, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367275)

Unless the nice but makes mistakes person causes *me* a lot of extra work, I'd take nice. I'm at work because the makeup of society forces me to be, not because I want to. Might as well make it as enjoyable as possible.

Now if his failures come rebounding onto me, then he can be a liability. Luckily life isn't usually a comparison of extremes- you can get someone who's competent and easy to get along with most of the time.

Re:Yep (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#29368049)

I always feel like niceness is their way of compensating for absolutely sucking. It's a survival mechanism when you're a failure.

I'm so going to lose karma for this, but... you mean the way fat chicks always have a 'nice personality' while the hot ones are often bitches? If you're very desirable for *ahem* functional reasons, you don't have to cultivate 'niceness' in order to be sought after.

lies and slander (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367191)

"Wrong is evil, and it must be defeated. Capacity for technical reasoning trumps all other professional factors, period."

A pity that most of management aren't geeks and thus the only thing you're really hurting is your own reputation and your coworkers by acting that way. You'll be ten times more effective at getting the right thing to happen if you can put a little bit of sugar on your requests. Also, since IT is a support role in most organizations, being able to talk to them without making them feel stupid for doing so is a definite plus when you'll need their approval.

Yes! (1)

bignetbuy (1105123) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367213)

We don't need no stinkin Mr. Rogers running our servers. Go sell nice someplace else.

Re:Yes! (1)

el_tedward (1612093) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367405)

How DARE you insult Mr. Rogers!!

Not me (2, Insightful)

Korbeau (913903) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367219)

Since I'm always right I prefer to work with nice persons without initiative that are gullible to my points of view and always smile.

(ergo I'm a self-confident a-hole and you would like to work with me !:)

True; but... (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367223)

This is largely true; but the problem is with the (fairly sizable) population of people who are neither nice nor competent; but are arrogant enough to think that they are.

If somebody is kind of useless; but nice, they'll at least roll over after fucking up. If somebody is an arrogant dickhead, they'll fuck up and be personally offended at any attempt to do things properly.

Re:True; but... (3, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367537)

Well I'd put the problem more generally as: people don't divide cleanly into "nice people who are always wrong" and "jerks who are always right". Jerks are often the people who *think* they're always right, but often are wrong quite a lot. "Nice people" are sometimes secretly jerks who think they're always right, and the niceness is just a form of condescension. But no one is right all the time, and a lot of times there really isn't even a "right answer" so much as "the best answer we can come up with right now."

A lot of it really ends up being a matter of degrees. Would I tolerate a little bit of assholishness for some real brilliance? Sure. But after a certain point, you can be too much of an asshole to be worth it. Along with everything else, being actually often means you *aren't* right. If you're causing interpersonal problems on a team, creating more work for everyone else, and making everyone else hate working with you, then you're kind of doing the wrong things.

Plus, there are enough people out there who are competent and at least decently nice. It's not really a choice you have to make all the time.

Best quote (4, Interesting)

Lord Grey (463613) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367235)

From TFA:

IT pros are sensitive to logic -- that's what you pay them for. When things don't add up, they are prone to express their opinions on the matter, and the level of response will be proportional to the absurdity of the event.

If only I could get my current manager to understand that. Perhaps then he'd understand why our department reacts the way it does to policies handed down from the parent organization.

I thought the article was basically ego-stroking but at the same time, most of it was spot-on. Why is it that so many writers understand this stuff, while so many IT management organizations do not?

Re:Best quote (1)

amplt1337 (707922) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367535)

Why is it that so many writers understand this stuff, while so many IT management organizations do not?

Because IT management organizations have to get things done in a larger world, where narrow focus on technical solutions is not the sole factor under consideration.

Want to work in a business environment? That means that sales is king. You may support sales, you may even support your customers, but driving business through the door is the most privileged role. Those customers won't, for the most part, want an arrogant prick who's always right; they'll want an accommodating, amiable fellow who's right more than half the time.

Re:Best quote (1) (245670) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367743)

So I wasn't out of line when I wanted to vomit at, "Can't we just put it on the cloud?" Christ, it was like a Dilbert strip. One meeting every 3 or 4 years is plenty for me, thanks.

Technically... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29367245)

In a Boolean sense, it's actually technically better to have a person that is nice and is *always* wrong. Then you simply apply a logical not ('!') to their answer.

Re:Technically... (2, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367417)

Unfortunately evaluating !(clusterfuck) leads to a clusterfuck because it implements its own operator!.

"Wrong is evil, and it must be defeated" (4, Insightful)

Starker_Kull (896770) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367255)

... (shakes head) ...

Sounds great. Let me know how that goes, okay? Tell me when the war is over, and teh stupid is vanquished. I'll hang a banner for you.

People with this attitude will have a hard time working with anyone outside of a very small group of very competent people; i.e. in the real world. Most people really aren't experts, they aren't always right, they frequently make mistakes.... but they are not evil. I try to reserve the word 'evil' for people who seek to hurt others for fun.

If all you have a choice of is 'competent' or 'nice', I suppose I would temporarily choose 'competent'. I would then seek to find a little more of BOTH in one human.

Re:"Wrong is evil, and it must be defeated" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29367483)

Competent people motivate themselves to work hard so they are then motivated to find ways to make hard work easier, and when they make it easier, they find ways to do more. Thus, work ethic is the most important thing in finding a competent person.

Good leaders take into consideration the variation in manufacturing tolerances that make people unique; stupid or smart, good or evil, competent or nincompoop, educated or stupid, etc. They are competent in understanding how stupid people think and how smart people think, and know how to communicate to both.

Re:"Wrong is evil, and it must be defeated" (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367975)

IMO, it's not wrongness as such that creates problems, but incorrigibility. When somebody is wrong and *stubborn* about it, that's what makes them hard to work with.

Granted, if somebody is wrong *all* *the* *time*, we tend to reach a point after a while where we really no longer value or listen to their input.

But somebody like that you can just sort of ignore and go about your business. What really causes problems is somebody who won't listen to reason and keeps *insisting* on having their stupidity implemented.

Perhaps an example will help. A boss who comes to the staff meeting with an inane proposal that they read in a business magazine and thought sounded cool at first blush is one thing. A good IT guy won't want to implement the proposal (because, it's inane), but if he has any respect for the people at the meeting he'll give *reasons* why he doesn't want to implement it. And he'll expect you to listen to those reasons. If the IT guy starts trying to explain some of the problematic technical implications of the inane proposal and the dude shuts him down and insists that he get on board, that's something else entirely. At that point the IT guy will become defensive and/or subversive.

You see, it's not just ordinary plain old ignorance that geeks really hate. It's *willful* ignorance, the dangerous and stupid kind, the kind that says, "I don't care about the laws of physics, non-reinforced concrete is cheap, and we ARE going to build the bridge across the canyon out of it, and we're not going to use supports because they cost extra money". Competent IT guys can't stand that and will either leave in frustration or attempt to protect the organization from the danger, even if that puts them in the ironic position of protecting the organization from its own management.

Can't happen (5, Interesting)

ISurfTooMuch (1010305) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367257)

This is a situation that usually can't happen. The reason is that jerks are very often wrong, but, because of their personality type, they won't admit it. Even if a nice guy is wrong, he will more often than not own up to his mistakes instead of charging blindly ahead.

And I don't think being a nice guy and being competent is some rare thing. In my experience, people who are extremely competent have nothing to prove and are therefore pretty easygoing. The jerks are usually the ones who don't know shit but want to make everyone think they do. They're the ones who kiss their superiors' asses and have them believing they know what they're doing. They also belittle their underlings, who are often the ones who actually do the work.

Re:Can't happen (2, Funny)

JumpDrive (1437895) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367307)

Shit , you work at the same place I do.

Re:Can't happen (1)

ISurfTooMuch (1010305) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367547)

Yep, I'm the guy down in the basement doing two jobs, one of which involves trying to figure out why, with all the computers I bought earlier this year, some of them seem to have all the software issues. Hmm, or is it the user that's the variable. And I'm the one who's getting ready to do battle with Dell support about a computer I thought they fixed a few months ago that just developed the very same instability problems.

And I don't get paid enough, and I have no window, but I have one hell of an Internet connection. :)

Re:Can't happen (1)

BosstonesOwn (794949) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367661)

So your the guy who I always hear typing up a storm here. Guys stand up and look toward the end of the row , I work here too....

Wait no one stood up. There must be a shit load of places like this.

Re:Can't happen (1)

OriginalSolver (552648) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367315)

Spot on. The true test of someone who has clue is if they will admit when they don't know something. The people who claim to know everything often know the least.

Re:Can't happen (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367325)

It is even more fundamental than that. A jerk who is incapable of dealing with people as a boss is failing at the most important part of his job.

He is flat out wrong in most of the things he does.

The idea that a person like this can be always right is a logical fallacy.

Re:Can't happen (1)

sonnejw0 (1114901) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367495)

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge" - Charles Darwin, 1871

Re:Can't happen (1)

Lemming Mark (849014) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367653)

An interesting problem is when you have a jerk-genius who is *occasionally* wrong but is used to being right all the time simply because they are very clever. Sometimes they don't seem to recognise the unfamiliar sensation of wrongness that some of us feel a bit more often ;-) Plenty of examples of this if you read the Daily WTF or even just the LKML!

Can't *strictly* happen in most cases, but .... (1)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367721)

I actually have known a couple guys who came pretty close. One of them was actually a former good friend of mine, until circumstances caused us to go our separate ways. (Long story, but among other issues, he got married to an older woman who was unbearable to be around for any length of time. I'm pretty sure she was on a "mission" to drive away all of his former techie friends....)

In any case though, his "forte" was with computer security and hacking issues in general. He had a whole library of really interesting and in-depth books on the topic, and he was like a walking version of the library himself. He'd often get into arguments with people who were spouting off their opinions (often flawed or outright incorrect), and more often than not, people started resenting him because he was right (and made them look bad or feel stupid).

The only people who usually managed to stay friends with him were either those who didn't really HAVE opinions on anything technical (and therefore, didn't have reason to get into any confrontation with him on those topics to begin with), or people like myself, who valued his intelligence and knowledge, and could overlook his lack of tact in dealing with some people.

Perhaps unfortunately, I think the "work world" actually values people's schmoozing abilities over competence in most areas. I lost touch with him for a long time, but last time I checked up on his whereabouts, I was shocked to discover he'd been working low-paying retail jobs selling consumer electronics for years. By all rights, this guy would be WELL qualified to do far more ... but his personality probably made H.R. departments reject him for not being enough of a "team player".

What I'd prefer.. (1)

DiscountBorg(TM) (1262102) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367327)

In the Real World (tm) there is no such thing as a person who is always right. Being correct means you have put the work in to learn about something and understand it correctly. Which means you were wrong or ignorant once, and you decided to improve yourself at some point. I'm much more into people who are well-balanced in their decision-making processes: open to learning new ideas, able to consider different opinions and make a careful and rational choice without their egos getting (too) involved. Those are the ones who will continuously make the best decisions in the long term.

Jerky competence is a bit of an oxymoron (3, Insightful)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367335)

It's usually the incompetent who feel the need to act like a jerk to distract everyone from their own performance.

Re:Jerky competence is a bit of an oxymoron (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367385)

Not necessarily, I find alot of peope who KNOW they're good at their job will act like they're better than everyone who works below them.

Re:Jerky competence is a bit of an oxymoron (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367529)

Yeah, but I bet they were an asshole before they got good at the job, too.

Re:Jerky competence is a bit of an oxymoron (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367435)

No. Think Dr. House.

Re:Jerky competence is a bit of an oxymoron (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367651)

Nobody ever told you the truth about Santa and the Easter Bunny either I assume.

Re:Jerky competence is a bit of an oxymoron (1)

denobug (753200) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367839)

No. Think Dr. House.

I'd rather have Dr. House as a doctor than some wimpy doctor who knows nothing, as long as I know it before meeting him! He may not care about me as a person but he sure care a lot to do his job right!

Now if he was ever wrong...

This is news? (2, Insightful)

SoTerrified (660807) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367339)

If I have a co-worker who is competent, but a jerk... I can work with that. I might have to thicken my skin a bit, but in the long run, that's not asking much. I tend to view the office as the place I work, not the place I make friends. I have non-work friends who fill my social time very nicely, thank you so do your job and we'll get along. Whereas if I have a nice guy who isn't competent, he will cause me endless extra work and effort bailing him out and dealing with his mess-ups. I don't care if you're Santa Claus nice, after a while, I'm gonna start to resent you. That's just a fact.

Re:This is news? (1)

buddyglass (925859) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367725)

I work about the same amount regardless. If someone else on the team screws up then that impacts the overall productivity of team, which may affect my employer's bottom line, but it doesn't result in any more work on my part. Given that, I'd rather have the nice person. My employer, however, would almost surely rather have the competent asshole.

Re:This is news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29367807)

That is exactly the point. You are clearly a technical (or at least semi-technical) person. This is not how non-technical people think. Many of them want to be everyone's friend and hire all the "nice" people, even if they're lousy at their jobs. Then they get mad because the competent technical people they hire aren't always nice and cheerful when some idiot does something stupid. The article is trying to explain our way of thinking to them, and I think it does a fair job of it.

a third kind that is easier to find (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29367351)

I'm still waiting to meet one or the other. Meanwhile I constantly run into a 3rd kind : Jerks who just do things wrong.

Ahem. (4, Insightful)

DarrenBaker (322210) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367367)

1 + 1 = 2.
Your mother.

I couldn't agree more! (2, Interesting)

Zarrot (1149415) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367395)

I have worked with nice idiots and wanted to kill myself. Sweet woman but absolutely clueless and helpless, made my life hell and my job 3 times harder, it was a 2 person shop and she generated anti-work. I eventually just convinced them to fire me so I could get away. And on the other-side I have worked with extremely competent A-holes. It's great I don't need to be friends with all my colleagues. I much prefer those who get their work done, on time and correctly. I prefer to get my work done and leave anyway. I try to forget about the office 5 minutes after I am gone.

Re:I couldn't agree more! (1)

cruff (171569) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367799)

I eventually just convinced them to fire me so I could get away.

Why didn't you just quit? Seems like it would have been the easier thing to do?

Best thing I did for my peace of mind was to stop logging in to the work systems on weekends unless I was specifically called about a problem.

Oxymoronic (1)

Stupid Crunt (1627025) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367397)

There is no such thing as a "jerk who is always right". Jerk quotient and job competency are inversely related, IMHO. Jerks are jerky because they're insecure. And I should know.

Re:Oxymoronic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29367781)

Eh I have met some real dicks who were right 90%+ of the time, because they were that smart. However, you are right, there is no such thing as a jerk who is right all the time, and they *never* want to admit that they are wrong. I saw an architect lose his job over that. He spent $2 million in resources over several years on a project that he just rammed down everyone's throats. Over engineered the crap out of it, without solving the original problem- creating a framework that made development faster and more easily scalable.

He won in the end I guess, he was laid off and is now working at a hedge fund for god knows how much money per year.

Dang (1)

al0ha (1262684) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367421)

I always knew I wasn't a Geek! Woo-hoo! Let's here it for all the smart people who are now free from Geek stereotypes due to this article!

Re:Dang (1)

Anonymous Struct (660658) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367615)

Yeah, I guess I'm not, either. If you can't be a decent person in the workplace, then you're going to be ineffective at teamwork, your leadership skills are poor, and you're unprofessional. Everybody gets it wrong sometimes, and having a viable social relationship is what lets people pick up and move on after that happens. If you're an asshole but you get it right 99% of the time, then your colleagues will just be waiting for that 1% opportunity, and when it comes, they'll hang you for it.

Maybe there is a little hero worship among geeks for the asshole genius (probably because everybody thinks it's them), but if you want to be successful, stow that garbage and learn how to work with other people.

I beg to differ... (1)

flibuste (523578) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367457)

I am IT pro and massively geeky and having experienced both in my daily work/coaching I MUCH prefer someone who is nice and will listen than a knows-it-all with an attitude.

Usually the know-it-all (a.k.a. "primadona") won't fit in a professional team, not because of its IT skills but his lack of social skills. A good team needs people with those 2 skills. It's much easier to improve someone's IT skills than his social skills...making the know-it-all a disruption for the business rather than an addition.

The nice-always-wrong-guy can always learn. Or do the grunt work..his choice...

Absolutely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29367467)

I'm tired of working for retards that are nice.
Get some balls and go do something you actually know how to do and stop wasting my time.

a) False Dichotomy and b) Not the whole picture (1)

Lemming Mark (849014) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367487)

Obviously, people are going to prefer to work with somebody who's effective at their work than somebody who is always wrong and creates problems for other people. But it's not like there's a choice only between "Good at work but nasty" and "Bad at work but nice". There are people who are nasty and also mediocre at their jobs, there are pleasant people who are highly skilled. So you might just luck out and get a nice, skilled person (or, if your recruiting process is not good, the reverse). Also, it's really not the whole picture. A skilled employee who won't / can't work with his colleagues (or one who nobody will work with because of his bad attitude) is not necessarily going to save work overall. I hate the phrase "team player" as it sometimes has connotations of weasel-speak. But the basic idea that a skilled worker can nevertheless not be a net gain *in a particular scenario* is true enough.

Many of us will have come across "uber hackers" who are vastly more productive in technical work than the programmers around them but who, through inconsiderate or unhelpful behaviour, slow down all the people around them as well as creating an unhappy working atmosphere. It's not that they're not valuable employees - they are. But they need to be deployed in the places where they'll make the biggest productivity win. In my opinion, laying down some specific guidelines about how their work relates to the rest of the team is also helpful, though not always possible.

Really you always want the best person for the job. Sometimes a friendly "people person" will be better in certain roles - management or technical. Sometimes a more abrasive personality may be a more effective manager or coder. What frustrates me is when I say an elite coder being coddled and allowed to disrupt all of the junior programmers' work, just because the management is not strong enough to direct him or her into more productive behaviours. By all means hold on to your elite technical staff and keep them happy - but don't let them drag everyone down in your efforts to please them - find a task they can work on alone, if necessary. The same would apply if you had an easy-going, friendly person who wasn't good at their job - find a better use for their talents or let them go if you can't fit them in.

Define nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29367511)

If the person is incompetent but lets me run the show because he/she is nice then I don't care if they are incompetent. If that person makes me do what they think is correct and is constantly wrong and it causes the job to be stressful, well I don't care if they have a smile on their face and say all the right words. They are root of all my misery and to me that is not nice.

depends if they're hot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29367527)

I will tolerate a hot girl being wrong as hell, in fact i think it's even hotter if she doesn't know anything about computers. Imagine how hot you have to be to not know a damned thing about computers... nice.

I'd like to know... (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367577)

...who the idiots were who conceived of this study ;-)

A person who is always wrong is completely useless. A person who is always right, but is a jerk, is useful, so of course you'd put up with him being a jerk. But in real life, no one is ever always right or always wrong. There are competent people and incompetent people, but even competent people make mistakes or are wrong from time to time. I'd rather deal with someone who is pleasant, and I'd rather deal with someone who is correct more often than not. But if someone's a jerk and right more often than someone who's nicer, but still right a fair amount of the time, I might prefer the nicer person. Working with nicer people is generally more pleasant and more productive.

People learn more the more they do stuff, and the nicer a person is, the more people are willing not just to work with them, but to teach them things. If someone is a jerk and an idiot, I have no desire to help them, and will do everything I can to route around them or get rid of them. If someone is nice and an idiot, I tend to give them a chance to learn whatever I can help them to understand better, and in time they may end up becoming more useful. Perhaps not as useful as someone who has a strong natural aptitude for the subject, but perhaps useful enough to retain in the organization. If not, they get let go too.

The proof of the pudding is under the crust (1)

Franklin Brauner (1034220) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367579)

Steve Jobs!

idolatry of House (1)

dirtydog (51697) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367613)

What about those of us who idolize House and his addictions?

Let me correct this (1)

tecnico.hitos (1490201) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367629)

IT pros(or geeks in general) will prefer being a jerk who is always right over a nice person who is always wrong.

Lets be realistic. Nobody likes a jerk, competent or not, and if someone is always wrong, it shouldn't be there from begin with. In theory, the jerk could be handled, but it might take more effort than it is worth, and if you lump a lot of genius jerks together, there is a slim chance of working very well and a great chance of becoming a battle of prides, of which, eventually, everyone will get tired.

One more thing (1)

tecnico.hitos (1490201) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367685)

The same competent jerk might see anyone less competent than him as the "wrong who is evil and has to be defeated".

Not new here. (1)

purplebear (229854) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367649)

I know. I know. I am not new here. But, people, please read the article; not just the summary. The ones agreeing with just the summary are a little brainless. The ones saying how wrong the summary is did not read the article.
The article doesn't just talk about "jerk that's right" vs. "nice but wrong". It addresses managing the logical, geek, stupid sucks and makes my job harder mentality. Not that management will ever read this article and walk away willing to change anything.

Stupid comparison! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29367657)

>IT pros will prefer a jerk who is always right over a nice person who is always wrong.

This isnt a test for nice vs jerk, its a test for right vs wrong! What if you reverse the situation to working for a Jerk who is always wrong vs a nice person who is always right?

The question boils down to would you rather work for some one who is always right vs some one who is always wrong. I guess the person doing the survey was too dumb to begin with!

Truly great people (1)

BenBoy (615230) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367677)

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."
-- Mark Twain

Re:Truly great people (1)

Anonymous Struct (660658) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367927)

So worthy of the mod points I'm fresh out of. That's a perfect description of what leadership (and management) should be.

Uhh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29367711)

There are plenty of nice people who know what the hell they are doing. We usually hire those. We hire the jerks when we can't find the nice ones, and we fire them when a suitable replacement can be found.

Relying solely on your technical knowledge will only get you so far in the workplace.

Being nasty IS incompetent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29367741)

We were talking about a boss or supervisor here right?
Someone who we are working FOR.

In that case, I have to point out that being unjustifiably
nasty to underlings is being incompetent in your
role as boss.
You will have a demotivated and unproductive team.
Yep. Definitely incompetent.

Maybe qualified as solo bug fixer, but otherwise,

I can definitively say that this is wrong (1)

netruner (588721) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367771)


I'm always right and I'm a big jerk, and yet nobody wants to listen to me until after the trainwreck. - I end up cleaning up the messes made by the "nice" people.

But seriously, cleaning up the messes made by anyone, nice or jerk, tends to make one into a jerk. Nice, competent people often become less competent jerks when they are used as a "fix all" for everyone else's screw-ups.

What a silly article... (1)

gosand (234100) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367775)

I prefer to work for human beings, who are wrong sometimes and can admit it. I try and present that image to my employees as well. It's OK to be wrong sometimes. It's OK to not know the answer. The good people will admit that and try to figure out the answer. The jerks blame someone else or quickly change the topic.

I don't understand why these two things are mutually exclusive. I have found that often times the most competent people aren't the ones who think they know everything, it's the ones who are willing to try and learn. There's no reason to not be both of these things. Try being the person who's right and nobody likes.... see how that works out for you.

Define 'nice' (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367785)

I'd rather that my cow-orkers posses some modicum of social skills in addition to technical. Some quantity of both make everyone's job a whole lot easier.

But it all depends on how you define 'nice'. All too often, it takes a bit of assertiveness to stand up for the correct technical solution in the face of 'team spirit' or the idea that you've got to 'go along to get along'. In many businesses, where the 'correct' solution can often be subjective or open to interpretation, this culture works. But in technical or engineering worlds, the physics of the problem trumps all. You've got to get the numbers right or the airplane falls out of the sky. And sometimes you've got to be a pushy s.o.b. (particularly in the face of management pressure to meet cost and/or schedule targets) to get something done the right way.

my 2 bits. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29367833)

Look I get the everyone wants to work with someone who is easy going and "nice". But the reality is that the type of person who is excellent at IT knows it and it breads a certain type of personality. I respectfully disagree with people that we are being jerks. We are short with people because we spend all day cleaning up after people who should not have touched the button in the first place. I was talking to an agent that I support and I flatly said "if you want to get a happy and cheerful me then stop touching, if/when it brakes just tell me don't "try" to fix it you cant and that is why I have a job." at first people are offended buy this attitude but it is a fact I am the fixer and you are the user just except the role and let me do my job. I dont go around telling you how to sell or how to deal with customers. that is not my job! and it is not my job to be your best friend! I always do my best to use my manors as they are the grease that gets the gears of life moving. But I will not put up with stupid and I have fired people with out warning for "fixing" things that they are not supposed to fix.

We all should be nice to one another but, when the chips are down and you need it done, I will take good over nice every day.

this is a confession of an IT-GUY.

The wording is biased to support stereotypes. (1)

TermV (49182) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367861)

The statement is worded in such a way that it strongly biases competence over personality. Competence is expressed as an absolute -- ALWAYS right or wrong. The adjectives used to describe personality are relatively central on the good/bad scale. If you reversed the bias and say asked IT pros whether they'd rather work with a serial killing evil psychopath who's usually right or the most wonderful person in the world who's usually wrong then chances are the results would come out reversed.

The article's author is simply trying to debunk negative stereotypes of geeks with the geeks' own stereotypes of how they *want* to be seen. Neither extreme is particularly valid.

And..? (1)

Burning1 (204959) | more than 5 years ago | (#29367869)

I'm having trouble understanding why 'smart' and 'nice' (whatever that means in this context) are mutually exclusive.

Being smart doesn't mean you have to be a self absorbed ass. Standing up for the correct technical decision doesn't mean you have to be rude.

I can attest to that (4, Funny)

pablodiazgutierrez (756813) | more than 5 years ago | (#29368017)

Although my place of work is generally full of competent people, my girlfriend's isn't, and while it is frustrating for her, it provides a constant inflow of amusement when I hear her evening updates. The last one involved a girl walking out of the room because she was pissed off at the two other girls working with her. My girlfriend asked her what's wrong, and it went on like:

- Oh, there was too much tentonton.
- Uhmm... tentonton?
- Yeah, you know, too many girls.
- Uhmm... do you mean testosterone?
- Yeah, that.
- But that's a male hormone.
- Whatever, the female one.

Tentonton. And the best is that this is not exceptional.

Best manager I ever had (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29368031)

The article raises some very good points. It brings to mind the best manager I ever had. Now, when I say "best", that's not to say I liked him; rather, I literally came a coin-flip away from quitting shortly after I started working with him. He could really piss people off. Still, he knew how to manage people, and did a lot to clean up a real mess we had due to the previous "nice" manager. Contrary to what the article says, he was not technical. He knew nothing about programming, and not too much about computers; but he knew whose answers to trust, and he knew to give credit where it was due. During his time managing the team, I saw certain team members go from lazy, do-as-little-as-possible slackers to active, motivated leaders. It was really remarkable.

Nice and Jerk are irrelevant (3, Informative) (245670) | more than 5 years ago | (#29368051)

The first level of filtering is to remove incompetence. If a person can't do the job, they're out. Personality, odor, presentation, etc. mean nothing at this point. If that initial filter means the only remaining candidates are smelly jerks then make sure your office has positive air pressure and a door that locks.

If that initial filter leaves you with some NICE people who are also competent, then you filter out the jerks. If you still have choices left, filter out the smell. If you still have choices left, filter out the people who dress like they're homeless.

It doesn't mean that I LIKE jerks. It means that personality is secondary to competence. And there are plenty of nice people who are also competent. But nice people who can't do the job aren't even considered.

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