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What Should Start-Ups Do With the Brilliant Jerk?

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the put-them-in-management-with-the-other-jerks dept.

Businesses 480

First time accepted submitter glowend writes "Cliff Oxford writes in the New York Times 'I define Brilliant Jerks as specialized, high-producing performers. They are not, however, brilliant business people, and that is what companies need during periods of rapid growth. There are a lot of hurdles to cross when companies move from start-up to growth, including dealing with chaos and changes in culture. But the biggest hurdle is dealing with the human factor — how you move, shift and replace people as the company grows into the next level of success.' So how do you make the best use of the Brilliant Jerk as your company grows?"

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480 comments

Do unto others (4, Insightful)

dietdew7 (1171613) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479399)

as you would have them do unto you.

Re:Do unto others (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479659)

Or you can just "do unto others" (per rules of maximally effective mercenaries).

(Captcha: employ)

Re:Do unto others (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479779)

I define 'douchebag' as the guy who writes this type of spammy article.

Re:Do unto others (4, Funny)

Jeng (926980) | about a year and a half ago | (#41480057)

as you would have them do unto you.

There are things some people want done to them that I do not want done to me.

Re:Do unto others (2)

Type44Q (1233630) | about a year and a half ago | (#41480121)

There are things some people want done to them that I do not want done to me.

Showered a lot in the Navy, did you?

The Jerk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479403)

Steve Martin made a movie about this. It contains all you need to know.

Re:The Jerk (0)

magarity (164372) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479685)

Steve Martin made a movie about this. It contains all you need to know.

The word 'jerk' has gone through a transformation from when it started. First it was someone cool, then it was someone who behaves strangely (when that movie was made) and now it means someone completely rude and annoying.

Re:The Jerk (5, Informative)

cruff (171569) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479763)

The word 'jerk' has gone through a transformation from when it started. First it was someone cool, then it was someone who behaves strangely (when that movie was made) and now it means someone completely rude and annoying.

When I was growing up (before the movie) in our neck of the woods, a jerk, as applied to a person, always had the third meaning (rude, annoying), unless one was referring to a "soda jerk" in old time movies. I've never heard of the other meanings, and even my Merriam Webster dictionary doesn't define the other meanings you gave, not even in a historical context. But I'm not surprised either, as all sorts of regionalisms exist that I've never heard of (especially when doing NYT crosswords).

Re:The Jerk (4, Insightful)

Jeng (926980) | about a year and a half ago | (#41480079)

Agreed. Jerk has always been a way to call someone an asshole without swearing.

easy (5, Insightful)

hypergreatthing (254983) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479407)

brilliant business people are the opposite of productive.
Jerk in any way shape or form is not needed in any business.

Re:easy (0)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479425)

brilliant business people are the opposite of productive.

That's an ignorent statement.

Re:easy (5, Insightful)

hypergreatthing (254983) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479495)

brilliant business people are the opposite of productive.

That's an ignorent statement.

The whole point of being a brilliant business person is to let others produce for you while taking full credit/full benefit from it while exerting the least amount of time making that happen.

And i'm fairly sure it's ignorant.

Re:easy (4, Interesting)

udachny (2454394) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479667)

The whole point of being a brilliant business person is to see an opportunity and to be able to take it in order to make profit from doing something that the market wants.

Of-course in the absence of free market there are other possibilities, like buying influence from politicians to establish yourself as a monopoly.

Your "definition" doesn't cut it at all. Workers don't produce out of nowhere, they have to be hired and told what to do and before they can be hired there has to be a case made to hire them, savings have to be allocated to hire them, tools have to be acquired so that the workers can be productive. Throw a bunch of 'workers' together without any purpose, capital, tools and management and see how far that takes you in terms of productivity.

People who take the most business risk are not those who accept salaried positions for jobs that somebody thinks to be necessary to make more profit, it's people who take the risk in terms of putting in their own savings, capital, time and effort into a venture that nobody ever guarantees to be a winner.

Re:easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479813)

So basically a brilliant business person tells other people how to make money for said business person, while taking full credit/full benefit from it while exerting the least amount of time making that happen.

Re:easy (0, Troll)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479893)

Yeah, either getting rich via options or getting a golden parachute sure is a huge risk.

Re:easy (1)

Boona (1795684) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479917)

Are you the jerk from the article? Oh no wait, he was brilliant. JK :)

Being a brilliant business person is identifying market trends and acting on them. Which means finding out what people want and delivering it to them at prices they can afford. To do this you need to get people with the right skills together on a voluntary basis by offering them compensation that they need to agree with.

In other words, it's up to the business person to get people together in such a way that everyone involved is benefiting and is better of than they would have been otherwise.

Re:easy (4, Funny)

WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479985)

Proof positive my manager is slacking off and posting on slashdot.. hey, Karl, get back to work, asshole.

Re:easy (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year and a half ago | (#41480029)

So starting up a business providing computer security services to banks doesn't help anyone? It's a great business opportunity, it gives a lot of opportunity for stable employment for programmers and security engineers and IT people who are needed for short-term projects (3, 6, 12 months) and would otherwise become consultants or get hired on for a short term. It creates internal positions for legal, accounting, HR, and even IT. The only one that benefits is the multi-millionaire CEO?

Re:easy (1)

publiclurker (952615) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479789)

So, where did you say you got your MBA?

Re:easy (5, Insightful)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | about a year and a half ago | (#41480045)

I got mine about 3 years ago, it is part of my transition from technical 'jerk' to affable manager

A 'good' businessman is part PT Barnum and part Blackbeard the pirate, it takes a lot of puffery and cut throat decision making to get a business afloat and frankly, 20 odd years of writing code and jockeying servers really had not prepared me for it.

As a technical person I was looked at as essential to the success of the company, but it was a bit of a risk to bring me into business meetings since I might quote something out of Alice in Wonderland, identify the immediate failings of our business plan or rant about the need to spend a bunch of money to shore up security before doing anything else... stuff that business-people would rather ignore once that they are in PT Barnum mode

My solution is a technical one... put your technical jerks in a DMZ, control your ports of access in and out of the DMZ, give them the resources that they need and (if you really want to trot them out in public) invest a few years in preparing them to be 'seen' by non-techies

BTW, if you really think that all of the 'jerks' are technical and not the business people, then you are missing out on the other half of the story

If you arent a businessman you are a jerk (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479411)

I say fuck off, you dum troll.

Make him CEO, fire him, rehire him. (5, Funny)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479437)

Worked for Apple Computer Inc.

See also: Bill Gates (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479525)

There are a lot of brilliant jerks who aren't brilliant business people, but that's true of any group. Brilliant jerk and brilliant business person are not exclusive properties.

Re:Make him CEO, fire him, rehire him. (4, Insightful)

shimage (954282) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479795)

Except that in that case the brilliant jerk was the business person. Woz was the brilliant nice guy who created the technology during the startup phase.

Give him stock and tell him to fuck off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479807)

Jobs was the business guy, Woz was the "brilliant jerk".

Re:Give him stock and tell him to fuck off (3, Insightful)

WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) | about a year and a half ago | (#41480031)

Except for the jerk part, your assertion is accurate. Woz was and is brilliant.... Jobs OTOH was a narcissistic panty-boy with sociopathic tendencies (lying, conning, getting others to do his work then claiming it) who's "contribution" lives on in its pure, distilled form in Apple's lawsuit against Samsung.

Fuck Apple.

Why Are They Jerks? (4, Insightful)

GeneralTurgidson (2464452) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479443)

Some types of autism or personality disorders make people come across as "jerks" to other more extroverted people. If someone is just quiet or short with you, it doesn't necessarily mean they're a jerk.

Re:Why Are They Jerks? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479515)

Some types of personality disorders make people come across as "serial killers" to other more normal people. If someone is just killing people or eating them, it doesn't necessarily mean they're a serial killer.

Re:Why Are They Jerks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479757)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_equivalence

Article has it Right (5, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479471)

The article has it right

"So what’s the right answer? Get rid of the Brilliant Jerk as fast as you possibly can"

First, the brilliant jerk isn't as brilliant as he or others think he is. Often, it is right after your superstar leaves that people covering his work find out about the shortcuts he took.

Second, his positive contribution will stay stead, but his negative contribution will grow proportionally to the size of your company and the number of people he works with.

Third, the longer he stays the bigger headache it will be to get rid of him.

Fourth, be sure he realy is a jerk and cannot be reasoned with.

Re:Article has it Right (4, Interesting)

postbigbang (761081) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479613)

Sometimes the best tactic is to let the creative-if-blustering types do what they do well: create and bluster, but in the back room. Serial entrepreneurs often do well because they have the ego needed to push thru ideas into really profitable businesses, with a few dead ones along the way. No one is perfect.

High collaboration and creativity is very productive, and productivity is helpful for rapid growth. Then move the blusterers out into new ideas, where they can regenerate. Some people are really good at cash-cow business, while others know how to start low and do rapid business building. Some will grow with a business, others need new challenges. It's not a talent easily given to aphorisms. And sometimes, it's not pretty.

Re:Article has it Right (5, Insightful)

Mozai (3547) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479643)

I worry that people labelled as "the Brilliant Jerk" are sometimes "the guy smarter than me who doesn't go along with what I propose."

Re:Article has it Right (5, Interesting)

DocSavage64109 (799754) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479769)

I worry that people labelled as "the Brilliant Jerk" are sometimes "the guy smarter than me who doesn't go along with what I propose."

+1 on that thought. Especially if what that person proposes involves me doing all the implementation.

Re:Article has it Right (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479835)

Unfortunately this is the thought process of the guy, so when you are trying to explain the reasons why the direction needs to change he is busy thinking about all the reasons his ideas are right instead of being flexible.

Re:Article has it Right (2)

nharmon (97591) | about a year and a half ago | (#41480097)

I was sort of getting that vibe from the article as well. Maybe the doctor in question had legitimate reasons for "why the group couldnâ(TM)t do some things and shouldnâ(TM)t do others". But the non-doctors, like the author for example, do not understand the reasons and as a result see this as being a jerk.

Re:Article has it Right (5, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479671)

First, the brilliant jerk isn't as brilliant as he or others think he is. Often, it is right after your superstar leaves that people covering his work find out about the shortcuts he took.

I'm sure it's not true in every case, but I've definitely seen cases of this.

Had a co-worker years ago who could crank out huge volumes of code, so management loved him.

The problem was, his code was absolutely un-maintainable crap, and he didn't like to go back and fix things. So first you needed to cajole him for a long time to even do it, and then he would do a half-assed job and go back to whatever he was finding fun at the moment.

He didn't follow any procedures, didn't bother with testing, documentation, or sometimes even putting his code in the the version control stuff -- which meant he didn't always even had the version he was trying to fix as it had long since been updated in place. In some cases, he created more work for the people around him than the value of his code.

In a lot of ways, I always found him to be a liability, since he refused to adhere to even the most basic standards we had.

But, to the best of my knowledge, he's still there writing large volumes of lousy code, and I'm not there any more. So clearly how I perceived things had nothing to do with how management did.

Re:Article has it Right (1)

shentino (1139071) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479983)

You were not the boss, so your opinion really didn't mean shit.

Unfortunately the guy above you in the chain of command is always right in the practical sense that saying otherwise can cost you your job and, whether or not the ship hits an iceberg and sinks, you'll drown faster if you get thrown off the plank for mutiny.

Re:Article has it Right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479693)

Make sure his "shortcuts" are not the "K.I.S.S" type, designed so that people can actually understand and cover for him in his absence.

The overworked "nice" hero , always working late, doing a horrible, complex, look at me job that no one else can understand, is no better.

Re:Article has it Right (2)

TheCarp (96830) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479909)

Not just that....

I have a friend who was telling me about an issue at his workplace. They brought in a jerk... possibly not a "brilliant one" but...it hardly matters....

Because his being a jerk actually prompted the two really brilliant researchers who did the core development of their product line leave....

I don't care how brilliant this guy is.... I have a hard time swallowing that he could be so brilliant as to be worth the damage caused by pushing key people out the door.... unless pushing them out the door was the plan... which... while I wont rule out ever being the right move, but, seems unlikely to be.

As a strong tech geek, I tend to get along with the jerks (as long as I don't report to them), but.... that doesn't mean I think they are healthy for the organization. They increase the drama, and decrease overall morale... which makes the place less enjoyable to work at, and makes other places look more attractive.

Re:Article has it Right (1)

ebusinessmedia1 (561777) | about a year and a half ago | (#41480011)

And all too often those brilliant jerks end up in management positions, where they wreak even more havoc. The sheer lack of real management smarts and enlightened sensitivities in the tech sector, is stunning. Other sectors have this problem as well, but in the tech sector it's more alarming because most techies are fairly well educated. You'd think that would make a difference, but it doesn't.

Fifth: Send us her resume. (1)

mevets (322601) | about a year and a half ago | (#41480101)

Please!

There are all kinds of companies with environments to suit all kinds of people. Interesting But Mediocre is great for some; not for others.

A homogenous environment is cheap and easy for a business to create. When is cheap and easy ever bad?

Wait, What? (4, Insightful)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479497)

I define Brilliant Jerks as specialized, high-producing performers. They are not, however, brilliant business people

Seriously, he's never met a brilliant jerk MBA business guy? He needs to get out more. Many business types are jerks, some are even very talented and smart.

Re:Wait, What? (2)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479549)

If he is a jerk to the extent that the article is talking about (causing problems within the organization meeting its goals) then he is not brilliant. If he is simply cut throat with competitors and vendors, he would not meet the definition of jerk being used in the article.

Re:Wait, What? (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479707)

I think the point is that the Brilliant Jerk is predominantly brilliant in the early stages of the company, but predominantly jerk as the company grows. A startup can really use a few genius employees who can work miracles on a shoestring budget and a tenth the time anyone else would need, but with growth comes more of a need for established procedures and established domains of authority. The Brilliant Jerk does not thrive in such an environment. The writer is simply pointing out that just because someone provides a near-superhuman performance early on in a company does not mean the company owes them any loyalty: Once their usefulness has passed, kick them out the door.

Re:Wait, What? (4, Insightful)

tilante (2547392) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479867)

Just because your mom carried you for nine months, then spent huge amounts of time and effort raising you doesn't mean you owe her any loyalty; once her usefulness has passed, kick her out the door.

But seriously -- I hope you're being extremely metaphorical with "kick them out the door." If they did that much for the company, they at least deserve some stock or a good severance package, and a glowing recommendation.

Re:Wait, What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479957)

Business is not family. Never confuse the two. You don't owe your company loyalty any more than it owes it to you.

-- MyLongNickName

Re:Wait, What? (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about a year and a half ago | (#41480111)

The writer is simply pointing out that just because someone provides a near-superhuman performance early on in a company does not mean the company owes them any loyalty: Once their usefulness has passed, kick them out the door.

And then they go on to a competitor and design a better product.

Microsoft has been known to crush competitors just by hiring away all their best engineers. They get millions in salary, but don't do anything at MS except watch their former employers die.

Instead of firing your Brilliant Jerks, better to put them to pasture where they can't do any harm, throw them some oats, and see if anything comes of it.

Re:Wait, What? (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479809)

"That's doesn't suck" was apparently high praise from Mr. Jobs. Many have described him as abrasive.

The thing is, Mr. Jobs set the goals. If he pissed people off and accomplished his goals, Apple made money.

It's more important that everyone's goals are aligned. I'd fire someone whose goals were 180 degrees apart from mine any day, whether they were a jerk or not. It's just easier to fire the jerk.

In the article, he doesn't demonstrate that firing the jerk early would have stopped the "poaching employees, helping competitors and starting legal battles" If they had fired him too early, the missing revenue might have doomed the company anyway.

Re:Wait, What? (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479621)

I define Brilliant Jerks as specialized, high-producing performers. They are not, however, brilliant business people

Seriously, he's never met a brilliant jerk MBA business guy? He needs to get out more. Many business types are jerks, some are even very talented and smart.

It doesn't take a lot (other than money, or credit) to get an MBA these days. He's probably met a ton of jerky business types, but none that are brilliant.

Article says get rid of them ASAP (5, Insightful)

syntap (242090) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479513)

I can think of no better way to inspire under-performers in a growing company than to jettison the worker who has been a superhero to date in a small company. This article is baffling to me and I don't understand why the author thinks dealing with super-performers should be different based on the company size. And the premise that it is unreasonable for the guy who constantly pulls backsides of others out of the fire to become a little irritated is odd.

Just so I have this straight, in order to drop the "jerk" suffix, a super-achieving worker who fills in for people when they are on vacation or sick, does not take vacation himself because the company is so reliant on his performance, and probably isn't getting credit for how many times he saved his coworkers must a) always be cheerful, and b) not speak up when he believes management is heading in directions that will increase reliance on said worker and make life even more difficult.

Basically the mind is cutting the heart out of a company, when both need to recognize each other's strengths and capitalize on them instead of picking a "winner".

Re:Article says get rid of them ASAP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479745)

The basic rule of min-maxing contradicts this idea - you want to spend maximum effort on your maximally effective people to enable them to do more so they can spread their wings. Under-performers need to first perform better to prove that they are worth your time. (sorry, it's tough life)

Now, what constitutes a top performer is a separate story, and this label is more often subjective than objective.

what about a good Doctor that may not be the best (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479765)

what about a good Doctor that may not be the best at working with Business people on non doctor Business should be gone?

Re:Article says get rid of them ASAP (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479777)

I've seen it happen more than once in an engineering software context. The trajectory of the company is typically as follows:

- initial startup fueled by technically-capable professionals
- company growth requires ancillary services including marketing and HR
- sales and marketing takes over leadership of the company, HR takes over hiring
- HR hiring significantly dilutes levels of technical acumen and professionalism
- original professionals are gradually tossed over the side or quit
- company reaches apogee, is taken over, and disappears

It strikes me that the article can be succinctly summarized as an argument for mediocrity.

Re:Article says get rid of them ASAP (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479851)

Since they are all doctors, it seems that any of them could have stepped up the the plate and done what he did. Perhaps not as effectively, so revenue might be a little off, but so what, if it makes it a better place to work.

If you are running a startup, and you fire your star designer, you have better be able to coast for a long time on existing products. It's like a rock band firing the lead singer/writer. Yes it's been done, but mostly you're going to fade to obscurity.

Let him do what he does best (1)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479523)

I'd say make him a chief engineering officer or chief software architect or some other top R&D title. "Brilliant Jerks" tend not to be people persons (obviously) so they tend to shy away from client/investor/public facing roles like CEO, where they can do real damage. If this person insists on such a role, perhaps let him find out the hard way that if he wants a management role, he has to minimize his role in R&D doing the things he actually loves. I think he will make the decision on his own that he'd rather be head tinkerer than run the day to day of the company.

Re:Let him do what he does best (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479939)

The advantage to putting him to pasture is it keeps this person from starting a competing firm, and stealing you business.

Cray Computer Inc was started this way. Seymore Cray needed his independence, so CDC finanaced him. When Cray made money, they made money.

Sack him. (4, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479531)

Honestly, I've never met a brilliant jerk who actually is.

People only get genuinely brilliant because they're capable of introspection, because they're capable of looking at themselves and seeing in what areas they can improve and then they go out and do exactly that, they improve that area. If they could do that, they wouldn't be a jerk because they'd recognise it as an area of improvement.

People who are jerks often think they're better than they are and simply don't have anyone above them competent enough to call them out on their bullshit.

Isolate them (5, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479533)

1. Give them a sandbox where they're the autocratic ruler and sole resident.
2. Slowly make that sandbox not at all relevant to the core of the business, by creating alternative approaches to solving the problem that the jerk used to solve. Other people will naturally route around the jerk whenever possible anyways, since nobody wants to deal with a jerk if they can help it.
3. When the sandbox becomes irrelevant and socially outcast, fire the jerk.

There are smart people who aren't jerks. Get them instead.

As a brilliant jerk (0)

scorp1us (235526) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479553)

My brilliance* varies from topic to topic. My biggest problem is I want to apply my brilliance to everything. Over the course of time, I fail. I learn, I re-attempt, but it has taken me a while to admit defeat. So I am quite happy handing stuff over to whomever is better at it these days. I have a ton of great ideas, but I really suck at running a business. I can give you a really good concept and the best implementation, but I will fail to succeed on my own. Therefore, I suggest you convince your brilliant jerk that only his best are brilliance is needed, and you'll surround himself with other brilliant people in areas where he falters. naturally he will gravitate towards that too. All you have to do is convince him that the other people are on par with him in their areas. Which, admittedly is not always the case. But in those cases you can have a plan. That such brilliance is not yet needed, but can be acquired (malloced) when needed. She should be content then to do what he does best and work with other people.

*Admittedly I am no longer the most brilliant person where I work. This can be hard to swallow, but it is easier if you bring them in under someone, rather than place someone above them. To do that move, you have to convince them that they can do the job better. I was not convinced of that and left. The company wanted a "yes man" which I was not. Later I found out the "yes man" left because he couldn't say yes enough to please management, because well, management was flawed. I knew that. Management was family to others in the company and they they hired a name whose ego surpassed my own. The thing is, he ran the company into the ground. many of my friends lost their jobs due to his mismanagement.

So my other tip is poll him frequently, about everything, even outside his area.

Re:As a brilliant jerk (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479929)

I have mod points, but there isn't an option for (-1, Inflated Sense of Self-Importance).

Prepare to jettison booster on 5, 4... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479565)

The guy sounds like a booster rocket. At some point it has to be cut loose or you won't reach orbit. Just one thing: people aren't hardware that you can just let burn up. Make sure he gets a nice severance. The next problem you have might be "they chew people up and spit them out". Who wants a reputation like that?

Re:Prepare to jettison booster on 5, 4... (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479741)

yah make sure you give him

1 a good parachute
2 dispatch a boat to pick him up quickly (another small biz that needs him maybe??)

hey this "booster rocket" thing WORKS

Manage them accordingly (3, Insightful)

madsenj37 (612413) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479573)

Find managers that can bridge the communication gap between jerks and the rest of the business. There are plenty of business people who know how to talk with someone like a specialized programmer for instance, without having any practical programming skills themselves. Every business success or failure is about finding the right people, culture, etc. Productivity is only one measure and people must be in place to motivate and communicate with all types of people.

Best use for Brilliant Jerk (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479599)

Put him in his own cube with his own projects. Half the job, in any job, is being able to interact with others in a productive and professional way. BJs are constitutionally incapable of doing that and eventually cost you in productivity and morale.

Maybe (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479605)

Maybe he wouldn't be a jerk if the rest of you weren't all so stupid! Ever think of that?

Throw the basterd out! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479635)

He was always the first to cover for doctors who were on call. He was always the first to volunteer to work on holidays. He had the most articles published by the American Medical Association. He was the first to get new training and share it with others one-on-one. And by the way, he was the highest revenue producer of all the doctors in the group. In fact, he was producing twice the revenue of some of the doctors. He had been the third doctor to join the group and without his revenue, the start-up could not have been successful.

OK.*

1. Covering people? He likes putting people in his debt AND he probably doesn't have a life because he's has issues.

2. Most articles published: again no life.

3. New training to share? Nice but more than likely it's because he likes being a know-it-all expert.

4. Revenue? Please! My local hospital had this HUGE controversy (and subsequent lawsuits) because one of its cardiac surgeons was by-pass crazy. Come in with chest pains? Open heart! even if it was just gas. He pulled in a SHIT load of money so the hospital turned its head because he was pulling in so much money.

He was a quack.

Then again I know a surgeon, who is constantly turning patients away (ortho - back surgery) because their REAL problem is their fat gut and sitting in front of the computer 10+ hours a day.

* - I know because I was just such an asshole and I've been paying for it every since and I'm making an effort to change.

Can They Learn? (1)

Edrick (590522) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479657)

If the "brilliant jerk" can learn and it's believed that they'll be able to grow with the company, provide greater value, and learn enough social skills to avoid being a detriment, then keep them, no question.

If they're unable to learn, though, and will simply be a hindrance for the indefinite future, then what I've seen work (especially in government work) is to have that person isolated. Keep them alone, make them feel special so they are happy and productive, and they'll stay away from people that would otherwise alienate or insult.

If none of this is possible...then perhaps the person needs to be given the stern warning that either they are "brilliant" enough to learn how to deal with people, or they should no longer work for your company anymore.

Like people with disabilities (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479689)

They may be real good with some stuff but not so much with say other business people.

Now you don't want to not have them and having people that are business people may end being good at business but as a PHB where they don't known much about the nuts and bolts.

Well, DUH! (1)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479717)

The "brilliant jerk", if he or she exists in your workplace, is the stand-in-mummy elected for that area.

You don't know stand in mummy?

The great sphinx and the great wall of china both architecturally model a set of cues known collectively as "the facts". You were born in them, you are raised and taught and trained in them, and you will probably die in them. "The facts" describe a system of rituals which serve as complete anchors for every second of every day of the lives of the people in them. "The facts" include, as an operational subsystem, a financial system of accounting and tracking which is matched and calibrated against other methods of numerical accounting. One of the numerical accounting systems is a mummified baby, known in bible scripture as Ham Isaac Jesus Christ. The precursor to the mummified baby was Cain, a branding system. The numerical accounting is matched by cutting down and regimenting all food and fruit bearing life on the planet.

The mummy baby, eventually allowed to crack the case of cinderella's carriage, provides a human walkaround pivot point to schedule and coordinate all of the other sets of "facts" which will describe the ritual performance of the lives of the other humans around them. If your area does not actually have a mummified individual then one of you will be picked to be "it" and the system of the "facts", all of the mosque temple synagogue church rituals and then all of the people working for jobs, will be wrapped around the "stand in mummy".

The brilliant jerk at work is the assigned stand in mummy.

Hire us instead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479719)

Hire those of us who are brilliant and who are not jerks.

Let him be... (5, Interesting)

Zapotek (1032314) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479723)

Give him his own office, a supply of fast food, sodas, coffee and energy drinks and let him work on the weird stuff that would defeat the others.
Why did everything get so touchy-feely all of a sudden? Why can't a guy just work in peace without having to tip-toe around the feelings of all the precious little snowflakes?

Now, if he goes out of his way to piss people off and promote general chaos and destruction then kick his ass out, otherwise suck it up.

Stop focusing on growth and scaling so much (5, Insightful)

photon317 (208409) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479781)

There's a need for and room for a certain number of large-scale companies in this country and in the world. There's also a need for and room for countless smaller and medium-sized companies. They're all integral parts of a functioning society and economy. Most small/medium companies will never be big and shouldn't be. When you fully understand business scaling, you realize that both in theory and practice it's *impossible* to scale a company without changing the product or service being delivered to your consumer.

Think about the quality difference between say, Famous Restaurant Chain and that long-running Small Family-Owned Restaurant near you that makes incredible-tasting food. If you think the difference between the two is that the big tasteless one always sucked at making food but had a brilliant business guy at the reigns, and the small one, while tasty, simply lacks the business sense to scale up their operations and make real money on their talent, you've completely misunderstood how businesses scale.

Most of those famous large-chain restaurants and fast-food joints actually started out as a single family-owned restaurant that was doing very well financially because customers loved the place. They genuinely loved the food, the service and price. The low-quality form they exist in today is the direct result of scaling; there's simply no other way to do it. Quality of the goods and services *always* falls when you scale up, but you make more money. Many of those successful small family restaurants that stay that way are constantly under pressure from peers and partners to expand and are perfectly capable of handling the business process of expansion, but they relentlessly resist because they don't want to ruin a good thing.

At a small scale, each employee really matters. You do need some people who are brilliant at their respective jobs to be successful. Moving from there to the large scale is all about commoditization. It's about building a self-sustaining organization that delivers a consistent product or service regardless of which employees come and go over time. It means trading out the special people that make great things for the ability to turn out consistently mediocre things cheaply using random sets of mediocre employees. It's a hard transition to make, and it's a constant process as you grow rather than a one-time thing. If you want to grow, you have to hire people that can work with that process. People that can take themselves out of the picture personally. People who can instead design and operate an ever-expanding system where employees are just cogs in a machine which always runs smoothly even if some of the cogs are a little warped and misshapen, and even if there's a regular pace of cogs just leaving the machine and randomly-different ones replacing them sometime later.

So if you're a businessperson, or business owner, or investor, this sort of scaling and growth is what excites you. You're not excited by making the best fajitas this side of the Mississippi, you're not excited by making the best firewall software man has ever seen, etc. You're excited by creating systems out of human cogs that scale up infinitely and keep giving back ever-increasing monetary rewards. But so many business people in the world want to scale their small-to-medium company into the next behemoth and most of them will fail. Scaling is hard, and there's only so much room, and your already-larger competitors already have a big leg up on you. Most of them shouldn't even try to scale. It's perfectly ok to stick to your smaller size, not frustrate everyone with scaling attempts, and simply keep re-investing profits into making it the best damn small company anyone ever did business with.

The "brilliant jerk" isn't necessarily the problem. Maybe he's perfect for that small company, and the problem is your unnatural desire to scale things at the cost of quality, destroying a beautiful and functional small cog in the economy by trying to make it too big.

OK, I read TFA (4, Insightful)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479829)

I read TFA, assuming that the definition of "Brilliant Jerk" in the summary was, in fact, summarized, and that the whole definition actually defined the "jerkiness" as something other than just not being a "business person". But that wasn't the case. Later in the article were some half-assed examples of what the author means by "jerky" behavior, but still no real definition. He ended up a competitor, so? He poached employees? He started legal battles? Competitors do do that, as we've seen with Apple, Samsung, Google, and countless smaller companies.

How many "business people" do you need? Someone's got to treat patients or develop products or otherwise provide some goods and services for the salesmen to sell and the marketeers to market. And if everyone says "yes, let's do it" to everything, you'll do everything without even thinking about it.

If an employee just doesn't fit in anymore and everyone's unhappy about it, then sure, end the relationship as quickly and amicably as possible. But why label someone a "jerk" just because the business changed? If you now need a hammer but keep trying to drive nails with the saw, that's your fault. Blaming the saw for being a saw makes you the poor workman who blames his tools.

Brilliant Jerks (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479857)

The truth of the matter is Brilliant Jerks are what run your company in the background. It's not necessarily that they are "jerks" but that they don't have that "political jargon" speech a lot of managers have. For instance, they say "no" instead of "I think there is a better way we can do this." Yes, you can fire all of them, however keep in mind if they truly are "brilliant" they will be bringing more to your company than your "regular" people.

Embrace them?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479859)

I just interviewed at a place that embraced the brilliant jerks instead of isolating them. They made it 'part of their culture' and they multiplied. Needless to say, I won't be taking their offer.

Dreyfus model (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479863)

For the subject area(s) that the guy is "expert" in, in the context of the Dreyfus model:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreyfus_model_of_skill_acquisition

just get out of the guy's way, don't micromanage him, and let him use his intuition to do great things for you.

Who cares... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479873)

...what the stupid jerk thinks of the brilliant jerk?

I'm Brilliant and Kind of Jerky (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479891)

I'm finishing up my PhD in a year (or twoish) and I'm looking forward to leaving academia and joining a small, growing company not related to nuclear physics. I can see myself bringing quantitative and technical skills to an otherwise lacking company.

I'm not interested in becoming a jerk.

How do I monitor the transition of the company and allow myself to feel out new roles and responsibilities?

Disqualification (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41479913)

I've always though that being a jerk disqualifies a person from being "brilliant".

You need to be the whole package in order for me to call you "brilliant".

Jealousy and self rightousness (4, Insightful)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479937)

TFA read like a breakup with one side telling their story while the other side was not allowed to speak.

What is most telling to me is the authors willingness to judge and place blaim on others while demonstrating his own lack of leadership.

Re:Jealousy and self rightousness (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about a year and a half ago | (#41480063)

TFA read like a breakup with one side telling their story while the other side was not allowed to speak.

What is most telling to me is the authors willingness to judge and place blaim on others while demonstrating his own lack of leadership.

I noticed the same thing, like the high school couple going off to separate colleges. Things don't work out long-distance, but of course, it's the other one's fault.

What Should You Do With Name-Calling Consultants? (2)

inputdev (1252080) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479965)

I started to read tfa, and from what I can tell, there is a paid consultant coming to speak with a group of 25 Doctors. There he makes snap pre-judgments and starts name calling, then publishes a blog about how right he is... What a waste of time and effort...

give them an interesting problem to solve... (1)

swframe (646356) | about a year and a half ago | (#41479995)

Tell them to create a product that is 10x better than the current product. Give them funding and support. If you can, have them work offsite.

Try to hire another Brilliant non-Jerk to manage them. Brilliants Jerks are less offensive to other Brilliant people.

what if it's the CEO? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41480043)

Look at the greats, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Apple. All headed by brilliant technical people. If you are the CEO of a tech company and aren't a brilliant engineer, it might be you that needs to go. Just sayin'.

your considered a jerk if you wont work the hours (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41480061)

Unless you have a lot of guaranteed equity in the company it is never, ever worth the hassle to go above and beyond the call of duty. You make enemies. Its just not worth the hassle. You can keep the pay checks coming and ride the gravy train by doing alot less. Now you don't tell anyone you are doing that, cause they won't like that. Employers will be happy to use you up and fire you when they are done. However it is not in your personal interest to work all that hard.

Note that in the IT business, the employer often has a ridiculous non-compete against the 'brilliant jerk' that might make it hard for him to find other employment. As a rule of thumb, you work somewhere and all of a sudden you get a long legal text they want you to sign that you don't really understand. Do NOT sign it. Especially if they pressure you to sign it right now and give you the 'just' excuse. We just want want to protect ourselves. This is just our standard agreement. There is a good chance they will fire you before the ink dries. Google did this to a large number of employees at a company they bought a few years ago.

I generally like to keep to 40 hours. If I work late one day, I take time off. I don't ask. I just do it. There are some corporate cultures where this is considered alien and you are expected to work insane hours. If you refuse to work the hours, you are often considered the company jerk. You get 'but others have to do it'. No they choose to do it and call it a have to. I'm ok with the work waiting until tomorrow. What I have also found is that if you are smart enough to see the writing on the wall, get a new job and quit on them before they are ready to get rid of you they go crazy. So its best to just get a new job and quit by email. I look at it like I fired them. This way I don't have to deal with them. Employers will lie to you and tell you you are great to keep you around just until they want to get rid of you.

I have also found that alot of companies do things in a way because that is how they have always done it. This often leads to running around like a chicken with your head cut off and leads to longer hours. Some places will listen to you and let you help improve things. Others will go 'we have always done it this way' or give you their reason for doing something. Well there is always a reason. It doesn't make it a good reason. Few places want to step back and look at the bigger picture. If people are salaried they would rather just force people to work really long hours then bother improving things. Most people are lemmings who will work the hours because they are told to. If you refuse, then you are the 'jerk'. As I said, I keep to 40 hours and if its a problem, I just go somewhere else and I go abruptly. Its not worth the hassle to give notice to a place that wouldn't rehire you. Just send an email.

One issue I have had recently is that there is one group here that specifically requests my help on issues over and over again. There are other people around, but they prefer to go to me. Then I get a review and find out they are complaining about me. Yet, they keep coming back. Managers never give names, but its obvious who it is. The simple solution there (and one only I would want) is to use the passive aggressive approach to get them to not request my help. This way I don't get the complaints in my review. These days employers use excuses to lower your rating to give you a lower raise or no raise at all. So in the future when they come to me for help, they will get silence in response. Eventually my manager will ask me to work on it and I'll say, I have been swamped with something else and I'll get right on it. I won't. Then I'll eventually respond back with something that will not be very good. I won't say why I did this. I just won't be able to figure it out. Eventually they will go to someone else. This gets the negative comments off my review and frees me up to work with people who will say positive things about me. This is a conversation you can't have with anyone you work with. Your manager will give you a blank stare if you mention and go 'oh we don't want that'. Of course you don't, but under performing will get me a better review and a better raise. So I under peform.

What do you mean my Jerk? (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year and a half ago | (#41480069)

Do you mean introvert, nerd, slightly autistic?
Or you you mean backstabbing, businessman.
If the former, put him in control of your product design, it sounds like he knows how to get things done (and being the most popular man around the water coolers does not help the company one bit). It worked for jobs and Woz.
If you mean the second. Their is nothing you can really do about the boss. He is not going to resign simply because everyone hates him.

The Jerk's who manage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41480071)

For the Brilliant Jerks...

They key to surviving is to take 2 (or 3) jobs at the same time and collect all the salaries.
This way your energy is diluted across companies and you don't irritate as many people

I do this as a consultant in a legit way

    I have , however, seen this pattern multiple times by guys with FTE positions.
These are Brilliant Jerks.

Here's a crazy idea (5, Insightful)

Minwee (522556) | about a year and a half ago | (#41480083)

How about if you stop calling the people who built the company "jerks" and plotting how to get rid of them behind their backs?

Just a thought. It might lead to fewer people realizing that they don't like working with you, leaving the company, becoming competitors, poaching employees and starting legal battles over stupid things that could easily have been sorted out between people who aren't jerks.

But what would I know? I'm probably a jerk too.

A Monumental Task (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about a year and a half ago | (#41480115)

So give the brilliant guy a truly insanely difficult looking (caveat) challenge for a breakthrough product.

Once he's evaluated the entire set of options and possible solutions, which are documented so everyone can meet with the rest of management and see what the odds are of a possibility of a breakthrough.

Use people for their skills.

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