I have worked at 5 different companies in the past 13 years and have worked directly or indirectly with I’d say about 35 developers and other technical people. That’s not a huge number, but about an average of 7 IT people per job. The competence level, skill level, and social dexterity of those people all varied; however, I have only ever worked with 1 person who was what one might technically call an ass. Everyone knew it. Even those who were friendly with him knew he was a complete jerk. I would even suppose that he knows he is a jerk.
I bring it up now because it has taken me a while to realize what kind of impact a jerk has on a development team. Given a choice, no one wants to work with a jerk, let alone talk with a jerk if it was not absolutely necessary. Think about that for one moment and you can get an idea of what kind of simple havoc that can cause on development teams.
- Regardless of how smart the Jerk might be, no one else is learning from the jerk.
- Efforts can be made to create and follow "best practices" but no one will bother discussing them with the jerk
- The group can work hard to make sure no one is a guy-in-a-room, but if no one wants to go in the room with the jerk then it seems inevitable a guy-in-a-room will emerge. Or maybe a jerk in a room?
- This is a soft touchy-feely bit of reality, but the workplace is less relaxed. People tend to walk on egg shells around a jerk, put their head down as they pass a jerk in the hallway, and can be afraid to laugh or goof around near a jerk.
- Developers as a whole are artists who are sensitive about their creations, having a jerk around only throws gas on a fire
The author of the book “The No *** **** Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't” suggests that companies should try to screen for jerks and purge them from their ranks. I have not read the book, so I cannot tell you how he suggests we screen for them. However, from articles the author has written I can tell you his final advice is to try to avoid them, be polite but don’t engage, try to become indifferent and not care, and finally if all else fails, quit.