1. 15

Not software and a little short on proof, but I thought it was a good workplace story about ‘rockstars’ even so.


  2. 6

    I agree with the principle. Should you fire the toxic high performer? Yes.

    That said, if a company sets a policy of “We fire toxic people”, then the toxic people are going to realize that they can get anyone fired by labelling that person toxic.

    “No Asshole” policies always tend to be wielded by assholes. I’ve seen enough “low performer” witch hunts to know that the probability of someone getting axed and that of his being a low performer are nearly independent.

    1. 4

      I’ll play devil’s advocate here, because this is the sort of thing that will later be bandied about to screw over developers–often (as we’ll see in this thread) by other developers.

      Some things that could impact how we interpret the reading:

      • People in the immediate area worked harder, because somebody with about a decade of experience just got canned. Who’s to say who’ll be next?
      • Executives returning to work the shop floor may have streamlined operations or just plain been faster workers.
      • Machining can be a seasonal business, so that may have accounted for the rising sales. Without a longitudinal study, this could’ve been a fluke.
      • The workers were coming up on point where they would’ve cost more to keep on than to replace.

      The two key interesting parts in this to me were that a) other workers actively avoided this crew and b) the line was slower after their departure and took more than a quarter to sort out.


      I’m all for getting rid of toxic people in the workplace, but please let’s not pretend that that’s the majority of cases where this sort of thing is going to be applied. Generally, this is going to be used to justify getting rid of an expensive developer who knows their worth–brand them as “toxic” and kick them out, and then justify it with this sort of article.

      We need to spend more time finding ways to justify getting paid more as developers for what we deliver.

      1. 4

        I wonder if Dr House should have been fired too.

        1. 9

          In the real world, he absolutely would be.

          For one thing, the aggressive testing regimes that he deploys are often more dangerous and far more expensive than is let on. Also, neither the decline nor the cure are nearly as fast as displayed in the show. It makes for good drama to show someone going from no symptoms to near death in under 24 hours but it’s actually pretty uncommon.

          House being almost always right saves him, but in the real world, he’d probably be fired and it’d be a fight to keep his medical license.

          1. 11

            Um, yes. That empathy stuff that he didn’t have time for was part of his job. Medicine isn’t an abstract puzzle, those are people’s lives.

            1. 8

              That was a recurring theme in the show, but at its best I thought in the plot lines where both Chase and Foreman were irreparably damaged (in a moral compass sense) by working for House. Even if we tolerate one such individual, their attitude affects those around them. Not everyone has the talent to back it up.

              1. 4

                That shows portrayal of a team working together effectively while an abusive boss sets them against one another is probably the most unrealistic thing I’ve seen on TV.

                1. 3

                  I agree. It’s the same mistaken perception that leads a bunch of young sociopaths to indulge their worst impulses because, hey, the asshole thing worked for Steve Jobs. The fake Steve Jobs’s are doing a lot more damage than the real Steve Jobs ever could.

                  What they miss is that Steve Jobs re-entered Apple when a nasty culture was already established and there were a ton of bad-apple executives that required a Jobs to clean them out (sometimes the only defense against an incompetent asshole is a competent asshole) and that Jobs wasn’t an asshole all the time. He was an asshole to execs that he felt weren’t pulling their weight, but he wasn’t a prick to the engineers on the floor.

                2. 2

                  Let’s say I was hypothetically the hospital administrator. I’d start with constructive criticism of his behavior toward the staff and patients. He’d be him. I’d inform him there are numerous doctors in India and such that are similarly great at diagnosis. They’d be happy to have his pay on a visa. He’d blow that off. He’d find me talking to one on speaker phone or accidentally having a great resume visible each time he was in my office. His perks would go away one by one, policies customized to deniably cause him trouble, legal filings from his peers interfering with his practice or drug supply, computer troubles IT people are slow to respond to, and so on. It would add up greatly with him trying and failing to fight it all on top of a regular shift of terrorizing patients and staff.

                  Eventually, he would have enough. He might walk out trying to initiate some legal action that our lawyers will handle with all the witnesses against him. Otherwise, he’ll demand things change. I’d tell him, “Enjoy experiencing what you do to your coworkers? If not, then stop being an ass and do your clinicals. Or GTFO. We’re not going to waste energy on your ego when we need it for our patients.”

                3. 3

                  The part about emotions being contagious is a good way to think about it. The negativity can have a chain reaction of sorts where problems a person causes another lead them to have another negative reaction and so on. The emotional labor is even better, though, because most people will have experienced the mental taxation of dealing with assholes. There’s the immediate situation, the distraction/work of calming down if it was upsetting, and often thinking later about how you will approach that person. It gets even worse if management likes them and they use that. In that case, one might have to waste energy on dealing with the person and CYA behavior on management side.

                  Eliminating those negative, network effects and that wasted labor naturally drives productivity. They can think about work instead.