Top Five Qualities of an Asshole

“We have a no asshole policy at Baird.” (Beth Kavelaris, Director of Culture & Integration, Robert W. Baird & Co. at the Great Place to Work Annual Conference 2013)

I was impressed with Beth’s candor. Baird manages nearly $97 billion in client assets at more than 100 locations scattered around the globe.



“How do you define asshole?” a participant at the conference asked.

Beth said, “Everyone knows what an asshole is.”

I thought I’d check her theory by offering my list of asshole traits.


  1. Don’t know or don’t care that they’re assholes.
  2. Trample on feelings.
  3. Maintain rigid inflexibility.
  4. Smile to your face and stab you in the back.
  5. Live in self-centered worlds.

Tolerating assholes:

Bosses who tolerate assholes are bossholes.

Don’t be fooled by bossholes who smile and apologize for jerk-employees. I’ve known some very nice bossholes who allow others to feel the pain of working with assholes.

Bossholes care about the numbers
and neglect organizational culture.

Too nice:

Beth said our family culture at Baird makes us tolerate assholes too long.

It’s hard for nice people to confront “not so nice” people. Taken to an extreme, it’s dysfunctional. Families who tolerate and compensate for irresponsible behaviors are dysfunctional.

Too nice isn’t nice.


Another participant asked if assholes can be rehabilitated. Beth said we’ve learned that you can’t rehabilitate an asshole who won’t admit they are an asshole.

Added resource: “The No Asshole Rule,” by Bob Sutton

How do you define an asshole?

What suggestions can you offer for dealing with assholes?