No jerks, no exceptions posted on 15 April 2024

From my experience, it’s fairly accepted that you shouldn’t hire jerks and that it’s better to build a team with normal and nice people rather than a team of smart jerks.

There are however many companies that still would hire these toxic people. They often justify it because they have unique skills and/or by giving them positions that are isolated and where they wouldn’t have to interact with other people. From what I can tell this doesn’t work:

  • You can’t isolate people forever: Projects are often time bounded, so when their initial isolated project ends, you have to find another isolated one – and you may not have another one
  • People discuss and interact beyond shared projects, e.g.:

    • Toxic people may chime in when someone is asking for help on a Slack channel
    • Toxic people may spread their toxicity through ad hoc interactions, e.g. during lunch, team events or happy hour
  • The line is too fuzzy and impossible to hold. To put it bluntly and draw a similar comparison, as a company, you can’t claim to be against sexual harassment if you hire a person with such a known issue – it doesn’t matter if you try to isolate them or not. As soon as you hire them, you have created a toxic environment.

TL:DR is that if you genuinely care about culture (and you should), you shouldn’t hire toxic people without exceptions. I would choose without a second thought to work with a nice person that can grow over an amazing smart but toxic coworker.

This is where as an interviewer, you can also hold the bar. If you see red flags for toxicity, don’t ignore them, flag them and make sure someone double clicks on them to verify if these are real or not. If you’re not sure, schedule another quick call or just pass on the candidate in the worst case – a toxic employee’s impact is not just their compensation but much more.

LinkedIn post