When to Send a Top Producer to the Competition

Have you ever heard the phrase, “horizontal turnover”? This is where the jerk stays and the team around him or her leaves.  This happens more than you think, especially in a sales driven culture where top producers are god-like Rock Stars to management. 

How can it happen?  Easy: They get hired, and once in, their numbers act as a shield to protect them from their personality or pure evilness.  This is why I advise recruiters to scrutinize a candidate for the jerk-factor, especially when he or she has a solid track record…yet is available.  There are tell-tale signs: They brag, focus on what is wrong with others, make excuses for past mistakes and show disdain for those who ‘bring in less money’ than they do.  You might also test the candidate by having him or her hang out with very junior staffers, then find out how he or she behaved.  Better yet, have an employee pose as a fellow applicant in the waiting area, with instructions to attempt to strike up a conversation.  That always brings out the (competitively fueled) jerk. 

If you realize you have a Larry David sitting in front of you, if you can, refer them to a competitor. I’ve seen this happen before when I was working in HR at Yahoo and it works like a charm.  The competitor is seduced by the numbers, hires the jerk and a year later at the SHRM conference when you ask about Larry you hear, “He’s still here.  But everyone else in the group bugged out.” 

Your culture is a conversation, led by leaders, about ‘how we do things around here’.  If you hire jerks, especially those with great numbers behind them, your culture will become negative where ‘you eat what you kill’ becomes the mantra of the organization.  BTW: The very people who the competent jerk chase off are the ones you need to stage a positive customer experience and cooperate for the sake of innovation.  You can train people to achieve metrics, but unfortunately, there’s not a good cure for being insensitive and arrogant. 

For more read: The No Asshole Rule by Bob Sutton