Friday, June 27, 2008

What’s Up Down Under

Recently I received an e-mail from Fiona Smith, Work Space Editor of the “The Australian Financial Review” who wanted to interview me about the Workplace Attitudes Test. We scheduled a call for 4:00 pm in Washington, DC two days later. When I got the call I said, “Good morning, you’re up early,” and she seemed pleased that I knew that there was a 17 hour time difference. I try to sound moderately intelligent with reporters and invariably nice because I remember the quote, “Never argue with a person who buys ink by the barrel.”

Fiona Smith was very nice (I hope you read this Fiona) and was writing about some companies in the Australian workplace where jerks and bullies are less tolerated than they used to be. Her article is entitled “Now be nice – there’s no place for bullies” and it is in The Australian Financial Review, June 17, 2008. She starts her article by saying, “At Arup Australasia, there is a ‘no dickheads’ policy. If you can’t treat others with respect, you won’t be tolerated.”

She is quoting the managing director of this engineering consulting firm, Robert Care. Robert, I couldn’t have said it better myself. The article goes on to cite examples of intolerance for intolerance, or as the fine folks down under might say “We are not going to dick around with dickheads.”

Then Fiona went on to describe how to identify these people and she got to me - well, what I mean is she got to my Workplace Attitudes Test. The following four paragraphs are from her article.

“There are many consultancies offering psychological testing to make sure that new recruits will fit into the culture of their new employer, but one company in the U.S. is selling a test specifically targeted at weeding out jerks.

The president of Allegiance Research Group, Dale Paulson, says his Workplace Attitudes Test has not yet been picked up by the big corporations – ‘HR people are not as receptive’ – but is proving popular with small businesses, franchises, associations, and even a policy academy.

‘About ninety percent of problems come from ten percent of employees – people who have chips on their shoulders’ he says. The 45 question test, developed nine years ago, is very effective at the lower levels of the organization and for supervisors, he says, but, realistically, is unlikely to be used at the top of the organization. ‘If you are making ten million dollars you get to be a jerk’ he says.

But wouldn’t people with a history of difficulty working with others be tempted to lie about their attitudes in a test? ‘No, they are actually proud of their attitudes. They come in and say things like, ‘it’s a dog eat dog world,’ ‘you can’t trust anyone,’ and, ‘if you step on my toes and you don’t apologize you are going to get broken toes.’ he says.”

And so folks, I’m here to tell you that in addition to shrimp on the barbie and Foster’s beer, there are jerks in Australia, except they are generally referred to as “dickheads.” See

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