Being a Better Employee: Don’t be an Asshole.


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We spend a lot of time focused on how to be a better leader and companies being better to their employees, but it’s time we dive into one of our favorite topics: how to be a better employee. Regardless of your position, if you’re part of a team and contributing to a company, this month’s for you. 

Let’s get into it. Starting with the cardinal rule of showing up around other humans that you work with:

Don’t be an asshole :)

Pretty important, and boy does this need to be addressed. Here are a few common ways employees show up like assholes in a way that damages relationships, fractures teams, and squashes morale and productivity.

You can’t have a cohesive culture and allow bad mouthing and gossip, etc to take place. Zero tolerance, cut that shit out.

1. Badmouthing, gossip, and shit talk.

This one is really, really important: stop badmouthing other people, stop gossiping, stop complaining or talking shit about other departments, leaders, and people in your organization.

You cannot have a strong, productive culture in a team or company where people cast each other down and badmouth one another. This starts and stops with each individual person, which means YOU. You are responsible for the way you show up, the words you use, your behavior, and how you treat other people.

We humans love to form bonds over things we don’t like and/or a common enemy. The pull to do this can feel intoxicating and addictive. The reality is that for the most part it’s assholish, cruel, and not a good look for you and your career. It breaks trust and other people’s confidence in you, yes even from the people you are sharing with. Brene Brown encapsulates this brilliantly in this snippet from her Anatomy of Trust talk, addressing the hidden damage of gossip, click this link to check it out (SO good).

So that’s what not to do, here’s a few things you can do instead to reduce your assholishness as you navigate life in your day to day and be a better part of a team/company:

  • If you have an issue with somebody, go directly to them and resolve it. Don’t go to everyone else, go address what’s wrong with the person who can actually do something to find resolution.

  • When you have the opportunity to open your mouth and say something that makes someone else look or feel bad… don’t. This can be hard to do, especially when it’s someone you don’t particularly care for. Be intentional, will yourself to keep your mouth shut if what you have to say is purely at someone else’s expense.

  • Don’t allow yourself to be a conductor of other people’s bullshit. If someone comes to you to complain or gossip about somebody else, shut it down and gently direct them to where they should be having this conversation: the person they’re having a problem with.

These things take a lot of willpower and courage. Take responsibility for your behavior and the way you’re showing up. Language is powerful - use your words to lift other people up, not to cast them down.

2. Extend grace.

Language is powerful - use your words to lift other people up, not to cast them down.

You, and the people you are surrounded with are human. It comes with the territory that all of us are imperfect and that at one time or another we all make mistakes. It’s common place on some teams that when someone makes a mistake, they get pounced on. Humans love to piranha people and slaughter them for making a mistake or showing imperfection. The result of this is an unwillingness for people to be vulnerable, take risks, or even ask for help because everyone is trying to present a false appearance of being perfect. It’s garbage, none of us are perfect, and when we’re the ones who drop the ball (because we all inevitably do) we all want to surrounded by people who will help instead of humiliate.

When someone makes a mistake there is a beautiful opportunity in that moment where you can choose to extend them some grace instead of making them feel humiliated or stupid. Step in to help, offer support, and see how you can contribute to making things better. Great teams are made up great employees, and great employees have each others backs. Do that, be that.

3. Choose positivity.

Being positive doesn’t mean being fake. It means being accountable for how you’re showing up and impacting people around you.

This one can throw people off. People often misunderstand the intention of being “positive” as being fake, having to pretend everything is perfect, not being allowed to acknowledge when something is wrong, and being ray of sunshine every moment of the day. First of all, that’s not realistic and it’s not at all what being positive is about.

It’s about taking responsibility for the words you use, your body language, energy level and mindset. It comes down to how you choose to show up and impact the people around you and that you interact with.

In every interaction you have, you have the choice to bring positive energy and language into the room, and that’s on you. The words that come out of your mouth, and how they come out of your mouth belong to you. Every time you open your mouth you have the opportunity to make somebody’s day a little bit better or a little worse. You can choose to say something supportive or positive, just like you can choose to keep something negative to yourself instead of sharing it, especially if it’s not helpful or productive in the circumstance.

There’s a quote by Persian poet Hafez that goes, “The words you speak become the house you live in.” In this vein, don’t live in a crappy, windowless shed with no heat and a leaky roof.

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This article was created by keynote speaker Galen Emanuele for the #shiftyestribe. Free leadership and team culture content centered on a new focus every month. Check out the rest of this month's content and subscribe to the Shift Yes Tribe at