There is an old line in business that goes something like this, “If you are a jerk to others, you better be good at what you do.” The corollary to this is once the value of what you do diminishes, you will likely be given your walking papers. Colleagues and bosses won’t have to tolerate your being mean if you don’t add value.
So, when elected officials, business leaders, and public figures are mean to folks, they better be good at what they do. Saying this bluntly, you better not act like a jerk and an idiot, as well. If you do, then you find yourself persona non grata.
The best term for treating others well is you create goodwill. Goodwill helps you through when you make mistakes or mess-up. Your goodwill will grease the skids for forgiveness or glean a helping hand. The person who is mean to folks will get fewer opportunities for forgiveness and help. Goodwill takes time to build, but it can be easily destroyed.
I think back on Johnson and Johnson who had this terrible incident where someone was unscrewing the bottle tops of Tylenol in stores and poisoning them. J&J’s goodwill helped them, but they also immediately sprang into action and invented the now common internal seal to bottles. Now, customers would know the bottles were tampered with. Their goodwill and compassionate fast action saved the brand and lives.
You need to look no further than the swift demise of British Prime Minister Liz Truss. She started out being consdescending and short with reporters who asked questions. Then a series of poor decisions required backtracking and eventual blame that was shifted to a colleague before he was fired. As of this writing, Truss’ party has given up on her.
Or, you could pick out several of Trump sycophants here in the states who are both mean-spirited and less than competent in their rhetoric and governance. This would include the head of the Trump party, as well. From a number of books by insiders, the former president tends to be mercurial in behavior, so people walked on eggshells around him.
One of the things I detest is smugness, basically bullying people into submission with a condescending tone. This is a style that the creator of Fox News, Roger Ailes, sought out in his opinion hosts – ones who could have as a guest a subject matter expert with an alternative view and beat the hell out of them.* If you don’t allow the other person to speak, the host would lay claim of victory, when in fact all he or she did was not allow counter-argument. It is interesting to me, that Ailes asked Roger Stone who he knew from the Nixon days, to help him recruit Donald Trump to run for president.
So, be mean if you want to, but if you are, then you better be very good at what you do. Yet, even if you are very good, people may still vote with their feet and avoid you or leave. And, that may make the mean person’s job a little harder.
*Note: This was the premise of the movie “The Loudest Voice” starring Russell Crowe as Ailes, based on an unsolicited biography penned by one of Ailes’ right-hand men.