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When last were you an asshole at work?

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

As you take a moment to answer that question, let me share this podcast;

It was such a highlight of my day and sparked so many ideas on how to ask questions that make us take a moment to think, get uncomfortable within a team and start talking about things that matter.

Hopefully, you’ve got an answer in mind (as to when you were last an asshole at work) and I hope that it sparks a good conversation with a colleague, sheds a light of appreciation or reminds you to send an apology Slack message.

This question got me thinking over the last month and has inspired this blog about New Ways of Work. It has inspired me to get data to prove that it’s worth doing this type of work, and got me thinking about compensation within a New World of Work.

We often get challenged in our work lives: what metrics do you use to manage your output, your value, the sustainability of the work you do? etc etc etc.

When it comes to New Ways of Working and the shift to a better working environment it has been exciting and frightening to search for tools that can help track progress (tools that makes sense to a Board of Directors, the CFO, the project sponsor and the team we are working with).

Humanocracy and the Bureaucratic Mass Index (the BMI) is such an amazing tool ( It’s simple. Quick. Useful. We as a team highly recommend it in any long-term transformational work that you tackle!

While doing some hard work over the last few months (hard as in tough). Working through Humanocracy, relooking at Holacracy, diving into Systems Thinking and relooking at Design Thinking as a practical implementation tool has been refreshing and helped me stay on course (no matter the toughness).

We have jotted down some pearlers that have assisted us in answering the questions about being assholes, tracking progress within New Ways of Working and specifically, principles linked to compensation models in the workplace.

Here are our pearlers that have stood out and are probably worth chatting to your team about:

1. Benchmarking

Do you as a team benchmark competitors? Do you benchmark aspirational unicorns? The world has become more accessible and transparent when we look at the research, books, journals, blogs, testimonials, and biographies that are available online.

The biggest aha moment while answering a few tough questions over the last few months is: we should benchmark how successful teams and businesses think, not benchmark what they do.

Next time you benchmark, go one layer deeper and try to copy how the success stories are thinking, not copy what they are doing.

2. Customer centricity

Blah blah blah…but for real, maybe if we think about compensation and the fact that customers are paying us, not the investors, not the board, not the CEO: maybe then we’ll think differently?

I am a huge fan of an NPS (Net Promoter Score): bringing customers closer and making it count for all involved in their journey.

The beauty that landed for me; you report to the customer! What are they saying about your performance? Let’s build that feedback into performance reviews and earnings models.

3. Ask yourself the tough questions.

Like at the beginning of this blog. And keep going. Do you have the power to change what you hate about your Way of Working? Do you want to change it? - this is probably the better question.

The third facet to this questioning is; how long are you willing to give to the change?

The pearler here, in our experience, is that everyone has the power to change their current reality, most people say they want to drive change but don’t have the mindset of this being a career-long journey, where the destination is unknown and never-ending.

You need to start now and never stop working at it. There is no easy route. It is a route where you will see wins and beautiful sights along the way. But it’s a long journey. Get keen.

4. “Bureaucracy" is like porn: it’s everywhere we just don’t talk about it” – I didn’t say that, I heard it in this podcast.

I think this sentence is a pearler in itself.

An all-time favourite problem of ours is that everyone thinks their team/business/ business model is different, more complex, and more dynamic and therefore elements of compensation like transparency won’t work here or bureaucracy is needed here due to legal constraints…

it’s everywhere and we find reasons to ignore it and not talk about it. Talk about it. It exists.

If you’re keen to listen to more detail on this topic:

5. Manager to mentor to leadership

Where are you on this spectrum? Where do your colleagues think you are? Where do you want to be? Guaranteed any New Way of Work will get pushback. There are always 1000 ways of making an initiative fail. Compliance. Capability. Time.

Most managers are nervous about these initiatives because it makes them redundant… and when it comes to compensation there is never a good time to relook at how teams and individuals should be earning.

Our advice: Start with the principles. Have those conversations. This stuff is tough no matter if you deal with it head-on or not. Shift managers to become mentors and leaders and… start.

Hopefully, we want to be in the leadership end of the spectrum, else New Ways of Working is going to be a nightmare at best.

“A Monday through Friday kind of dying” - Studs Terkel. That’s not the goal. Don’t manage people into death at work.

6. Go investigate how Nucor works.

“The genius in our organization will be found by the people doing the work”- Nucor.

Do you agree?

If so, you’re going to have to engage the whole organization when it comes to changing, evolving, and earning. This is not a top-down approach, it means everyone in the organisation needs to be involved.

Inclusivity and transparency aren’t easy to navigate but with the right guardrails and enough courage, the result will be great. (

7. Behaviour under pressure matters

We back the PPA as a psychometric assessment tool ( We believe that workplace behaviour under pressure gives us a great insight into ourselves, each other and the sustainability of the roles we fill within a team.

Assess how a journey of transformation and working in a new way is showing up in your team - under pressure and in a state of flow.

It is sustainable? How long can this role player last under pressure and how does compensation bridge a temporary high-pressure position? What support measures can we put in place and how important is data during the tough times?

We believe you can build these metrics into earnings models.

8. Hire for career

Career hiring is longer-term, not short-term butts on seats. When hiring for career, earnings models should showcase the longevity of the anticipated relationship. Equity. Profit-sharing. Profit and Loss summaries. That matters.

This all sounds like a lot of hard work, it is. So is continuous recruitment. When picking a lane, weigh up the cost of when experience starts mattering.

And a natural pearler is finding team members who are eager to learn and have a sense of self-always.

Aristotle: “an individual cannot achieve happiness without self-direction” (enough said about the people that should be around you)

9. Risk: Who facilities this?

In the New World of Work, EQ skills, facilitation, leadership, and coordination skills are scarce and valuable.

Google anything about the future skills and this will be evident. Treat the role as such. Servant leadership is tough to teach, do the work to create a natural growth for people with these characteristics and abilities, give those with this skill the voice, the authority, and the power to make all of us less of an asshole.

If you value a New Way of Work, then make sure you’re willing to build out a compensation model that allows these roles to earn. ‘Softer skills’ (as we used to call them) are now hardcore, they come with hardcore pressure and matter immensely in any transition and leadership.

Think about power as dynamic within your organisation: Power and authority should depend on your role within the business at the time, your track record within the business (remember: your track record isn’t only about hardcore number crunching).

10. Last question:

What’s the most innovative part of your role/team/function? Are you proud of it? If your business/role/function is super innovative then the compensation model that supports the business should also be, right?

In summary, data-driven consciousness is how we make impact visible within the New Way of Work world, and what we have found is that the BMI helps with tracking this progress.

We have learnt and done enough of a deep dive to agree with the fact that decreasing bureaucracy is the most profitable thing an organization can do. Showing your team and business that you care enough about the future of work to tackle the compensation areas and ensure that you aren’t building a bureaucracy (or encouraging it) is essential.

It will be a tough journey but without it, don’t think you’re working in a new way, you’re probably just trotting around the garden path back to where you started.

Whether we’re talking compensation, purpose, or strategy, we need to have the principles that inherently lean towards people positivity. Your heart and soul must lean towards it.

Our advice is: spend a lot of time on principles before heading into practices. This means the beginning is slower; because language, understanding and definitions matter before launching. How we view the world matters a lot. The principles are the base, the foundation, the starting point.

We’re all assholes sometimes. Let’s make sure our businesses are set up to be able to call one another out when that’s happening and… don’t let your business become the asshole.

PS: If you call your team members staff or resources. You’re probably being an asshole. Start there.

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