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The No Prick Rule March 4, 2010

Posted by schlanghole in company culture, Work.
Tags: , , ,

There is a long established rule at my company that I’ve coined the “No Prick Rule”. I have been committed to this unofficial guideline for 15+ years and think it has served me pretty well. It’s not a very complicated concept nor do I think it’s unique but some have asked me to elaborate. So, I thought I’d bang out a few paragraphs explaining some of the highlights and specifically how I interpret this rule.

Basically it comes down to this one sentence. “Hire the good, humble, kind human being first … skill-set second.” It seems to me that too many companies hire candidates based solely on their resume, education and experience regardless of the kind of person they are. This is my point and the rest of my rambling below merely attempts to define it further (so you can stop reading now if you get it).

Certainly, hiring people who are skilled in their craft is important to any company regardless of the industry. But, I think our business is somewhat unique given the massive amount of collaboration and dependency we have on each other when creating a successful campaign, launch, product or customer experience. I’ve chosen to make my living in a deadline driven industry and it is critical that I am able to trust, learn and move quickly with those I am in the trenches with.

Being killer at what you DO is not enough. It does not matter if you’re the greatest art director, animator, writer, programmer, analyst, or account manager on the planet if you also think you’re better than everyone else, don’t value other opinions or ideas, talk behind peoples back, keep crucial information to yourself, maintain a hidden agenda, are in it for the paycheck, are unwilling to do whatever it takes, or think certain tasks are below you. These types of people will no doubt excel in certain companies but they are not a good fit for us and our environment is not the right fit for them. Period.

The result? A healthy environment that is conducive to creativity and collaboration. An environment, by the way, that ends up attracting some of the very best talent this country has to offer. This ultimately allows us to produce what IMHO are some of the most innovative, immersive and effective customer experiences possible for our clients. It enhances our ability to create cool shit all while growing professionally and personally as individuals. Another bonus? I think our clients like and respect us too.

No one person is more important than any other person where I work. I truly believe this. Everyone plays their individual role every day to ensure our projects our company and our clients succeed. I believe people work here because they WANT to not but because they HAVE to and, unfortunately, there are always going to be pricks out there in the world. My preference is not to work with any of them.


1. Candace Sweigart - March 4, 2010

Another result is that the employees really value and support their coworkers. I’m proud to work with some of the brightest and coolest people. And because of the “no-prick rule” I feel like these great people I work with are like family. Not only does it make me feel proud to know that you value me as a person first and foremost, it also makes me proud of my coworkers as well.

I recently read “Drive – the truth about what motivates us” and it talks a lot about this. Hire great people with character and you’ll get great results.

Thank you for fostering such a cool environment and being such a great champion for doing things unconventionally, Tony. I’m proud to work with you.

schlanghole - March 4, 2010

Thank you for commenting Candace. You are one of those people who get it and one I am so proud to, yes work with, but also proud to know you as a person. I can’t wait to read “Drive”. Thanks for the recommendation.

2. Harriet - March 4, 2010

That has always been my philosophy and why the San Diego office was so productive.

3. Marobella - March 4, 2010

A good rule that has served you well and not one to easily live by in our competitive world, for sure. There is great self-policing at our company which helps the cause. The key will be maintaining this rule as we scale, accomplish our BHAG and spread our wings globally. How do you say no prick in German?

4. Megan - March 4, 2010

I love this rule, Tony. And what I love even more is that it’s been so successful for you. The fact that it has proven to be effective, and longstanding for your company is a delight.

5. JJ Saldana - March 5, 2010

I am going to have to print this and show my boss. I like this rule. :)

6. Claire - March 5, 2010

Tony, I agree with your post for the most part, however I think it can swing too much in the other direction as well – the last few hires at my office have been based on friendships or because they were nice people (our last admin. assistant was hired because she “reminded the HR Director of her mom/grandma”) Fantastic person, but she lacked all of the skills necessary to get the job done and she quit after a few weeks. It’s all about balance and I believe there are people out there who have high skill-sets AND integrity, motivation and ability to work in a team setting.

schlanghole - March 5, 2010

I totally agree with you that it is very easy to slip too far the other direction. The candidate MUST be qualified for the role. We wouldn’t be in business as long as we have if they weren’t. My point is that what you DO is not enough. You must also possess the qualities that make you a good human being first … the rest really does not matter if you have no integrity, ethics, or are not a nice person :) Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment.

7. Norris Krueger - March 5, 2010

Hi, Tony – I thought I’d added to this earlier — but one of the coolest cats I know (especially for a college professor, LOL) is Stanford’s Bob Sutton. He has written a lot about the “No Asshole Rule” – he’d love what you’re doing (which might even pre-date his book!)

You should follow his blog: http://bobsutton.typepad.com – and drop him a note!

He even has an online test you can take (or assess someone else):
(for Bob, what’s funny is that many of the test items are considered POSITIVE in Academe… hahaha)

8. Brie - March 5, 2010

Additionally, I believe there is some amount of training and internal drive to succeed that can propel an averagely qualified person in the right environment to become a rock star. However, even the best “lunch and learn” can’t turn a prick into a quality human being. The coolest thing about this working environment is that it fosters trust – which is the single factor most influential in my personal success. I can’t thank Schlanghole enough for setting me up for success. It has been a brilliantly exciting ride! :D

9. Mark Solon - March 5, 2010

Sorry Tony, you’re still a Red Sox fan, and that makes you a Prick ;-)

(great post!)

10. Chris Blanchard (@LGM1) - March 5, 2010

Totally great to see you blogging, my friend!

schlanghole - March 5, 2010

Thanks buddy. I’ve found it’s not that hard once you just sit down and start writing. I’ve got about 14 topics I’m dying to write about. Thanks again for the encouragement buddy and thanks for reading. Your feedback, comments and input means an awful lot to me.

11. Seth Neal - March 6, 2010

Hey man!

A little late to the discussion, but just wanted to say, great post! I love the rule and I love the philosophy behind it. People matter. So very non-industrial revolution!

Let the pricks work where people don’t matter, that’s what I say. (Does that make me a prick?)

I hope you find the time to share more man!

12. Josh Laughtland - March 6, 2010

Great post! Power to the people! Good people create empowered communities. Empowered communities can get almost anything done – exceptionally well.

I agree with Chris, great to see you blogging! Keep up the great posts.

13. Internet Traffic Gal - June 19, 2010

It is difficult enough to work with a vast array of personalities and learn to adjust to each without having the added stress of dealing with the “prick”. Bad office politics is one of the main motivators of my entrepreneurial journey.

More employers should be embracing your views when it comes to hiring.

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