The Sydney Swans have a No Dickheads policy. So do I.

*warning: this post contains a disproportionately high occurrence of the word dickhead. And other cuss words.

The No Dickheads policy was brought in by the Sydney Swans players themselves. The way they see it; it doesn't matter if you're the greatest player in the world, if you're going to behave badly, they don't want you or the negative energy and attention you will bring them.

Since I flew the agency coop and began freelance writing and solo consulting over 10 years ago, I decided that I would only work with and for people I like. I have stuck to that firmly with more than satisfying results.

I came to form my own No Dickheads policy after many years working predominantly in PR agencies for clients who were real arsewipes. Not all. But there was strong dickhead representation in many of them.

I hasten to aside that I am eternally grateful for these years and I am suspicious of anyone who ducks the years of putting in the hard graft, making the coffees, sweeping the floors and taking shit from no-talent, no-trade dilettantes with the gift of the gab and enough charm to land them grotesquely high paying sales and “marketing” jobs.

Paying your dues in the workplace is a necessary pain in the arse. It’s like getting dumped by your first love – ultimately rotten and at the time feels like an implosion of the soul, but you learn a hell of a lot about yourself from the experience - the type of person you want to be, your dealbreakers and how not to treat people.

Note: paying your dues does not incorporate enduring sexual harassment or bullying. In my first job out of uni I worked for an investment banker who was always touching me, trying to get me to go away on work trips with him and tasking me with typing up his wife’s uni assignments while she played tennis in Wahroonga. I quit that job about a month after starting. He wasn’t a dickhead handing out valuable life lessons – he was a shameful, egotistical sleaze. Big difference.

If you’re unsure whether who you’re dealing with is a dickhead, they’re probably not. Dickheads are pretty self-explanatory. Dickheads aren’t people who give you constructive criticism or clinical explanations about why your work hasn’t hit the mark. They’re not even the annoying colleagues who give you no direction, aren’t totally sold on what you’ve produced but can’t tell you why (“I’ll know it when I see it”)

Dickheads are generally inconsistent. You won’t be able to get their help or engagement for months and all of a sudden when they’re under the pump from their supervisors and clients are right up in your grille. They pick and pick at what you do to the nth degree. But eventually you become the collateral damage after the work is eventually received badly by the powers that be (as you privately predicted because you could see the work had turned into a jumbled mess as a result of The Dickhead’s whims, flashes of “brilliance” and disconnected thoughts - but you were either too intimidated or fed up to challenge). 

Dickheads will make you go through arduous re-pitching for their work after years serving them only to re-sign with you and recommit to exactly what you had being doing with them previously. You are their tin can to kick through the gutter at will.

So, upon starting my own endeavour - one in which the shot-calling, buck-stopping and direction-taking was down to me, I knew with absolute clarity that I would never work for anyone that made a habit of treating others shabbily.

It's true that on a couple of occasions, it has cost me. My No Dickheads policy has resulted in me passing on the odd project driven by someone I could see was going to be a ball busting nightmare. While the money would be missed, I justified it to myself with the logic…. that it’s really not worth it. The money you turn down is inconsequential because you can’t put a price on putting up with shit from dickheads. No mark-up is adequate enough (your family will also be happier because they won’t have to put up with the fall out).

Having a No Dickheads policy means that you will very rarely find a work day devoid of joy because you consistently find yourself collaborating with lovely, clever, deservedly successful professionals. 

One question from the lips of a boss I had for only a very short time has stayed with me for about 17 years and I often think of it when I see both the upstanding and the shameful sides of people in power.

He was my boss when I worked at Guinness Ireland Group in Dublin - he was pretty high up the Guinness ladder and had been called in to help the business get through a time of momentous transition. At the time the company was about to morph into the international Diageo troop, so quite a few highly strung international representatives had converged on St James Gate for what were probably tense and slightly awkward planning and implementation meetings. Caught up in the intense atmosphere, one of the visiting execs had gotten unnecessarily barky and bitchy with me over something that was so important I can't recall it. Yet despite me being a lowly Aussie backpacker and him being under pressure to work cooperatively with the new establishment, my lovely, normally quietly-spoken and unassuming boss took the snarky blow-in to task over my treatment. It surprised me but I will never forget that moment when afterwards he shrugged his shoulders and asked so simply, “Why can’t people just be nice?”  

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