Here's a Zinger ... Fire that Asshole Immediately! Firing Employees

Fire the Assholes!

I’m 100% borrowing from a concept because it still exists and it's rampant. So, I’m sharing some of my thoughts and borrowing from others. I'm reiterating the need to rid any asshole that's still employed. If you really want to be a leader, fire them...immediately! Excuse the language above, but I have no idea how they remain employed. They are a cancer to any team or company.

Wait, I can’t fire them. They are too good!

“X person is too good to fire” or “Y just get’s things done” or “Z is brings in the most money.” Ok, that could be the case, but at what cost and at what risk? The notion of firing the asshole has been around for a while. In 2007 Robert Sutton wrote an amazing book on it. His book, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’tis a best seller. Yet, I’m bringing it back up. Many people still suffer and so-called leaders continue to permit this behavior.

The No Asshole Rule not only applies to companies, but also clients

Fire that asshole client! Believe me, no matter how good that person or client is, the market is full of amazing talent and great clients. Why are we still allowing assholes to drag us down and cost us money?

Qualitatively, what’s the impact an asshole can have on your team and company?

  • Efficiency & Focus – More time is focused on avoidance and dealing with the asshole rather than actually working
  • Learning – Nobody will feel safe to learn, take risks, ask for help, or hold an open discussion on opportunities for their development? 
  • Turnover – Yep, people leave because of jerks. Doesn’t matter if it’s a peer, boss, or crappy client. They also stop working hard for you and start looking for a new job
  • Absenteeism & Sickness – Who wants to go into work and face an asshole every day? Not me! This person will cause others to be absent due to physical and psychological illness
  • Career Development – What’s the best way to turn someone else into an asshole? Treat them like one. Teach them to be one. Have them look up to an asshole as their leader. Not smart.

Let’s say you choose to keep an asshole around. What are the risks to your company? How are you exposed?

  • Legal – Hostile environment, discrimination, fair / equal treatment of employees and any other possible scenario
  • Unthinkable - Good people snapping – What could happen if one of your good employees finally has enough? They snap … like really snap!
  • Reputation - In the age of video, let’s capture that asshole on video and post it

I could keep naming risks, but I’m pretty sure by now, you can fill in the blanks. If you want, let’s add some quantitative data through real world estimations.

Can we attempt to quantify the impact to determine the actual cost?

Exact quantification is difficult. Yet there are estimates and proxies close enough to warrant action. In Robert Sutton’s book, The No Asshole Rule, he provides two compelling examples of data.

Gee, how about we just go to your bank, pull out $2M, and light it on fire every year! Yes, that sounds like a great idea

The first example comes from Charlotte Ryner and Loraleigh Keashly. Their research provided a theoretical picture of costs using estimates from past studies in the UK. By their estimates:

  • 25% of asshole targets (victims) leave their jobs
  • 20% of asshole ‘witnesses’ leave their jobs
  • 15% is the estimated bullying rate in the UK
  • $20K is the average replacement cost of someone leaving

So if you have a company of 1000 people, then your annual cost to replace the asshole victims is $750K. If there are two witnesses for each victim with a 20% witness exit rate, add another $1.2M. Hmm…so a rather conservative cost of allowing this behavior to continue could be in the range of $2M.

Go ahead… might as well light that cash on fire again. There goes $160K up in smoke for one person

He provides another example that breaks the costs down to an individual level. An executive from a Silicon Valley company confirmed and calculated the Total Asshole Cost for one employee. The person was a top 5% Sales person that they called “Ethan.” So the guy brought in a lot of money for his company. 


  • Time spent with Direct Manager - 250 hrs and $25K
  • Time spent with HR – 50 hrs and $5K
  • Time spent with Sr. Executives – 15 hrs and $10K
  • Outside Employment Counsel – 10 hrs and $5K
  • Recruiting & Training Ethan’s new secretary - $85K
  • Overtime due to last minute demands $25K
  • Anger management training and counseling $5K

Estimated Total Cost of Asshole for 1 year - $160,000

One person. One single person was costing this company $160,000 in extra cost per year. Not to mention the qualitative costs to fellow employees.

Avoid this scenario by hiring the right people

Hiring is a completely different subject. But, I’ll give you some quick data to make a point. Harvard Business School published a paper on toxic employees. What they found: “while a top 1 percent worker might return $5,303 in cost savings to a company through increased output, avoiding a toxic hire will net an estimated $12,489.” Now this isn’t exactly showing the benefits of firing an asshole. But, it does provide a glimpse into why you might revisit you hiring practices.  

For all the aspiring and current leaders out there … do yourself a favor… fire that asshole

Then revisit your hiring practices. Hire good people. Do what Richard Branson says, “Train your people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough they don’t want to.” 

Good luck on your leadership journey. I offer leadership and executive coaching as a service. Happy to help you define your path and coach you along the way. If this post helped you, feel free to share it with your friends and network.


Stewart Swayze

 A Disclaimer Because I’m A Very Upfront And Honest Man. I Am An Amazon Associate. I Receive Commission If You Decide To Purchase Any Products I Recommend.