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The #asshat Syndrome
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Can you remember a time when one person made an entire experience miserable for everyone else? A case of the squeaky wheel getting the oil, perhaps. Do you turn a blind eye and allow one person to terrorize your team, or do you step in and set boundaries? Ultimately, the way we address problem makers reflects the quality of our leadership.

Problem makers believe they are responsible for pointing out what other people are doing wrong. Never mind their own flaws—they’re perfect! (Personally, I believe they focus on others because they aren’t doing very well for themselves.) My Facebook friend, Karen Lynch, introduced me to a very entertaining term for this type of person, and it comes with its own hashtag: #asshat!

Just this morning I was facilitating a live webinar and my guest was from a very well known company in of the UK. Following good internet etiquette, I had asked my followers to submit questions beforehand for my guest to answer during our talk. We had an excellent showing and 47% of the registered webinar attendees submitted questions for discussion. Clearly it was a hot topic that engaged many of my followers.

Everything was going great until one #asshat became combative in the chat room and started to be disruptive. This #asshat tried to take the conversation off topic, warned everyone not to believe us, and…, and…, and.

It brought to mind a couple other #asshats in the recent news. Bill Cosby pulled the rug out from underneath us. We once considered him the master of male etiquette as he charmed his way through American culture. But, he’s definitely an #asshat and will hopefully be shunned by every woman on the planet.

Then there’s the breaking story of the Minnesota dentist who shot a tagged and protected lion. Now he finds himself the target of many threats. Safe to say that his dental practice is all but ruined judging by the rate of thousands of Yelp reviews slamming him. I’ll call him another #asshat for sure.

You may have met an #asshat when a client signed your contract and then stiffed you for the final payment. Or the one who promised that if you did the first project for cheap, you would get lots more business. How many #asshats can you think of right now?

As fun as it is to assign a hashtag and revel in their bad karma, the way we react to these people does have something to do with our leadership skills.

Some of Bill Cosby’s male friends are now saying, “We knew it all along.” Oh really? That must have been a terribly hard secret for you to keep. So why did you?

This is where leadership comes in. Great leaders don’t always take the popular route. Rather, they follow a set of personal, ethical, and moral principles.

Let’s review how to address an #asshat. It is NOT stooping down to the level they operate on. Yelling, screaming, and threatening only gives them the sweet satisfaction of being able to rattle you. Ignoring them won’t do much either because bullies don’t stop. The only way to stop an #asshat is to call him or her out.

In my webinar, I stopped what I was doing, turned the attention on the chat room, and gave a firm announcement that stated my ground rules. I asserted my personal power.

“This is my event. I run it the way I see fit. If you don’t like it, you need to leave. But what you will NOT do is rain on my parade, disrespect my guest, or judge if our efforts are good enough for you.

Calling someone out is best done by following the one-minute manager formula. Keep it short and stick to the facts.

My #asshat continued commenting in the background, but many of the other participants now felt empowered to speak up and they told him to let it go.

When the leader steps in and gives clear direction, others with the same sense of etiquette and ethics will feel empowered to speak up as well.

Do you have a tip for how you put the lid on an #asshat recently?

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