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The Jerk/Sucker Tradeoff

I was at a class recently taught by Professor Sonia Marciano a Clinical Associate Professor of Management and Organizations at the New York University Stern School of Business. She had a story to tell about the jerk/sucker tradeoff. She highlighted professors at university who have to decide on summer schedules and projects. She said everyone usually keeps their head down, mumbles incoherently and prays that they are not asked to take on any more responsibility. Within the group, there emerges two types of people – the Jerk, who says no to projects and building school value and the sucker, who will always say yes, but won’t be happy about it. She illustrates that the problem is that the sucker knows that doing the job will bring more value to the school (in the form of grants, research opportunities, etc.), while little to no personal value. The Jerk recognizes that their lack of contribution does not enhance the school’s image, but also feels no reason to go out on a limb since there is no gratitude in doing so. These are two very common emotions towards a workplace and this same scenario is found in companies around the globe. There are always some employees that will do whatever it takes, because it is the job, but they know that their work may go unnoticed or unrecognized. Others will do the minimum to keep their job, but nothing more. The sweet spot is to eliminate the feeling of the jerk/sucker tradeoff. Empowering employees to do more, recognizing their value and promoting their efforts energizes the company as a whole and in the long run, brings more value and satisfaction to the place where we spend our days.


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