In my last formal employment, I requested a timeline on certain benefits that were already part of the contract: not without delivering of course. The simple request morphed into a question of my commitment and ability to deliver.
I then broke down some inefficiencies in their system and how anyone as an employee could easily game it. I openly told my boss as an employee that his system is game-able. I prefer not to do it and to work on more flexible arrangements.
In my eyes, I was being an ethical asshole. They didn’t relent and didn’t quite get my point.
Sometimes, I feel misunderstood. Two weeks ago, someone told me, Marcus, if I allowed you a certain way of doing things, your quality of work is sure to fall. I took it personally. I felt that was a misjudgment on my personality. On the outside, I may seem extroverted, brash, outspoken and unconventional. However, I’m actually quite calculated and introspective.
The Art of Being an Ethical Asshole
I’m that guy that openly says what you guys are already thinking. I’m that guy that sticks up against that the boss you’re afraid to take. I’m the guy that advice you not to purchase mutual funds or bitcoin, contrary to all your friend’s advice, point you to resources and statistics and tell you that all your best of friends may be all wrong. Seemingly risking looking like an asshole.
In Mark Manson terms, I’m an ethical asshole.
He argued that psychologist found a personality trait related to success and people that run the world: disagreeability.
In simple terms, disagreeable people make more money, are in more powerful positions because they are more willing to be disliked than the majority. However, whilst most assholes are disagreeable hence coming off seemingly like assholes, not all of them are disagreeable without ethics.
Hence, the term ethical asshole.
Being an ethical asshole can come in my many flavours.
It’s can be openly disagreeing selling certain products or services that don’t provide an economic or intrinsic value. It can be walking away from dates, relationships or business opportunities that you know you can exploit at the risk of hurting others.
In fact, just by leaning into honesty, you’ll be surprised at how much of an asshole you come across to others. Just last week, I called out a friend who cancelled on me last minute because she was down with a fever. I would have understood if she displayed some sincerity or slight apology in cancelling. However, she cancelled two hours before meeting up and shrugged it off.
In this sense, if I were to just shrug it off, I wasn’t being ethical to myself. I had two choices, risk a fuss (I could see it coming) or shrug it off. I decided I wasn’t going to sacrifice my personal values in that situation. I felt indignant. I called her out on it.
Part of having strong boundaries is not taking responsibility for other people’s actions and emotions are not your responsibility.
In this case, she was expecting me to take responsibility for her actions and emotions because she’s fell sick and felt horrible. Hence, she felt entitled to cancel without any accountability, responsibility and expected me to feel care and concern for her despite scheduling her in, making arrangements to get transport and being cancelled on last minute. I’d think it’s fair to say that anyone should be the least bit apologetic less an emergency when cancelling.
That’s a clear boundary violation.
In this case, I could have shrugged it off and see myself as a kind, forgiving and altruistic person. However, I wasn’t. I was pissed off. If I acted all nice and pretended nothing happened in this situation, I’ll be lying to myself. I’m not actually being altruistic because saying these things will make her feel bad. Fundamentally, I’m afraid of feeling bad because of her potential negative reaction.
The Upsides of Being an Ethical Asshole
In my military days, I was the only guy that found the courage to challenge an abuse of authority by my superior. Everyone else was afraid of doing it. They sang different tunes according to the direction of winds. I took up the risk of being court-martialed to speak up in an attempt to change how things were being run. Some called me an asshole and others adviced me against it. Things eventually changed and everyone started speaking up against my superior.
There are upsides of being an ethical asshole.
One of my clients who was in her forties actually thanked me for being blunt with her.
I told her bluntly that men make a huge chunk mating choices based on looks. Forget political correctness at that point. She’s intelligent, well spoken and was a CEO of a non-profit organization. Yet, she found herself failing date after dates after paying for one dating agency after another.
To my surprise, I was the only one in her immediate social groups that was able to give it to her straight: you need to lose some weight. That’s it. She actually thanked me for it.
I guess that’s my unique positioning as a no B.S. life coach. I am an ethical asshole.
So… you’re fucking welcomed.