Have you noticed how excited people get about workplace perks like Foosball and fruit?

Don’t get me wrong – I love Foosball, and am partial to fruit – but I have always been a tad cynical about the connection between ‘perks’ and workplace wellbeing.

If the workplace culture is off, ‘perks’ have no net benefit on workplace wellbeing.

Despite this, employees continue to be wooed by companies with things like:

  • Unlimited leave!!! (That they are too scared to take).

  • Gourmet meals!!! (So they never have to leave the office).

  • Free yoga!!! (To minimise the impact of a badly behaved boss).


This week Australian tech giant Atlassian announced that it will no longer tolerate “brilliant jerks.”

“Brilliant jerks” are “people who are extremely bright and talented with respect to the way they execute their role, but aren’t necessarily concerned with the impact they have on others.”

We have all met a “brilliant jerk” or a “rainmaker” or a “boss’ favourite” – employees who are protected because of their perceived value to the business, with little consideration for the trail of destruction they leave in their wake.

Atlassian has overhauled its performance review system to ensure that it rewards the right behaviours. It wants its employees to live the company values and foster a collaboration culture.

As an employment lawyer, I have seen the damage caused by these jerks, to fellow employees’ health and the corporate bottom line.

Employers have to get the basics right if they want a healthy and productive workplace.

The Moral of this Story?

Behaviour is more important than beanbags.

Culture is more important than candy.

Values are more important than video games.

There is nothing wrong with rewarding employees, just as long as we are rewarding the right behaviours, in a healthy culture, based on sound values.





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