Chad is an aggressive, resentful executive who takes advantage of a secretary in his office. No, not a real-life scenario but the basic plot-line for a recent feature film, In the Company of Men. While Chad may be a fictional character, he seems much admired by certain corporate types in our so-called caring '90s. But how rare a species is he?
According to the experts, he's not rare at all. John Evans, managing director of Corporate Psychologists International, claims that, while the traditional macho model is no longer tolerated by legislation, little has actually changed: 'Aggression has been refocused on the intellect and made more socially acceptable.' Evans argues. 'Organisations now seek determined, tenacious employees. People who can smile at you, while sticking a knife in your back.'
Telephone sales is perhaps one of the more obvious environments in which a Chad might thrive but, says Neil Lathrope, recruitment director at business-to-business publisher Cornhill Publications, techniques have become more subtle. 'You have to sound as if you're sitting across a table at a restaurant, listening and understanding what they're looking for, developing a dialogue and then turning it around,' he says (note the 'sound as if').
In some organisations, it's all about results. Pharmaceuticals group Zeneca has developed cloned characteristics or 'competencies' to fit every corporate level, for example. Results-orientation is essential for success, says international development manager Sue Purves, but so too is 'concern for impact'. 'It is as important to consider how you get what you want, how you think about people's reactions to what you're doing and are most helpful to them,' Purves explains.
You certainly need ambition, continues Richard Wall, managing partner of headhunter Heidrick & Struggles, and 'ambition can be thinly disguised aggression'. Yet, he stresses: 'Drive and determination is needed but not in an aggressive way. You need to be open-minded and aware of your environment. Those that are in it for the long-run are calming types, team and family-oriented with a balance in their life.' Robert Newton, management resources director for UK banking services at Barclays Bank, oversees the recruitment of 150 graduates every year out of up to 6,000 applicants. He sees a continuum with aggression at one end and creativity at the other. 'We will take some people who are tougher, more aggressive than others. We don't want grey people - they will never make a decision, influence others, or take our business to the next stage in its own vision. Those we recruit need blood in their veins.'
The biggest single quality, he says, is the ability to influence people, which requires 'some manipulation'. But he adds: 'It's seductive to think that it's a jungle game we're playing - the hunter capturing supper. But the ability to be decisive must be tempered by qualities such as warm interpersonal relations.' It is tempting to think that today's dog-eat-dog Chads simply need to take the velvet glove approach.