Yesterday, I was in a situation where someone was being extremely mean to me. Usually, I don’t retaliate in such situations. I did not do that here as well.

That got me thinking. Not all thoughts were good, of course! Then I read two relevant tweets by Paul Graham this morning:

These reminded me of Paul’s essay Mean People Fail.

In the essay, Paul has broadly discussed how being mean usually leads to failure when it comes to startups and life.

What happens when someone is mean in office? How do people involved react to it?

Productivity Goes Down

When I have someone being rude, I will usually end up thinking more about that. Now this is more of a personal thing but I don’t think most of us can just get it out of our system and move on.

Yesterday, I just stopped what I was doing and went out for a walk.

Paul Graham on fights:

You never do your best work in a fight, because fights are not sufficiently general. Winning is always a function of the situation and the people involved. You don’t win fights by thinking of big ideas but by thinking of tricks that work in one particular case. And yet fighting is just as much work as thinking about real problems. Which is particularly painful to someone who cares how their brain is used: your brain goes fast but you get nowhere, like a car spinning its wheels.


The incident will remain with you. This is not a good situation to have, in any workplace. Politics will usually drag you down! And in startups, this is the last thing you want.

More Paul Graham wisdom:

Another reason mean founders lose is that they can’t get the best people to work for them.

This is true for anyone as well. Give me a well mannered person to work with and it will immensely help me. Give me a mean person, I will be stressed and try to avoid interaction.

I won’t take the high ground and say that I have never been mean. Even yesterday, I did consider being mean. And I have been mean in the past.

But if I listen to Paul Graham (and listen I will), being mean is useless. So why do that?

being mean makes you fail. - Paul Graham