SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell said the company has a "no a--hole" policy.
This stops staff shutting down conversations and allows people to propose big ideas, she said.
In a speech to graduates, Shotwell said people should "listen harder" to solve hard problems.
SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell on Monday said the aerospace company's "no a--hole" work policy ensures everyone is heard and creates space for staff to propose big ideas.
"At SpaceX, we have a 'no a--hole' policy," Shotwell said in a virtual speech to graduates in Northwestern University's 2021 commencement ceremony. "These kinds of people - a--holes - interrupt others, they shut down or co-opt conversation, and they create a hostile environment where no one wants to contribute," Shotwell said. She is also SpaceX's chief operating officer.
Interrupting others stifles innovation and stops people solving difficult problems, Shotwell said.
"In short, the best way to find solutions to hard problems is to listen harder, not talk louder," she said. "Embrace the ideas of your fellow workers, especially when they differ greatly from yours."
Shotwell told graduates to "be kind, but at a minimum, you must be respectful" towards everyone you meet - they may be "battling some demon or trying to get through some issue," she said.
Shotwell, an alumnus of Northwestern University, spoke about her time as an engineering student and her career path to Elon Musk's space company.
She joined SpaceX when it was founded by Musk in 2002. She said she struggled to decide whether to join because she thought it was "risky" to join a startup. But then she realised she wanted to "be a part of something exciting."
"The one accomplishment that we have that I am most proud of is helping to get our country flying astronauts again on American-made rockets and spaceships," she said.
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