A no-jerks policy boosted morale at the company behind Yankee Candle

Shortly after Ravi Saligram took charge of the company that makes Sharpie markers and Graco strollers, he offered his new staff a blunt message: “no bastards,” read a slide shown to about 30,000 employees around the world.

It was 2019 and Newell Brands Inc. was riddled with debt, lost revenue and struggled through yet another restructuring.

At a town hall-style meeting at the company’s Atlanta headquarters, he explained his management philosophy. It was a typical fare until Mr. Saligram, the former CEO of OfficeMax and Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers Inc., flipped to a list of its key principles – starting with its PG-13 edict.

“I was surprised,” recalls Lisa McCarthy, an executive who attended. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is a different way of doing things.’ ”

Mr Saligram, 65, says the mandate is as serious as reducing debt and boosting sales, which have improved dramatically during his tenure. The company’s stock price has risen about 33% since he became CEO, more than other consumer products companies in the same period.