Libro 33/52 :: The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton


The term “asshole” assigns a specific set of attributes to an individual that no other word can.


Jerk is different.

Jackass is too broad.

Jagoff is close, but not quite.


We all work with assholes.

The question is how many and how often.


The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton is a book about “effective asshole management.”

Don’t let crude language dissuade you from investing in or reading this book. The potty-mouth in this book has some austere roots. Sutton is a PhD Stanford professor. The origin for the book was a 2004 Harvard Business Review essay titled, “More Trouble Than They’re Worth” where he discussed the concept of The No Asshole Rule.


[Here is a great overview where Sutton describes why he wrote the book.]


Unsurprisingly, Sutton’s inbox was tsunami’d with an inflow of stories about bosses and co-workers.


We all have stories.

We’ve all been guilty of behaving like an a-hole.

I certainly have.


Sutton identifies a few of the more common species:

  • Flaming Asshole
  • Uber-Asshole
  • Certified Asshole
  • Temporary Asshole


The major impact this book can have in an organization is the establishment of a common baseline for communication. It makes it OK to discuss bad behavior.


Without this book, it can be dangerous to call out the VP of Sales as an Olympic Asshole. It always will be, but with this book the team is more likely to be understanding – and hopefully more likely to do something about it.

Screen shot 2013-09-07 at 8.00.58 AM


Sutton has dozens of great lines, each oh-so-true:


“Asshole poisoning is a contagious disease anyone can catch.”       

“The difference between how a person treats the powerless versus the powerful is as good a measure of human character as I know.”

“It takes numerous encounters with positive people to offset the energy and happiness sapped by a single episode with one asshole.”

“As Walt Whitman said, “Dismiss whatever insults your soul.” I think that is a lovely, compact summary of the virtues of developing indifference to demeaning jerks in the workplace, or anywhere else for that matter.”

Amidst confrontation, “Fight as if you are right. Listen like you are wrong.”


Sometimes quitting your job and distancing yourself from a-holes isn’t a viable option.

In that case, Sutton offers a great analogy based on a personal email he received from one woman.



She shared her story about being thrown overboard during a white water rafting trip. When this occurs, the advice is not to fight to get back in the boat. This can be futile.


Instead, let your life vest do the work. Float with your feet out in front of you, protecting you from rocks jutting out from under the surface.


Go with flow.

Don’t fight it.

To be trite: Find a happy place….


When the rapids subside, you and the boat will end up near the same spot.

You can climb back in then.


Switching analogies, assholes are like 8.5 x 11 paper.

We can always use less, but we’ll never rid ourselves of either one.


Bottom Line: This book is an asset every company should own. I’d recommend buying a dozen audio book copies. Require every employee to listen to it during the commute once per year. If you have friends struggling with workplace asshole, this book will help re-frame their situation.

Bradley Hartmann is El Presidente at Red Angle ( He’s trying to read 52 books this year. He’s behind at the moment, but catching up.

Screen shot 2013-09-07 at 8.01.11 AM

LIBRO 52 Challenge YTD

1. Kennedy/Nixon by Chris Matthews

2. Poke the Box by Seth Godin

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn 

NA. Buy-In by John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead

4. Education of an Accidental CEO by David Novak

5. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

6. Blood, Brains and Beer by David Ogilvy

7. Lyndon Johnson :: Master of the Senate by Robert Caro

8. 1776 by David McCullough

9. To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink

NA. Profiles In Courage by JFK*

10. Write It When I’m Gone by Tom DeFrank

11. FDR by Jean Edward Smith

12. The Cluetrain Manifesto by Locke, Searls, Weinberger + Levine

13. One Click by Richard Brandt

14. Persuasive Presentations by Nancy Duarte

NA. James K. Polk by Walter Borneman

15. The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw

16. The Illustrious Dead by Stephan Talty

17. The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

18. Adventures of Johnny Bunko by Dan Pink

19. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

20. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

21. Ctrl Alt Delete by Mitch Joel

22. Down & Dirty Pictures by Peter Biskind

23. Makers by Chris Anderson

24. Tales from Q School by John Feinstein

25. The Business of Belief by Tom Asacker

26. 18 Minutes by Peter Bregman

27. Drive by Dan Pink

28. Enough by John Bogle

29. Contagious by Jonah Berger

30. Lexicon by Max Barry

31. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

32. A Very Short Tour of the Mind by Michael Corballis

33. The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton

Categories: Libro 52 Challenge

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9 replies

  1. This was a good read. Thanks.


  1. Libro 34 + 35/52 :: Choose Yourself by James Altucher + The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzwieg. « the red angle
  2. Libro 36/52 :: Inside The Box by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg. « the red angle
  3. Libro 37 + 38/52 :: The Power of Less by Leo Babauta + Wild by Cheryl Strayed « the red angle
  4. Libro 39/52 :: Big Data by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier. « the red angle
  5. Libro 42/52 :: Black Irish by Stephan Talty « the red angle
  6. Libro 43/52 :: The Firm by Duff McDonald « the red angle
  7. Libros 44-50 :: The final chapter of the Libro 52* Challenge. « the red angle

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