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.
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
- 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.
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 (www.redanglespanish.com). He’s trying to read 52 books this year. He’s behind at the moment, but catching up.
33. The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton
Categories: Libro 52 Challenge