As promised here is the book review:
The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t
By Robert I. Sutton PhD.
Published by Warner Business Books
This insightful book written by Robert Sutton, Professor of Management, Science and Engineering in the Stanford Engineering School, addresses the critical issue of those people in the workplace that are often referred to as jerks, bullies, weasels, tormentors, tyrants and unconstrained egomaniacs. Suttons feels that asshole (a term cops are very familiar with) best captures the essence of these people.
In the introduction Sutton states:
“I wrote this book because most of us, unfortunately, have to deal with assholes in our workplace at one time or another. The No Asshole Rule shows how these destructive characters damage their fellow human beings and undermine organizational performance. This little book also shows how to keep these jerks out of your workplace, how to reform those you are stuck with, how to expel those who can’t or won’t change their ways, and how to best limit the destruction that these demeaning creeps cause.”
In Chapter 1 What Assholes Do and Why You know So Many Sutton distinguishes between those just having a bad day (“temporary assholes”) and the persistent nasty, destructive jerks in the workplace (“certified assholes”). In this chapter he provides two tests for detecting assholes:
1. Identify people who persistently leave others feeling demeaned and de-energized;
2. Look to see if their victims usually have less power and social standing than their tormentors.
Sutton also identifies what he calls the ‘Dirty Dozen’: Common Everyday Actions That Assholes Use. Sutton cites research to show that this type of person is not restricted to just one type of business or profession. We all have them.
Chapter 2 The Damage Done: Why Every Workplace Needs the Rule, examines the impact to people and productivity in the workplace causes by the bullying behavior of assholes. Based on research from a number of sources and experience Sutton has created a formula for Total Cost of Assholes (TCA). He provides a list of factors to consider when calculating the Total Cost of Assholes to your organization. These costs are a result of lost productivity, sick time, staff turn over and other factors.
Chapter 3 Implement the Rule, Enforce It and Keep It Alive, looks at strategies for implementing the No Asshole Rule. In this chapter he provides some tips and insights including the fact there may be some value to having a token asshole to remind people how not to behave and the unpleasant consequences for breaking the rule. He also cautions “Be Slow to Brand people.” This chapter also addresses the ‘Top Ten Steps For Enforcing The Rule’.
Chapter 4 How to Stop Your “Inner jerk” from Getting Out is a chance for critical self-reflection. This chapter is about keeping your “inner jerk” from rearing its ugly head. Sutton states “If you are an asshole all the time, you need therapy, Prozac, anger management classes, transcendental meditation, more exercise, or all of the above.” The chapter however is targeted at the rest of us who can turn caustic and cruel under certain conditions. He provides tips on “How to Avoid Asshole Poisoning“ in the workplace. He also identifies that to avoid acting like or becoming a known asshole, know thyself and Admitting You’re an Asshole is The First Step.
Chapter 5 – When Assholes Reign: Tips for Surviving Nasty people and Workplaces. In this chapter Sutton offers strategies for dealing with customers, peers, bosses and workplaces where the “pro asshole rule” rather than the “no asshole rule” prevails.
Chapter 6: The Virtues of Assholes – Sutton writes “But I’ve become convinced that it’s naïve to assume that assholes always do more harm than good. So this chapter is devoted to the upside of assholes.” Sutton adds a caution “Beware, however, that these ideas are volatile and dangerous: they provide the ammunition that deluded and destructive jerks can use to justify, and even glorify, their penchant for demeaning others.”
Two of the key sub plots of this chapter are:
- Do You Want to Be an Effective Asshole: 5 key Lessons
- Why Assholes Fool Themselves: are you Suffering From Delusions of Effectiveness?
Chapter 7: The No Asshole Rule as a Way of Life. Sutton starts this chapter with a funny story about the first time he head about a book on asshole. He goes on to expand on seven key lessons from the book:
1. A few demeaning creeps can overwhelm the warm feelings generated by hoards of civilized people.
2. Talking about the rule is nice, but following up on it is what really matters.
3. The rule lives- or dies- in the little moments.
4. Should you keep a few assholes around?
5. Enforcing the no assholes rule isn’t just management’s job.
6. Embarrassment and pride are powerful motivators.
7. Assholes are us.
This book has been on my must read list for some time. There are assholes in every field including law enforcement. Sometimes we work for them, sometimes they work for us, sometimes we work with them, and (most importantly to recognize from a training standpoint) sometimes we are the assholes. All of these scenarios are less desirable situations for our officers, our families and our own health and well being. This book provides strategies for dealing with all these scenarios.