The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

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Overview

The No Asshole Rule is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Business Week bestseller.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This meticulously researched book, which grew from a much buzzed-about article in the Harvard Business Review, puts into plain language an undeniable fact: the modern workplace is beset with assholes. Sutton (Weird Ideas that Work), a professor of management science at Stanford University, argues that assholes-those who deliberately make co-workers feel bad about themselves and who focus their aggression on the less powerful-poison the work environment, decrease productivity, induce qualified employees to quit and therefore are detrimental to businesses, regardless of their individual effectiveness. He also makes the solution plain: they have to go. Direct and punchy, Sutton uses accessible language and a bevy of examples to make his case, providing tests to determine if you are an asshole (and if so, advice for how to self-correct), a how-to guide to surviving environments where assholes freely roam and a carefully calibrated measure, the "Total Cost of Assholes," by which corporations can assess the damage. Although occasionally campy and glib, Sutton's work is sure to generate discussions at watercoolers around the country and deserves influence in corporate hiring and firing strategies. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

Sutton (Weird Ideas That Work) has taught management science and engineering for more than a decade at Stanford University, where he formed his early opinions about recruiting, hiring, and retaining pleasant yet effective colleagues. Here he deals with organizational dynamics. Unlike many books (e.g., Jean A. Hollands's Red Ink Behavior and Robert Herbold's The Fiefdom Syndrome), Sutton's does not postulate that destructive behaviors need to be corrected or that the employees responsible for these behaviors need to be fired. Instead, he suggests that we are all difficult sometimes and that being difficult can, in certain scenarios, actually contribute to our effectiveness as managers. He balances this argument with the premise that some people are "certified assholes" who are difficult to fire because they are often in positions of authority and are mistakenly deemed talented and effective by their superiors. Sutton's book is very readable, and people in any type of organization with "people problems" would benefit from using it to inspire some fresh thinking. Large general circulation libraries might include it in a section about careers or management; corporate libraries with a human resources section should also consider.
—Stephen Turner

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446526562
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 2/22/2007
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

ROBERT SUTTON is a Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1



What Workplace Assholes Do and Why
You Know So Many



Who deserves to be branded as an asshole? Many of us use the term indiscriminately, applying it to anyone who annoys us, gets in our way, or happens to be enjoying greater success than us at the moment. But a precise definition is useful if you want to implement the no asshole rule. It can help you distinguish between those colleagues and customers you simply don't like from those who deserve the label. It can help you distinguish people who are having a bad day or a bad moment ("temporary assholes") from persistently nasty and destructive jerks ("certified assholes"). And a good definition can help you explain to others why your coworker, boss, or customer deserves the label-or come to grips with why others say you are an asshole (at least behind your back) and why you might have earned it.

Researchers such as Bennett Tepper who write about psychological abuse in the workplace define it as "the sustained display of hostile verbal and nonverbal behavior, excluding physical contact." That definition is useful as far as it goes. But it isn't detailed enough for understanding what assholes do and their effects on others. An experience I had as a young assistant professor is instructive for understanding how assholes are defined in this little book. When I arrived at Stanford as a twenty-nine-year-old researcher, I was an inexperienced, ineffective, and extremely nervous teacher. I got poor teaching evaluations in my first year on the job, and I deserved them. I worked to become more effective in the classroom and was delighted to win the best-teacher award in my department (by student vote) at the graduation ceremony at the end of my third year at Stanford.

But my delight lasted only minutes. It evaporated when a jealous colleague ran up to me immediately after the graduating students marched out and gave me a big hug. She secretly and expertly extracted every ounce of joy I was experiencing by whispering in my ear in a condescending tone (while sporting a broad smile for public consumption), "Well, Bob, now that you have satisfied the babies here on campus, perhaps you can settle down and do some real work."

This painful memory demonstrates the two tests that I use for spotting whether a person is acting like an asshole:

• Test One: After talking to the alleged asshole, does the "target" feel oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled by the person? In particular, does the target feel worse about him or herself?

• Test Two: Does the alleged asshole aim his or her venom at people who are less powerful rather than at those people who are more powerful?

I can assure you that after that interaction with my colleague-which lasted less than a minute-I felt worse about myself. I went from feeling the happiest I'd ever been about my work performance to worrying that my teaching award would be taken as a sign that I wasn't serious enough about research (the main standard used for evaluating Stanford professors). This episode also demonstrates that although some assholes do their damage through open rage and arrogance, it isn't always that way. People who loudly insult and belittle their underlings and rivals are easier to catch and discipline. Two-faced backstabbers like my colleague, those who have enough skill and emotional control to save their dirty work for moments when they can't get caught, are tougher to stop-even though they may do as much damage as a raging maniac.

There are many other actions-sociologists call them interaction moves or simply moves-that assholes use to demean and deflate their victims. I've listed twelve common moves, a dirty dozen, to illustrate the range of these subtle and not subtle behaviors used by assholes. I suspect that you can add many more moves that you've seen, been subjected to, or done to others. I hear and read about new mean-spirited moves nearly every day. Whether we are talking about personal insults, status slaps (quick moves that bat down social standing and pride), shaming or "status degradation" rituals, "jokes" that are insult delivery systems, or treating people as if they are invisible, these and hundreds of other moves are similar in that they can leave targets feeling attacked and diminished, even if only momentarily. These are the means that assholes use to do their dirty work.

THE DIRTY DOZEN


Common Everyday Actions That Assholes Use


1. Personal insults
2. Invading one's "personal territory"
3. Uninvited physical contact
4. Threats and intimidation, both verbal and nonverbal
5. "Sarcastic jokes" and "teasing" used as insult delivery systems
6. Withering e-mail flames
7. Status slaps intended to humiliate their victims
8. Public shaming or "status degradation" rituals
9. Rude interruptions
10. Two-faced attacks
11. Dirty looks
12. Treating people as if they are invisible

The not so sweet thing that my colleague whispered in my ear also helps demonstrate the difference between a temporary asshole and a certified asshole. It isn't fair to call someone a certified asshole based on a single episode like this one; we can only call the person a temporary asshole. So while I would describe the colleague in my story as being a temporary asshole, we would need more information before labeling her as a certified asshole. Nearly all of us act like assholes at times; I plead guilty to multiple offenses. I once became angry with a staff member who I (wrongly) believed was trying to take an office away from our group. I sent an insulting e-mail to her and a copy to her boss, other faculty members, and her subordinates. She told me, "You made me cry." I later apologized to her. And although I don't demean one person after another day in and day out, I was guilty of being a jerk during that episode. (If you have never acted like an asshole even once in your life, please contact me immediately. I want to know how you've accomplished this superhuman feat.)

It is far harder to qualify as a certified asshole: a person needs to display a persistent pattern, to have a history of episodes that end with one "target" after another feeling belittled, put down, humiliated, disrespected, oppressed, deenergized, and generally worse about themselves.

Psychologists make the distinction between states (fleeting feelings, thoughts, and actions) and traits (enduring personality characteristics) by looking for consistency across places and times-if someone consistently takes actions that leave a trail of victims in their wake, they deserve to be branded as certified assholes.

We all have the potential to act like assholes under the wrong conditions, when we are placed under pressure or, especially, when our workplace encourages everyone-especially the "best" and "most powerful" people-to act that way. Although it is best to use the term sparingly, some people do deserve to be certified as assholes because they are consistently nasty across places and times. "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap is a well-known candidate. The former Sunbeam CEO who wrote the book Mean Business, Dunlap was notorious for the verbal abuse he heaped on employees. In John Byrne's book Chainsaw, a Sunbeam executive described Dunlap as "like a dog barking at you for hours. . . . He just yelled, ranted, and raved. He was condescending, belligerent, and disrespectful."

Another candidate is producer Scott Rudin, known as one of the nastiest Hollywood bosses. The Wall Street Journal estimated that he went through 250 personal assistants between 2000 and 2005; Rudin claimed his records show only 119 (but admitted this estimate excluded assistants who lasted less than two weeks). His ex-assistants told the Journal that Rudin routinely swore and hollered at them-one said he was fired for bringing Rudin the wrong breakfast muffin, which Mr. Rudin didn't recall but admitted was "entirely possible." The online magazine Salon quotes a former assistant who received a 6:30 A.M. phone call from Rudin asking him to remind Rudin to send flowers to Anjelica Huston for her birthday. At 11:00 that same morning, Rudin called her into his office and screamed, "You asshole! You forgot to remind me to get flowers for Anjelica Huston's birthday!" This former assistant added, "And as he slowly disappears behind his automatic closing door, the last thing I see is his finger, flipping me off."

Nor is such behavior confined to men. According to the New York Times, Linda Wachner, former CEO of Warnaco, was infamous for publicly demeaning employees for missing performance goals or "simply displeasing her." Chris Heyn, former president of Warnaco's Hathaway shirt division, told the New York Times, "When you did not make numbers, she would dress you down and make you feel knee-high, and it was terrifying." Other former employees reported that Wachner's attacks were often "personal rather than professional, and not infrequently laced with crude references to sex, race, or ethnicity."

Famous bosses aren't the only ones who persistently demean their underlings. Many of the e-mail messages I got after my Harvard Business Review essay were tales about bosses who belittled and insulted their underlings day after day. Take the reader who wrote from Scotland, "A woman I know had a horrible boss. It was a very small office and didn't even have a toilet. She became pregnant and consequently needed the loo a lot. Not only would she have to go to a neighbouring shop, but the boss felt that the visits were too frequent and started counting them as her break time/lunchtime!" A former secretary at a large public utility told me that she quit her job because her (female) boss wouldn't stop touching her shoulders and her hair.

Take this excerpt from Brutal Bosses and Their Prey of an interview that Harvey Hornstein did with one victim of multiple humiliations:

"Billy," he said, standing in the doorway so that everyone in the central area could see and hear us clearly. "Billy, this is not adequate, really not at all." . . . As he spoke, he crumpled the papers that he held. My work. One by one he crumpled the papers, holding them out as if they were something dirty and dropping them inside my office as everyone watched. Then he said loudly, "Garbage in, garbage out." I started to speak, but he cut me off. "You give me the garbage; now you clean it up." I did. Through the doorway I could see people looking away because they were embarrassed for me. They didn't want to see what was in front of them: a thirty-six-year-old man in a three-piece suit stooping before his boss to pick up crumpled pieces of paper.

If these stories are accurate, all these bosses deserved to be certified as assholes because they were consistently nasty to the people they worked with, especially their underlings. This brings us to test two: Does the alleged asshole aim his or her venom at people who are less powerful rather than at those people who are more powerful? My colleague's behavior at the Stanford graduation ceremony qualifies because, when the episode occurred, this person was more senior and more powerful than I was.

This notion that the way a higher-status person treats a lower-status person is a good test of character isn't just my idea. A test reflecting the same spirit was used by Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin empire, to screen candidates for a reality television series where he selected "billionaires in the rough." The Rebel Billionaire was meant to compete with Donald Trump's wildly successful show The Apprentice. During the first episode, Branson picked up contestants at the airport while he was disguised as an arthritic old driver-then he kicked two of them off the show for treating him so badly when they believed he was an "irrelevant" human being.

Again, there is a difference between isolated incidents where people act like assholes versus people who are certified assholes-who consistently aim their venom at less powerful people and rarely, if ever, at more powerful people. John R. Bolton, the controversial U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, meets the test if the testimony to the U.S. Congress is correct. President George W. Bush made the controversial decision to appoint Bolton when he was on the verge of failing to be confirmed by Congress. Bolton's reputation for dishing out psychological abuse to colleagues fueled the media frenzy surrounding his appointment. Melody Townsel, for example, testified that she experienced Bolton's nastiness when she worked as a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Moscow in 1994. Townsel reported that Bolton turned mean after she complained about the incompetence of a client that Bolton (a lawyer) represented.

In Townsel's 2005 letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, she claimed that "Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel-throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door, and generally, behaving like a madman" and that "for nearly two weeks, while I awaited fresh direction . . . John Bolton hounded me in such an appalling way that I eventually retreated to my hotel room and stayed there. Mr. Bolton, of course, then routinely visited me there to pound on the door and shout threats." Townsel added, "He made unconscionable comments about my weight, my wardrobe, and with a couple of team leaders, my sexuality."

In other testimony to the committee, former Bolton subordinate Carl Ford Jr. (a fellow Republican) described him as a "kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy." In my opinion, if these reports are true, they indicate that Bolton qualifies as a certified asshole because his abuse is part of a persistent pattern, not just something out of character that happened once or twice because he was having a bad day.

I am not alone in this view. The Village Voice published an article titled "Wanted: Complete Asshole for U.N. Ambassador," which concluded that "John Bolton has left a trail of alienated colleagues and ridiculed ideas."

Don't Replace Assholes with Wimps and Polite Clones

It is also important to define the term asshole because this book is not an argument for recruiting and breeding spineless wimps. My focus is squarely on screening, reforming, and getting rid of people who demean and damage others, especially others with relatively little power. If you want to learn about the virtues of speaking quietly and the nuances of workplace etiquette, then read something by Miss Manners. I am a firm believer in the virtues of conflict, even noisy arguments. Research on everything from student groups to top management teams reveals that constructive arguments over ideas-but not nasty personal arguments- drives greater performance, especially when teams do nonroutine work. And, as I show in my book Weird Ideas That Work, organizations that are too narrow and rigid about whom they let in the door stifle creativity and become dreary places populated by dull clones.

The right kind of friction can help any organization. To take a famous example, Intel cofounder and retired CEO Andy Grove can be a strong-willed and argumentative person. But Grove is renowned for sticking to the facts and for inviting anyone-from brand-new Intel engineers to Stanford students whom he teaches about business strategy to senior Intel executives-to challenge his ideas. For Grove, the focus has always been on finding the truth, not on putting people down. Not only do I despise spineless and obsequious wimps, but there is good evidence that they damage organizations. A series of controlled experiments and field studies in organizations shows that when teams engage in conflict over ideas in an atmosphere of mutual respect, they develop better ideas and perform better. That is why Intel teaches employees how to fight, requiring all new hires to take classes in "constructive confrontation." These same studies show, however, that when team members engage in personal conflict-when they fight out of spite and anger-their creativity, performance, and job satisfaction plummet. In other words, when people act like a bunch of assholes, the whole group suffers.

I also want to put in a good word for socially awkward people, some of whom-through no fault of their own-are so socially insensitive that they accidentally act like assholes at times. Certainly, people with high emotional intelligence who are skilled at taking the perspectives of people they encounter and at responding to their needs and feelings are pleasant to be around and well suited for leadership positions. Yet many extremely valuable employees-as a result of everything from being raised in dysfunctional families to having disabilities like Asperger's syndrome, nonverbal learning disorders, and Tourette's syndrome-act strangely, have poor social skills, and inadvertently hurt other people's feelings.

A few years back, I wrote a book on building creative organizations called Weird Ideas That Work. As I did the research, I was struck by how many successful leaders of high-tech companies and creative organizations like advertising agencies, graphic design firms, and Hollywood production companies had learned to ignore job candidates' quirks and strange mannerisms, to downplay socially inappropriate remarks, and instead, to focus on what the people could actually do. I first heard this argument from Nolan Bushnell- the founder of Atari, which was the first wildly successful computer gaming company. Bushnell told me that although he looked for smooth-talking marketing people, when it came to technical people, he just wanted to see their work because "the best engineers sometimes come in bodies that can't talk." Later, I even learned that film students at places like the University of Southern California believe that "talent"-especially script writers-who come off as a bit strange are seen as more creative, so they consciously develop strange mannerisms and dress in odd ways, a process they call "working on your quirk."

The Evidence Fits Your Experience: Workplaces Have a Lot of Assholes

I don't know of any scholarly studies with titles like "the prevalence of assholes in the modern organization" or "interpersonal moves by assholes in the workplace: form and frequency." Most researchers are too dignified to use this dirty word in print. But I do know that each of my friends and acquaintances reports working with at least one "asshole." And when people hear that I am writing about the topic, I don't have to ask for stories about these jerks-the targets seek me out and tell me one asshole story after another.

This flood of anguished and amusing anecdotes may reflect my particular idiosyncrasies. I suspect that I am more easily offended by personal slights than most people, especially by people who are rude, nasty, or detached during service encounters. I am also married to a lawyer, an occupation that is rightly reputed to have more than its share of overbearing assholes. And because I have had a longstanding interest in the topic, I look for information about nasty people and remember it better than, say, about Good Samaritans, famous athletes, or unusually smart people.

There is also a big pile of scholarly research that reaches much the same conclusion without using the term "asshole." It is conducted under banners including bullying, interpersonal aggression, emotional abuse, abusive supervision, petty tyranny, and incivility in the workplace. These studies show that many workplaces are plagued by "interpersonal moves" that leave people feeling threatened and demeaned, which are often directed by more powerful people at less powerful people.
Consider some findings:

• A 2000 study by Loraleigh Keashly and Karen Jagatic found that 27% of workers in a representative sample of seven hundred Michigan residents experienced mistreatment by someone in the workplace, with approximately one out of six reporting persistent psychological abuse.

• In a 2002 study of workplace aggression and bullying in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Keashly and Joel Neuman surveyed nearly five thousand employees about exposure to sixty "negative workplace behaviors"; 36% reported "persistent hostility" from coworkers and supervisors, which meant "experiencing at least one aggressive behavior at least weekly for a period of a year." Nearly 20% of employees in the sample reported being bothered "moderately" to "a great deal" by abusive and aggressive behaviors, including yelling, temper tantrums, put-downs, glaring, exclusion, nasty gossip, and (on relatively rare occasions) "pushing, shoving, biting, kicking, and other sexual and nonsexual assaults."

• Studies of nurses suggest that they are demeaned at an especially high rate. A 1997 study of 130 U.S. nurses published in the Journal of Professional Nursing found that 90% reported being victims of verbal abuse by physicians during the past year; the average respondent reported six to twelve incidents of abusive anger, being ignored, and being treated in a condescending fashion. Similarly, a 2003 study of 461 nurses published in Orthopaedic Nursing found that in the past month 91% had experienced verbal abuse-defined as mistreatment that left them feeling attacked, devalued, or humiliated. Physicians were the most frequent source of such nastiness, but it also came from patients and their families, fellow nurses, and supervisors.

When I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Daniel Denison and I spent a week interviewing and observing a team of surgical nurses, and we were appalled by how openly rude and downright abusive the male doctors were to the (largely) female nurses. Take the surgeon that we dubbed "Dr. Gooser" after we saw him chasing a female nurse down the hall while trying to pinch her behind.

The nurses we interviewed bitterly complained that it was useless to report him to administrators because they would be labeled as troublemakers and be told "he is just joking." All they could do was avoid him as much as possible. Christine Pearson and her colleagues have done extensive research on workplace incivility, a milder form of nastiness than emotional abuse or bullying. Their survey of 800 employees found that 10% witnessed daily incivility on their jobs and 20% were direct targets of incivility at least once a week. Pearson and her colleagues did another study of workplace incivility among 126 Canadian white-collar workers, which found that approximately 25% witnessed incivility of some kind on the job every day and 50% reported being direct targets of incivility at least once a week.

Researchers in Europe are partial to the term bullying rather than psychological abuse. Charlotte Rayner and her colleagues reviewed studies of bullying in British workplaces, and estimated that 30% of British workers experience encounters with bullies on at least a weekly basis. A British study of more than five thousand private- and public-sector employees found that about 10% had been bullied in the prior six months, and that about 25% had been victims and nearly 50% had witnessed bullying in the past five years. Studies in the United Kingdom find that the highest rates of workplace bullying happen to workers in prisons, schools, and the postal system but also reveal high rates in a sample of 594 "junior physicians" (similar to residents in the United States): 37% reported being bullied in the prior year, and 84% indicated they had witnessed bullying that was aimed at fellow junior physicians.

A host of other studies show that psychological abuse and bullying are common in other countries, including Austria, Australia, Canada, Germany, Finland, France, Ireland, and South Africa. A representative sample of Australian employees, for example, found that 35% reported being verbally abused by at least one coworker and 31% reported being verbally abused by at least one superior. A focused study of "nasty teasing" in a representative sample of nearly 5,000 Danish employees found that more than 6% were consistently exposed to this specific brand of workplace bullying. In the Third European Survey on Working Conditions, which was based on 21,500 face-to-face interviews with employees from countries of the European Union, 9% reported that they were exposed to persistent intimidation and bullying.

Much of this nastiness is directed by superiors to their subordinates (estimates run from 50% to 80%), with somewhat less between coworkers of roughly the same rank (estimates run from 20% to 50%), and "upward" nastiness- where underlings take on their superiors-occurs in less than 1% of cases. Findings about the proportion of men versus women involved in this nastiness are mixed, although it is clear that men and women are victimized at roughly the same rate. And it is especially clear that the lion's share of bullying and psychological abuse is within gender, with men more likely to bully men and women more likely to bully women. A Web-based survey by the Workplace Bullying & Trauma Institute, for example, found that 63% of women were victims of another woman, and 62% of men were victims of another man.

The question of whether bullying and abuse tend to be done more often by men or women remains unclear, with some of the best U.S. studies (including Keashly and Jagatic's representative study of Michigan employees) showing no discernable differences between the sexes, while European studies suggest that abusers are more likely to be men. European studies also show that it is common for a victim to be "mobbed" by multiple people, typically both men and women. In short, the stereotypical jerk might be a man, but there are also huge numbers of women in every country studied who demean, belittle, and de-energize their peers and underlings.

The list of academic writings on bullying, psychological abuse, mobbing, tyrants, and incivility in the workplace goes on and on-hundreds of articles and chapters have been published. Estimates of who is doing what to whom depend on the population studied and how the particular type of workplace abuse is defined and measured. But the evidence is ironclad: there are a lot of assholes out there.

The Best Measure of Human Character

Diego Rodriguez works at IDEO, a small innovation company I've studied and worked with for more than a decade. You will hear more about IDEO in this book because it is such a civilized place to work. Diego urges organizations to develop "a shock-proof, bullet-resistant asshole detector."

This chapter proposes two steps for detecting assholes: first, identify people who persistently leave others feeling demeaned and de-energized; second, look to see if their victims usually have less power and social standing than their tormentors.

These tests imply an even more fundamental lesson that runs through this book: the difference between how a person treats the powerless versus the powerful is as good a measure of human character as I know. I described how Richard Branson devised such a test to help him decide which wannabe billionaires to fire and which to keep on his TV show. I've seen much the same thing on a smaller scale at Stanford, albeit accidentally. Several years back, I encountered a perfect illustration of a senior faculty member who met this asshole test. Approached for help by a Stanford undergraduate, he at first brushed aside and refused to assist this student, who was trapped in bureaucratic red tape. But once this uppity faculty member learned that the student's parents were powerful executives and had donated generously to the university, he was instantly transformed into a helpful and charming human being.

To me, when a person is persistently warm and civilized toward people who are of unknown or lower status, it means that he or she is a decent human being-as they say in Yiddish, a real "mensch," the opposite of a certified asshole. Small decencies not only make you feel better about yourself, they can have other rewards as well. The sweet lesson learned by a former student of mine, Canadian Rhodes Scholar Charles Galunic, is a case in point. Charlie is now a management professor at INSEAD business school in France and is one of the most thoughtful people I've ever met. Charlie told me a lovely story about something that happened at a cold and crowded train station in Kingston, Ontario, when he was traveling to Toronto for his Rhodes Scholarship interviews. He was sitting and waiting for the train when he noticed an older couple who were standing and waiting. Charlie being Charlie, he immediately offered the two his seat, which they were happy to take. The next day, Charlie met the couple at a reception in Toronto for the scholarship finalists, and it turned out that the husband was a member of the selection committee. Charlie isn't sure if this small decency helped him win the prestigious scholarship- but I like to think that it did.

I wrote this book to help people build organizations where menschs like Charlie are routinely hired and celebrated- and, to steal a phrase from Groucho Marx, create workplaces where time wounds all heels-or at least reforms or banishes these creeps.


Copyright © 2007 by Robert Sutton

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 81 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2007

    A Pop Culture Title , But Not Just Another Pop Culture Book

    I am a television producer who couldn't resist buying this book, since unfortunately, bad behavior is the norm where I live and work. Ironically, it is also a killer of creativity, the one commodity that Hollywood needs on an neverending basis. The book was full of wonderful, relatable examples of how 'certified' a-holes truly create an unproductive and unhealthy work environment, not to mention the personal fallout for the receivers. I especially enjoyed Sutton's little quizzes for determining a-hole behavior, his tips for how to combat being on the losing end, and the last chapter, 'The No A-Hole Rule as a Way of Life.'

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2008

    There's really a word for it

    I have never read a book the depicted someone I worked for as closely as this book. Now I fully understand that I'm not crazy and any sane person would have wanted to quit after being treated as poorly as I had been by this one 'asshole' that I worked with. I truly enjoyed this book and at times actually laughed out loud. To think that there is a way to keep these people out of the workplace is awesome. Now all we need to do is make this book mandatory for all HR Managers and every student in college so that they don't become one of them, or better yet, can recognize them for what they truly are.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2011

    Before you point a finger...

    Make sure it shouldn't be pointed at yourself. Many thanks to the woman on the flight to Nashville who suggested this book. She was an HR person and even though I am not, I got so much out of this book. And thanks to my Nook for sparking the conversation about "best book you've read lately" on the flight in the first place!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 20, 2010

    an interesting analysis

    This book is a manual about making one's work place a nicer place to be. As the title suggests, the focus of the book is on the co-workers, specifically the "tough-to-get-along-with" personalities. The first half of this book is aimed at the higher management, with tips how to weed out those types during the hiring process, as the author logically believes that once they're hired, they influence more of the same type of people to join the company-until the whole place becomes a breeding ground for jerks. Such a work atmosphere, as the author points out, actually hinders productivity and overall morale. Sutton's second half of the book discusses dealing with difficult co-workers. A chapter is devoted to strategies for dealing with them at work, while other chapters are aimed at getting rid of your own inner jerk and, for better understanding, the benefits of acting like a jerk where Sutton explains the psychology behind such behavior. Overall, this was a quick read. Sutton is a professor at Stanford, and actually based this book off a Harvard Review article he wrote about the same topic. I thought the idea behind the book was pretty interesting. If you're looking for a short take on "the toxic workplace," than this is for you.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2008

    I work with a bunch of you know whats

    Sutton the author of this book is a management science and engineering professor from Stanford. In this book he suggests (correctly, in my opinion) that we can all be difficult sometimes and that being difficult can, in certain scenarios, actually contribute to our effectiveness as managers. However, he counteracts this argument with the reality that some people are 'certified¿ you know whats who are difficult to fire because they are often in positions of authority and are mistakenly deemed talented and effective by their superiors. It's a fun and readable book, that shows you how to deal with these folks and create and I think anyone with people issues will benefit from using it to inspire some fresh thinking. The other gem I've found helpful in these situations (for dealing with difficult people and keeping myself under control) is The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2007

    A reviewer

    I am so glad that Bob Sutton's book is an instruction in memory for me rather than the survival guide it is for so many. Thirty years in business means I have seen more than my fair share of a***holes and while they may be inevaitable, they can be resisted and fought. Sutton's real innovation is in creating a 'total cost of a***holes' showing the real detriment to the business that these jerks actually are. Smart, funny, quick and spot-on.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2012

    A great book!

    This book is quintessential for all aspects of life. This book helped me to see in all situations that there are people who can disrupt and destroy even the most noble of causes. Highly recommended and empowering.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 10, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    Great point of view on workplace bullies and there effect of the workplace culture. Adapted from a Harvard Business Review article. Well researched and clearly presented thesis.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    NEEDS TO BE READ BY SENIOR MANAGEMENT

    There are few revelations in this book for those of us who work in an environment rampant with as*holes. However, it is affirming to have an independent, unsolicited authority describe the perpetrators, the environment and the impact. Sutton's quantification of certified as*holes (CAs) as distinguished from occasional as*holes and his definition of a decent person is useful. Sutton provides an "As*hole Test" and describes the "Dirty Dozen" traits. However, the best indicator is how a higher status person treats a lower status person. The CA consistently insults, demeans and personally attacks those of lesser status. The person that is "persistently warm and civilized toward people of unknown or lower status.is a decent human being". The impact of an overabundance of CAs on employees is devastating because it saps energy and esteem. The results, which are detrimental to both employee and company, include reduced productivity, less work and life satisfaction, heightened depression, irritability and anger. Sutton also points out that in a fear based organization (i.e., management by intimidation) the last thing employees want is the spotlight on them. Hence they are afraid to offer input and help solve problems when they know how to do so. Poor communication, no diversity of ideas, poor morale, and lack of employee empowerment makes a company's decision making much less intelligent. Legal costs are also higher in organizations that are led by or that shelter CAs as employee claims are easier to prove when open hostility runs rampant. In addition, Sutton attempts to quantify the total cost of as*holes (TCA), offers suggestions on how to implement a "No As*hole Rule", and provides some common sense survival strategies for those unable to escape an as*hole rich environment. The tragedy is that those as*holes out there that most need to read this book, especially in senior management, are probably the less likely to do so.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2010

    A book for our weird times

    Prof. Sutton's book is a super timely book that should be required reading for employers, as well as our political leaders. Our labour practices are getting more and more weird by the day, week and month.
    http://exquisitehumanity.blogspot.com/2010/06/unemployed-will-not-be-considered.html

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Fantastic

    This is a great read! I helped me deal with my own work place situation. I am sooo glad I found this book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2009

    Management 101

    This CD was a great deal from B&N (cheap!) and the content was better than expected. The author, a professor from Stanford, somehow knows a lot more about the workplace than most corporate people I've worked for over the years. He even practices what he preaches...his work group refuses to ruin their civil climate by keeping creeps, bullies, and a**holes OUT of the mix. Oh, how I wish I had the luxury!
    There's a true story Sutton tells about a community that accidentally loses their a**holes (I won't ruin it for you) that had me in stitches. I've relayed the story to friends and they've cracked up, too.
    This book should be a required course for management. I've been tempted to leave the CD in my VP's mailbox! Our company could get so much more done if we could get rid of the bullies who stonewall projects, back-stab, and generally make our jobs tougher just because their methods worked on the playground in elementary school.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Strategic take on dealing with weasels

    Robert I. Sutton, Ph.D., professor of organizational behavior, teaches management science at Stanford University. He is a learned, respected academic. Is it odd that such an erudite, sophisticated individual would write a book with profanity in its title? Not according to Sutton. Yes, mean-spirited, nasty people are weasels and dirty rats. But the word that ideally summarizes such a person, Sutton says, is in his title, so that's what he uses. He first employed it in a much-quoted piece in the Harvard Business Review. He expanded that article into this book, which explains why the business world seems to be knee deep in ratfinks, how to avoid them and how to deal with them when you must. getAbstract suggests that if you work in an office or hospital or bank or submarine or massage parlor, or on a cement crew, loading dock, oilrig or spaceship to Mars, you probably must deal with your share of - let's call them weasels. Sutton's book teaches you how to do so most effectively and not get too banged up in the process.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2007

    Exceptional Reading

    It may seem like pure shock to use the 'A-hole' word in the title of a book, but anyone with life or business experience knows that certain people are gold-plated a-holes. This book is exceptional in that it characterizes their behavior in complete and accurate terms. Moreover, this book addresses the reality that professional cultures can insipre this class of people, or even make them thrive. Microsoft comes to mind as a perfect example. So it's not about whether or not they exist, it's about survival. This book is aid and comfort to the many who suffer through the tyranny of the a-hole.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2007

    This Book is a Keeper!

    Sutton gets it just right in this highly entertaining and relevant book. We all know people like those described in the book. And coping with them - or better yet keeping them out of our work lives - is a problem worth solving. It's nice to see someone in academia who embraces the practical concerns of real-life managers. Sutton's blend of case studies and thoughtful analysis is like a tonic for the spirit of those of us who have endured the sphincterage of terrible colleagues. You might wish that Sutton had written this book a while ago. Do your children a favor and save a copy for them. They'll need it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2009

    Good for work, good for life. For seasoned employees, a refresher on interpersonal skills when feeling threatened; for those about to enter the workforce, good supplemental reading.

    Author provides sound advice and affirmation for how to deal with difficult people and/or difficult situations. While specific to work or professional situations, it is applicable to family and social situations as well.

    Sutton's style is easy to read so that the book for me was a "fast read." He provides guidelines on how to proceed, followed by specific examples that are relevant and entertaining without being morose.

    The book was appropriate to where I am right now. I don't know whether I would feel the same way about the book if I wasn't looking for solutions to my own predicament.

    However, many thanks to Robert Sutton for writing the book, to Grand Central for publishing it, and to Barnes & Noble for stocking it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2007

    A reviewer

    I LOVE this book! Although I am now a self-employed consultant, there are strategies in this little book which can be used with difficult clients as well. I've been lucky enough to work in only one corporate environment filled with a*******s!-In my experience, women are the worst offenders, 'gang girls in suits' has been my description of backstabbing, jealous women. I could have used this book as a bible a few years ago, however, it is filled with practical advice on general mental health strategies for coping with difficult people in any arena. His advice: 'You should develop indifference and emotional attachment,' he advises. 'There are times when the best thing for your mental health is to not give a damn about your job, company, and especially all those nasty people'...one can apply this advice in most everyday circumstances. I've given this book to many of my friends in the corporate world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2007

    No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

    I have never written a review on Barnes and Noble, but feel strongly about writing a review for Sutton's No A**hole book. As a female professional, I felt highly empowered reading this book. Dr. Sutton acknowledges the bullying and crass behavior that frequently occurs in the workplace and offers concrete ways to combat these trying individuals. I have already practiced his technique of publicly discounting bullying behavior with great success. I found his suggestions for handling office place bullies - as both a superior and subordinate actions extremely smart and well-grounded. This book is based on sound social psychology and organizational research and does a great service to workers throughout the world. I have dog earred many pages of the book and expect it to be a handy reference for many years to come. Also, I have book marked Dr. Sutton's blog and Arse Test for daily reference at work!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2007

    Another Wonderful Word From Sutton

    I have been a big fan of Bob Sutton's work for many years and this latest adds to the wealth of material he has graced us with. While his Knowing Doing Gap continues to be my absolute favorite management book ever, this comes close (OK, so did Weird Ideas). Typical of his great writing, Sutton combines both anecdotes and research to again reveal some truth that has been staring us in the face all along.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2007

    No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

    I don't often review books due to lack of time but feel strongly about writing a review for Sutton's No A**hole book because I feel many people whose might be concerned about the 'taboo' title might not look beyond it and do themselves a great disservice. As a female professional, I felt highly empowered reading this book. Dr. Sutton acknowledges the bullying and crass behavior that frequently occurs in the workplace and offers concrete ways to combat these trying individuals. I have already practiced his technique of publicly discounting bullying behavior with great success. I found his suggestions for handling office place bullies - as both a superior and subordinate actions extremely smart and well-grounded. This book is based on sound social psychology and organizational research and does a great service to workers throughout the world. I have dog earred many pages of the book and expect it to be a handy reference for many years to come.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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