08 April 2009

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

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

by Robert I. Sutton

Robert Sutton, is a Professor of Management Science and Engineering in the Stanford Engineering School, 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.

What the readers said….

A New Best Book on Empowerment in the Workplace

I have never written a review on Amazon, 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.

An Excellent Must-Read for Anyone in the Workforce,

I am not one who typically reviews books. I do have to say that the No A**hole Rule was an excellent book both in researched content and personality. I was able to read this book in one sitting. It is very topical for anyone who shares a workplace with A**holes or demeaning people. I am sure that most of us do not have the luxury of avoiding these people on a day to day basis. If so, let me know where you work .

For the most part, it is inevitable that we have to deal with these people face to face. This is the first book that doesn't skirt around the facts of diagnosing these people as a**holes (by there actions) and giving effective advice on how to deal with them or not be one of them.

Bob Sutton's List of The Dirty Dozen Common Everyday Actions That A**holes Use
1. Personal insults
2. Invading one's personal territory
3. Uninvited personal contact
4. Threats and intimidation, both verbal and non-verbal
5. Sarcastic jokes and teasing used as insult delivery systems
6. Withering email 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 Author sites companies that have effectively instilled a "No A**hole Rule" because they have realized that the true cost of the A**hole runs deeper than the A**hole's salary (TCA or Total Cost of A**holes). It truly can diminish productivity in the office, increase employee turnover, stifle communication, and lower employee self esteem and health. The book explains how to implement a No A**hole Rule at any organization.

According to the book, negative interactions have a five time stronger effect on mood than positive interactions. So you can see that keeping around that "very productive A**hole" may have deeper implications that do not show up on the books, but take a toll on the ones around him/her.
There is a whole section in the book detailing how to avoid being an A**hole which I won't get into here. I think that it is a truly insightful section on how to face ones own demons, and to be a more effective co-worker/partner/boss in a work environment.

The section that really jumped out for me (due to its immediate applicability) was the ways to deal with A**holes. Many books talk about enthusiasm and working harder with passion allows you to get around people who are demeaning and rude at work. This book explains that this is not necessarily the head on solution to avoid rudeness in the workplace. In some instances, developing indifference and emotional detachment may be the best way to survive in the long run while achieving small victories. In the end, small victories can lead to winning the war. You can also limit your exposure, hope for the best and expect the worse, de-escalate and re-educate, or stand up to A**holes.

In conclusion, this was a great read. I think it is extremely topical for anyone who is involved in HR or hiring new employees and management. I also believe that it is an especially good read if you are a victim of A**holes on a day to day basis.

The Cost of Black Holes

Authors not afraid to call it like it is have been in short supply the past several years. The world of business and finance have been filled with executives and managers not willing to be straight about what constitutes ethical or rational behavior. Bob Sutton wasn't afraid. He wrote a controversial book with an edgy title.

It's now common knowledge that all too many companies looked the other way as executives and managers have misbehaved. Sutton had the guts to call these folks out. He did the research. And he has shown the cost of these black holes to organizations.

These jerks can be tremendously threatening when they are in positions of power. Sutton breaks it down and shows how you can gain ground. I love the idea of scheduling short meetings with these blowhards in rooms without chairs, cutting as he calls it "your exposure time by 34 %." Or the trick of hitting the mute button on the conference call during a screed, to tune out a "colleague's nastiness."

Nor does Sutton deny the truth. Being a jerk works for a lot of folks in business. He even has a chapter on the subject and notes that when he matched Steve Jobs with that key "A" word in the title of his book, he "got 89,000 matches." As someone who has seen Jobs do his thing in person all I can say is, only 89,000 matches?

But even in this focused book on the dangers of bullies to corporations, Sutton has the good sense to explain at length, "The Virtues of Nastiness." I dare say if we'd had more people write as honestly about the dark side of human nature - in business and finance - we wouldn't be in such a mess today.

One of my favorite books!

Love this book! The title's been my private mantra for YEARS. Dr. Sutton's concise examination of the trouble caused by workplace antagonists is not only right on, but is the one thing that has been carefully stepped around by HR forever. High time the topic's been given its due. It's an essential guide for anyone up against any of a variety of bullies. And not just at work. I can see The NAR being helpful even at the grocery checkout line.

It's also great from a hiring perspective. By paying close attention to the earmarks of these troublemakers (especially looking to pick up cues and clues when checking a new hire's references), there's a better possibility of keeping the a**h***s from getting hired in the first place.

As much as I enjoyed how refreshingly open and honest as it is on the top of problematic coworkers, I wonder if those coworkers would ever become self-aware enough to read the book themselves and change their behavior as a result. Now THAT would be amazing.

1 comment:

  1. This book does a great job analyzing the role of overt a**holes, but unfortunately a lot of covert relational aggression (particularly among a group of coconspirators who simply consider each other "friendly" rather than unethical and bullying) uses the a**hole excuse to mob, harass, and sabotage the careers of people whose only real crime is being frustrated at the unethical and incompetent behavior of the dominant social clique.