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

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The definitive guide to working with -- and surviving -- bullies, creeps, jerks, tyrants, tormentors, despots, backstabbers, egomaniacs, and all the other assholes who do their best to destroy you at work.

What an asshole!

How many times have you said that about someone at work? You're not alone! In this groundbreaking book, Stanford University professor Robert I. Sutton builds on his acclaimed Harvard Business Review article to show you the best ways to deal with assholes...and why they can be so destructive to your company. Practical, compassionate, and in places downright funny, this guide offers:

Strategies on how to pinpoint and eliminate negative influences for good
Illuminating case histories from major organizations
A self-diagnostic test and a program to identify and keep your own inner jerk from coming out

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

224 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2007

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About the author

Robert I. Sutton

20 books217 followers
Robert Sutton is Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford and a Professor of Organizational Behavior, by courtesy, at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Sutton studies innovation, leaders and bosses, evidence-based management, the links between knowledge and organizational action, and workplace civility. Sutton’s books include Weird Ideas That Work: 11 ½ Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation, The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Firms Turn Knowledge into Action (with Jeffrey Pfeffer), and Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management (also with Jeffrey Pfeffer). His most recent book is the New York Times and BusinessWeek bestseller The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t. His next book, Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best … and Survive the Worst, which will be published in September 2010 by Business Plus.

Professor Sutton’s honors include the award for the best paper published in the Academy of Management Journal in 1989, the Eugene L. Grant Award for Excellence in Teaching, selection by Business 2.0 as a leading “management guru” in 2002, and the award for the best article published in the Academy of Management Review in 2005. Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense was selected as the best business book of 2006 by the Toronto Globe and Mail. His latest book, The No Asshole Rule, won the Quill Award for the best business book of 2007. Sutton was named as one of 10 “B-School All-Stars” by BusinessWeek in 2007, which they described as “professors who are influencing contemporary business thinking far beyond academia.” Sutton is a Fellow at IDEO and a member of the Institute for the Future’s board of directors. Especially dear to his heart is the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, which everyone calls “the Stanford d.school.” He is a co-founder of this multi-disciplinary program, which teaches, practices, and spreads “design thinking.” His personal blog is Work Matters, at www.bobsutton.net.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 874 reviews
Profile Image for Dave.
71 reviews
September 20, 2012
I bought this because I thought I worked with assholes. (Well -- that, and a few others had enjoyed reading it.) I discovered that I work with garden-variety assholes, not certified ("flaming") assholes -- though I have in the past. Note that the author is an academic and wanted to enforce the "no asshole" rule in his own department. This doesn't just apply to corporate settings.

The real revelation he gives is what he calls "total cost of asshole ownership". This insight alone will land the book on my CEO's desk.

(1) Damage to victims and witnesses (lower productivity, high turnover, others unable to deliver information to or work with assholes)

(2) Management consequences: time and effort spent "cooling out" employees and victimized customers; time spent recruiting and training replacements

(3) Legal and HR: legal liability for severely flaming assholes (sexual harassment, etc)

(4) Organizational damage: stifled creativity; inability to improve established systems; inability to attract high caliber employees.
13 reviews3 followers
June 14, 2007
What a disappointment. This book should have written itself: who can't write a good book about assholes? The world is full of them, and Sutton's biggest problem should have been trying to sift through an inexhaustable supply of good stuff and funny bits. Instead we get a boring, humorless collection of basic psychology principles, statistics, and common sense. Entire pages are devoted to mindless recitations of research findings and statistics. The anecdotes are boring and focus around a very short list of people. Half of what's said is so obvious it doesn't need to be included. In short, Sutton himself is the asshole for wasting my time.

I don't think that the problem here is that I didn't understand his intent. I get that he is not just trying to compile a bunch of funny asshole stories and frat humor. It is also clear that Sutton knows his stuff: I do not disagree with any of his conclusions, and most of the underlying psychology that he spells out rings true with the little I can remember from college. My problem is simply that the book didn't have to be so damned boring. I do not want to know the results of all 17 studies that studied nearly the exact same thing. I do not need to hear a tepid example of someone's boorish behavior and then spend four pages listening to Sutton plod his way through conclusions and observations that were immediately obvious from the get go. And why did they have to be such lame examples to begin with? Where's the guy that gets all amped up on coke and completely flips out at work and pees on his secretary's desk and knocks out his boss and has to be dragged away by a team of security guards? Instead, we get people who interrupt other people at work and use aggressive body language. Had Sutton really opened up the forum to his readers and compiled a good list of truly astounding, bar-raising, standard-setting Grade A assholes, and written the book under the assumption that his readers were at least marginally intelligent and therefore don't need every obvious fact and conclusion painfully spelled out for them, we might have ended up with something worth reading. Instead, we have a lifeless little exercise in tedium that brought tears of boredom to my eyes, right up until I ripped them out with a fork so I didn't have to keep reading. Save the twenty three bucks, use it to buy some paint, then watch it dry. It sure beats reading this book.
913 reviews401 followers
November 24, 2015
I've referenced this before but will again. Long ago, I read a particularly stupid chick lit book which would be entirely unmemorable except for one line that stayed with me. Our heroine, contemplating life, muses about the following question: Do jerks look in the mirror and know they're jerks?

This question has come up for me a lot in general, and was particularly relevant as I read this book. I sought this book out after reading this article forwarded by my cousin, which I found insightful and validating. The book, unfortunately, though entertaining and insightful at times, was quite flawed.

First off, for a book about, well, you know, jerks, it was actually kind of dry and repetitive. Sure, I was glad the author chose to include research rather than simply shooting his mouth off about the topic as all of us are capable of doing, but the details of the studies he invoked did not prove particularly enlightening and sometimes felt like filler.

Second, which relates to my original question, I wondered who the audience was. My guess is that jerks don't know they're jerks, and that anyone picking up this book believes it describes other people. So a lot of it is arguably preaching to the converted rather than effecting actual change among people who need to read it. The quiz to test whether you're an, uh, jerk, was a bit problematic in my view in that it would require a great deal of self-awareness and insight for an actual jerk to answer these self-reflective questions accurately, and by definition he probably couldn't be that much of a jerk then, could he? A jerk who knows he's a jerk must feel at least a bit of remorse, no? This question can be debated, but I found the book a bit inadequate in this way.

So the one chapter which I felt actually related to the majority of this book's likely readers is the one about surviving other jerks in the workplace. Although the unfortunate reality is that we can't change other people and there are forces greater than ourselves at work, the author offers some tips for how to cope when you're surrounded by workplace bullies which may well be applied to the jerks in your personal life as well. I'll summarize them here:

1. Instead of trying to fight battles you can't win, learn ways to practice detachment and let their behavior roll right off you; remember not to take them personally or blame yourself for their inappropriate behavior.

2. Keep your expectations for jerks' behavior realistically low.

3. Find small ways to increase your sense of control in this situation, whether through building a support network at work, learning how to stay calm in the face of assault, picking small battles to fight that you can realistically win, etc.

4. Limit your exposure to jerks' behavior.

5. Try to get out of the situation if you can; even if the abovementioned techniques help you cope, don't allow them to lull you into complacency and out of seeking another job, because constant exposure to jerky behavior can have effects on your own character and on the way you see yourself.

Of course, there are some problems with these techniques as well which the author acknowledges -- seeking support at work can quickly morph into multiple unproductive gripe sessions which just leave everyone feeling bad. The author didn't really have an answer for this, other than trying to focus on staying positive and on picking and winning small battles.

Anyway, while this book focused on an interesting topic and had a few good insights, it wasn't a great book. I recommend you go with the article instead.
Profile Image for Hsinju Chen.
Author 2 books199 followers
March 30, 2021
Not bad but way too long.

I never speed up audiobooks, but The No Asshole Rule was kind of a drag so I listened at 1.5 times the original speed. Here are the key points:

1. Who are assholes?
- People who belittle and insult those who are less powerful.

2. How do we detect assholes?
- Assholes are people who always leave others feeling demeaned, de-energized, and their victims generally have less power and/or social standings than they do.

3. What damage do assholes bring?
- Negative interactions have 5 times the effect of positive interactions.
- Bystander ripple effects: It is not just the victims who are affected.
- Fear of assholes in an organization leads to self-preservation instead of working to help the company.
- Total Cost of Asshole (TCA): The invisible cost that an organization pays to deal with assholes, including the distractions they cause, legal fees, replacing other employees driven away by said assholes, etc.
- Assholes will hire other assholes.

4. How to survive working with assholes?
- Refrain from being nasty.
- Don’t waste energy fighting. Look for small wins for a sense of victory.
- Develop indifference and detachment.
- Keep expectations low.

5. How to deal with assholes?
- Respond with calmness and respect.
- Deescalation and reeducation.

I think that pretty much sums up the book. This is an assigned reading of my research group.
Profile Image for Kim Bailey.
Author 9 books609 followers
May 3, 2015
Perhaps this information was a little more relevant and a lot less obvious when the book was written? (copywright is 2007) But I found most of the information to be quite dry. It's mostly common sense, in my opinion. Assholes are assholes ... in or out of the workplace. And no matter how you catagorize them, they have an impact on everyone around them ... if you're a human being and NOT an asshole, I'm pretty sure you've experienced this ... heck, I'm certain most assholes have experienced another of thier kind at some point.

There were some fun little ancedotes provided. It's always interesting to read about bigshots acting badly ... sort of like watching TMZ when a star throws a tantrum ... makes the rest of us 'normal' folks feel better about ourselves. There were some funny (at least I found it humourous) tips on how NOT to be an asshole ... as well as some sort of useful advice on managing them in the workplace.

This would be a good read for People Managers with no common sense ... but the ones who are usually a problem, probably wouldn't be to open to the information. In other words ... this book is really only useful to make those who aren't assholes feel like they stand a chance in hell of dealing with those who are.
Profile Image for Ron.
2,173 reviews8 followers
March 10, 2016
If the title really offends you, the book will only get worse. With that said, we've all worked with people that are jerks. This book gives some insights into how to deal with them. Miscellaneous notes:

Dirty dozen
• personal insults
• invading one's personal territory
• uninvited physical contact
• threats and intimidation (verbal, non-verbal)
• sarcastic jokes, teasing
• withering email flames
• status slaps
• public shaming
• rude interruptions
• two faced attacks
• dirty looks
• treating people as if they are invisible

Rules to spot them:
• identify people who consistently leave others feeling demeaned
• see if the victims have less power than their tormentors

difference in how a person treats the powerless as the powerful - best measure of character
Richard Branson test - see how people treat the powerless

Total cost of assholes - factors to consider
• Damage to victims and witnesses
• Distraction from tasks
• More effort devoted to avoiding nasty encounters, coping with them, and avoiding blame
• Less devoted o the task itself
• reduced psychological safety
• learning from failures, learning from others failures,
• forthright discussion, honesty may not be best policy
• loss of motivation and energy at work
• stress induced
• possible impaired mental ability
• prolonged bullying turns victims into assholes
• absenteeism
• turnover in response to abusive supervision and peers
• more time spent at work

Woes of assholes
• victims and witness hesitate to help
• retaliation from victims and witnesses
• humiliation when out-ed
• job loss
• long term career damage

consequences for management
• time spent appeasing, counseling assholes
• time spent cooling out victimized employees, customers, suppliers
• time spent reorganization so that assholes do less damage
• time spent interviewing, training people that have left
• legal and hr management costs
• settlement fees
• impaired ability to attract best and brightest

top 10 steps for enforcing the no asshole rule
• say the rule, right it down, act on it
• assholes will hire other assholes, keep them out of the hiring process
• get rid of assholes fast
• treat certified assholes as incompetent employees
• power breeds nastiness
• embrace the power-performance paradox, have a pecking order but reduce unnecessary status differences
• manage moments not just practices, policies, systems
• model and teach constructive confrontation (fight as if you are right, listen as if you are wrong)
• adopt the one asshole rule, people follow norms better when there are rare examples of bad behavior
• bottom line: link big policies to small decencies

quelling your inner jerk - use ideas and language that make you focus on cooperation

emails/social media - increase asshole behavior - don't get to see people's faces and their interactions

virtues of nastiness
gaining personal power and stature
intimidating and vanquishing rivals
motivating fear-driven performance and perfectionism
brining unfair, clueless, and lazy peopl t otheir senses

Do You Want to Be an Effective Asshole?
1. Expressing anger, even nastiness, can be an effective method for grabbing and keeping power.
2. Nastiness and intimidation are especially effective for vanquishing competitors.
3. If you demean your people to motivate them, alternate it with (at least occasional) encouragement and praise.
4. Create a “toxic tandem.” If you are nasty, team up with someone who can calm people down, clean-up your mess, and who will extract favors and extra work from people because they are so grateful to the “good cop.”
5. Being all asshole, all the time, won’t work.
Why Assholes Fool Themselves: Are You Suffering From Delusions of Effectiveness?
1. You and your organization are effective DESPITE rather than BECAUSE you are a
demeaning jerk.
2. You mistake your successful power grab for organizational success.
3. The news is bad, but people only tell you good news.
4. You are being charged “asshole taxes,” but don’t know it.
5. Your enemies are silent (for now), but the list keeps growing.

Profile Image for Jeff Yoak.
811 reviews41 followers
August 31, 2012
This book seriously rubbed me the wrong way. The author does a little initial work useful in being precise about what he means by "assholes" and offers the rather trivial conclusion that we shouldn't be one, hire them or tolerate them. The rest amounts to foot-stomping at best and bewilderment at worst. Assholes give people the "silent treatment" but in response we should "talk to them as little as possible." Retaliatory behavior as bad or worse than the initial "asshole" behavior is advocated throughout. Can you imagine celebrating bus driver trainers telling new drivers they get three accidents per year without disciplinary action, so to save them up and never have accidental accidents so that they can punish the real asshole drivers they encounter? How about the desirability of keeping one or two assholes around to abuse to make sure to model how not to behave for others?

I found all of this so bad that at times I thought I was being put on. I half-expected the author to come out with something like, "If the last 10 pages have seemed in any way appealing to you, you're probably an asshole." That never happened.
Profile Image for LibraryDanielle.
726 reviews29 followers
July 1, 2015
Dude. Seriously. Wicked disappointed. Quite frankly this just made me mad. I mostly picked this out up for the chapter "Tips For Surviving Nasty People and Workspaces." and it was terrible. terrible.
the advice is:
- reframe the nasty behavior, thinking of it in a different way making it more positive
-become emotionally detached and indifferent
- hope for the best, expect the worst
-lower your expectations
-pick your battles
-bide your time and get revenge (seriously. page 149) !!
I'm sorry, but what? this is HORRIBLE advice. get revenge? are you freaking kidding me?

the not shitty advice was to
-take joy in small wins
- build support
-limit your exposure (which only works of you can)
Profile Image for Jason.
127 reviews20 followers
April 11, 2007
From this book, I learned how to identify a**hole behavior in others and in myself. Sutton's book is a remarkable and frank exploration of how a**hole behavior can destroy organization, and a reminder that such behavior should not be tolerated anywhere. Sutton's blog, [http://bobsutton.typepad.com], should be a must-read for everyone who works in any organization.
Profile Image for Monica.
14 reviews2 followers
January 8, 2012
Manuale per superare i momenti di stronzaggine dei colleghi e dei superiori. Ispirato da un ambiente di lavoro basato sulla società americano è ben trasportato anche nella società italiana. Personalmente mi ha aiutato a raggirare molti ostacoli e a prendere pi alla leggera gli scontri nel mio ambiente lavorativo... alla fine me ne sono andata ma mi è servito per durare un altro po'.
Profile Image for Caroline Gordon.
153 reviews7 followers
October 12, 2015
Anyone living the corporate life should read this book. It's as much about not becoming an asshole yourself as dealing with the ones around you, which is important because the best of us can be reduced to bad behaviour in the wrong environment.
But - I know you really just want the quick story, how do you survive the assholes at work - my choice bits of advice are:
- pick your workplace carefully, try to not to join in the first place if the assholes rule
- if you got it wrong, get out as soon as you can
If you are stuck, for a short or long time in a workplace where the assholes rule try these:
- imagine this metaphor - you just got pushed out of the raft (by the assholes) now they are buffeting you along in the rapids. The standard advice for this is float on your back with your feet in front, so if you hit the rocks you can just push off. So channel this when you get cornered in a meeting with assholes. Put you feet out, ride the rapids and wait for the calm at the bottom. This is not pleasant but it will pass.
- Don't think you need to be an asshole to get ahead, there are many organisations where this is not tolerated and they are more successful for it (studies prove it)
- Steve Jobs is the exception not the rule, and a dangerous exception for giving anyone the licence to think behaving badly will work for them.

Profile Image for Eva.
246 reviews10 followers
March 19, 2018
-увольняй м*даков
-не можешь уволить- не общайся с ними
-не будь сам м*даком

Profile Image for Guida Brown.
219 reviews
January 24, 2014
I admit, I didn't read every word of the book. From the very beginning I found it repetitive. Until I got to page 150; then I found it so offensive I simply stopped reading completely.

I was looking forward to reading The No Asshole Rule because I've worked with assholes, and I wanted to learn how to build a civilized workplace. I didn't learn that from this book, despite the subtitle.

The idea that ANYONE, let alone a Stanford University professor, would suggest adding Ex-Lax to food, knowing it would be stolen and eaten is "funny" and "inspired" made me question everything else written. Then, writing about his friend Sue who, as a union leader, told rookie drivers to use their three permitted "accidents" as punishments for "crazy drivers" as an example when exacting revenge is a small-win strategy for dealing with assholes made me wonder how big an asshole author Robert I. Sutton, PhD, really is.
209 reviews16 followers
January 6, 2016
Not very impressed with this one. It came highly recommended, but I found it shallow, skating by on the shock value its author believes his choice of vocabulary has. I kept waiting for the part where Sutton dished out all the good advice he was promising, and could hardly believe it when I realized the book was ending, it having offered so little.

Here's the advice: You're probably a jerk sometimes even though you think you aren't, and you should stop. When the problem is someone else, try to tune it out until you can find a new job.

There. That was a lot faster than reading this. The most useful advice I got out of it was to monitor my own behavior more closely. I don't recommend this one.
Profile Image for Leili V..
151 reviews2 followers
February 20, 2021
I read this book, yet somehow I am still surrounded by assholes...
Profile Image for Stacey Camp.
Author 5 books59 followers
May 12, 2018
**5 Goodreads Stars**

Have you ever worked at a place where a person or group of people sucked the life out of you, bullied you, or tormented you? Have you ever had a colleague corner you, explode at a meeting, or yell at other employees? If so, Dr. Robert Sutton's The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't provides some solid advice on how to manage workplace bullies, or, in his own words, "assholes." 

This book is bursting with data on how assholes affect a workplace's climate and employees' productivity. As Dr. Sutton puts it, "when people act like assholes, the whole group suffers." For anyone who has been in a workplace where there are bullies, we already know this. I presume those of us who are reading this book are reading it for solutions, though. The solutions are not straightforward, which is why this book is predominantly directed at people who manage employees.

One of the discussions I found particularly useful is how to facilitate a workplace and team where constructive criticism is welcomed. Based upon other workplace models, Sutton recommends that managers teach their employees how to handle critique without feeling personally insulted. In other words, "model and teach constructive confrontation." Towards this end, one tip he offers (from another leader in his field of organizational science/psychology) is "fight as though you are right, listen as if you are wrong." In this model, conflict isn't seen as assholish behavior. Productive conflict is taught, which can weed out assholes who are simply in it to bully others into their way of doing things. Conflict, rather, is done to make a product or publication better and stronger. As Sutton writes about his own experiences collaborating with a colleague on publications, "the more we fight, the better we write."

The problem with assholes is that many companies will tolerate them unless they discriminate against someone (such as racial or gender discrimination). Some people stay quiet out of fear of the person. Sometimes the person blackmails colleagues into believing the will lose their job if they say something. Sometimes a colleague whispers into the ears of weaker colleagues about the colleagues he is bullying, attempting to control and manipulate the narrative about good, non-assholish people.

Many people are tempted to remain quiet because assholes are such dangerous people in the workplace. However, staying quiet and not disciplining an asshole can contaminate a workplace, which is why their behavior should not be tolerated or ignored in the workplace. Employees can contract "assholish" behavior, what Sutton calls "asshole poisoning," simply by witnessing managers and other employees tolerate the asshole's behavior. As Sutton explains, "a swarm of assholes is like a civility vacuum." Unless a business just has one "token asshole" who stands an example of bad employee behavior, assholes are dangerous for corporations, for higher education, and for any workplace. Thus, it is absolutely imperative that workplaces "treat acting like an asshole as though it was a communicable disease."

How can those of us who have to work with assholes (and who aren't in the position to fire or discipline them) deal with them? One tip Sutton provides is to "manage moments." This means you confront the behavior, call the person on it, and absolutely positively refuse to tolerate it. That obviously can be difficult if the asshole is in a position above you or superior to you. Sutton also suggests working on controlling your own behavior around the asshole and not giving in to the temptation to act as they act. Many assholes thrive on conflict and arousing the emotions of others; they see it as a way of controlling others, as a way of "winning."

My takeaway: don't tolerate assholes if you are a manager, no matter what the cost to you. It isn't worth allowing assholes to make your employees miserable and make your workplace climate absolutely intolerable. And for people stuck underneath assholes: leave or speak out. Don't put up with the behavior, and don't become the asshole. 

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Profile Image for Rod Hilton.
150 reviews3,126 followers
July 9, 2015
I heard about "The No Asshole Rule" in a technical conference talk about building out an engineering team. The notion of the book struck me as simultaneously obvious and groundbreaking. The basic premise is this: we all know that it sucks to work with assholes, so let's not beat around the bush and actually formulate an official company policy to not hire assholes.

It made me think back to so many interviews I've done with various candidates over the years, and the pow-wow meetings after where we tried to decide on hiring or not. I remember one in particular, where we all recognized one candidate had a fantastic skillset, and we felt like we'd regret not hiring someone of his caliber. But there were a lot of coded messages in the discussion as well: "I'm worried he may not be a good cultural fit", "will he be an effective member of a team?" and so on. What we were really asking, though I'm not sure we were willing to say so at the time, was "this guy was kind of an asshole, right?" We wound up hiring him and quickly realizing that he was a dipshit, and he became the first person I've ever seen outright fired at that company. For a time, he was actually part of the interview committee as well, and the book was dead on saying that assholes hire other assholes, because he threw a fit about us wanting to hire someone that he despised. He basically made a "him or me" ultimatum, and we chose the candidate over him. If we'd had the No Asshole Rule in place, we could have more openly discussed his assholishness, and decided not to waste our time.

Now, one struggle I had was thinking, well, I'm kind of an asshole. So how does this affect me? Author Robert Sutton's definition of asshole came in very handy for me in this regard. There are two tests for an asshole. Test One, when talking to the asshole, does the target feel oppressed or humiliated? I'm definitely guilty of doing this, so things weren't looking good. But Test Two is, does the asshole aim his or her venom at people who are less powerful? Ah, good, I'm in the clear. My venom is always directed at equally-powerful peers or more powerful individuals. It's true, I can be very blunt with criticism, and I've on more than one occasion called people out for being unprofessional. I've even used the phrase "professionally negligent" a few times. I'm sure this has made people feel bad, but there's something I appreciate about brutal honesty, and I appreciate the same level of honesty directed at myself. But I've never directed this at people who were less senior than me, or in a lower position, generally it was senior engineer to senior engineer. So I guess I'm safe?

The book contains references to a number of studies in which assholish behavior was found to be detrimental at work, as well as a number of stories about specific companies who suffered from assholes, and stories of companies who went out of their way to weed out assholes and were rewarded for it. A lot of these stories and studies, I felt, needed stronger citations. There's a collection of 'Additional Reading' at the end, but the entries aren't cross-indexed with the actual mentions in the book, I'm not sure if a lot of the claims are cited at all. Anecdotes about companies I can understand, but public studies and experiments are another matter, I think they should have been easier to source.

One particularly interesting point made was, if you find you have assholes at your company that you can't do anything about, don't let them be involved in the hiring process, as they're likely to hire additional assholes. The book overall had lots of good tips, I also highlighted the suggestion to "Fight as if you're right, listen as if you're wrong" as a good tactic for conflict resolution at work (or really, in life). My favorite bit: treat certified assholes as incompetent employees. Dead-on.

There are lots of issues I have with the book, however. For all the great advice, it's got plenty of terrible advice as well. There's a very large section on how to deal with assholes at work that you can't get rid of. This follows the sections on how not to hire assholes in the first place, and how to get rid of assholes, so it's reasonable to have a section on how to work in an environment with permanent assholes, or asshole bosses. But I found the advice generally depressing. The advice basically boils down to, "don't let them get to you." One particular story is cited where a woman was being harassed regularly by her co-workers, and in a particularly assholey meeting she just relaxed and didn't care about what people were saying. This example is mentioned repeatedly in the book as a stellar example of how to deal with assholes. At one point the advice is given to "develop indifference and emotional detachment." This just seems like horrible advice to me. Maybe it's because I'm privileged to feel comfortable leaving a hostile job, but the advice seems to boil down to lay down and take it, but don't let it affect you. Man, FUCK THAT. Stand up for yourself, tell asshole dipshits to fuck themselves with a rake, get physical if you have to. Maybe it's pride or machismo or I don't know what, but if I was being treated the way that some of the examples in the book were being treated, there's no scenario that plays out where I just tolerate it and try not to let it bother me. I'd just leave, or make it my life's goal to get that person fired so I didn't have to. I'm absolutely not going to let someone talk to me like that, and nobody else should either. I'm not a human being at home and someone else's doormat in the office; I'm a human being 100% of my day, and I deserve to be treated like one, no exceptions.

In fact, a lot of the "just put up with it and don't let it bother you" advice came off like the kind of advice an asshole would give to people with no backbone, to keep the author and other assholes elevated above everyone (the book acknowledges that assholes do tend to get promotions). It's like the advice a fascist would give to the disenfranchised to keep them quiet. These sections of the book made me wonder about the authors intentions, like maybe he was actually a secret asshole trying to keep oppressed people oppressed for his own benefit. Here are a few choice quotes: "just get through each day until something changes at your job or something better comes along" and "passion is an overrated virtue in organizational life, and indifference is an underrated virtue" and "hide from your tormenters". The book also advises to win little battles against assholes to "sustain your spirit" and tells the story of someone who put laxative in treats that she knew an asshole would eat. This is just petty, childish bullshit (and criminal, in the laxative case). Passive aggressive little wimps and weaklings do stuff like this, and quite frankly it makes me feel like they DESERVE to be stepped on and steamrolled by people. Stand up for yourself, call assholes out for being assholes, and if you get fired for it, so be it. How could you live with yourself saying "yes sir" to someone mistreating you all day every day, but then snickering to yourself because you put ex-lax in his coffee? Just fuck off with all that, grow a pair. Shit.

There's also a section how to keep your inner asshole in check. This was very valuable to me, as I definitely can be an asshole, and it's probably something I should reign in. That being said, the book acknowledges the advantages to being an asshole, especially with regards to promotions and rewards. And I've seen the same thing in my professional career, the assholes tend to stand out among the crowd, and are promoted to leadership positions for it. In recent years, I've actually tried to be MORE of an asshole because I've seen the advantages it offers and yes, I've seen it work quite well for me. I almost want to separate Assholes into two categories: Truth-tellers and Bullies. The key difference between these two kinds of assholes is that Bullies punch downward while Truth-tellers punch upward (and sideways). Both kinds of assholes seem to get rewarded for it, but I have few qualms about being a Truth-teller. Being a truth-teller gives you so much practice acting like an asshole that it's easy to transition into Bullying, and I need to be careful about that - that's good advice. But don't throw out the baby with the bathwater, there are nontrivial virtues to asshole behavior, and it's easy to live with yourself while being an asshole as long as you aren't picking on people who are lower on the foodchain.

Overall, the sections of the book about not hiring assholes, and making The No Asshole Rule an official policy at your company are great. The discussions about how to treat assholes at work, and how to get rid of them are excellent. But the sections on how to tolerate assholes at work made me depressed, and even angry at both the author and the would-be advice-follower. I highlighted a lot of things from the book, and I think I've come away from it a better person (or at least, with a heightened awareness of when I cross over into Certified Asshole territory). I think the book is worth reading for anyone who is in a position of power at their company, such as managers (to avoid being assholes), or people with enough seniority that they do interviews for new team members (to avoid hiring assholes). But for lower ranks who want to simply know how to deal with assholes at work they can't do anything about, I don't recommend this book. For those people, it's full of passive aggressive little nuggets of immaturity, and advice to mentally check out of work and just hope the problem goes away. I cannot stress enough how repulsive I find that advice, and how much more effective I think it would be for those people to simply fight fire with fire and become assholes themselves. Being an asshole sucks, but it's better to be an asshole than a coward.
Profile Image for Jenny.
192 reviews35 followers
November 22, 2019
DNF at ~50%, pretty lacklustre with not much depth of analysis or any consistent theoretical framework.
967 reviews6 followers
November 26, 2021
My work career is almost completed and I have come across a number of assholes during that time. This is a fabulous book giving you a good recipe for how to deal with the assholes at work, why they’re assholes, and how not to be when yourself. He even has a chapter on how sometimes being an asshole can be a good thing as long as you don’t go overboard.
Profile Image for june3.
316 reviews2 followers
September 10, 2019
This book started out so well and turned into a serious disappointment.
Two stars for addressing an important topic and for the opening vignette, but that's it.

Dr. Sutton starts the book with a story from his own experience as a young professor with very poor teaching skills. He worked very hard to improve and was proud to win a student-voted teaching award three years later. A senior colleague denigrates these efforts with a carefully placed dagger, letting him know that this was trivial and meaningless. Score, 10 points!!

Dr. Sutton's tale reminds me of something that happened a while back to a friend of mine. He had published a very important paper in a prominent journal. The head of his department congratulated him, and in the same breath noted that he could now take some time to relax and get in shape and lose some weight. Rim shot!!

No argument, these people are everywhere (especially academia). They are largely insecure and belittle (or torment) others beneath them in the pecking order to make themselves feel better, if only momentarily. There is no way to change them or appease them, they are incorrigible, and, despite much well-meaning talk, no one really makes any effort to exclude them if they bring recognition, money, status, perceived or otherwise to the organizational structure. In fact, many of these people win awards for being superior mentors, leaders and humanitarians.

So what's wrong with the book? Despite the great start, the text is fairly repetitive and contains little useful substance. Dr. Sutton describes an instance where he and his department members confer and make efforts to exclude individuals who might destroy their pleasant, affable workplace culture. That's nice, on what planet can this work for real people? There was a whole lot of reference to research on how pleasant workplaces are more productive. Most of us would agree wholeheartedly from our own experience. So why are so many of us looking for books like this?

The section on how to handle a toxic workplace was decent, although not highly original or thoughtful. Not clearly noted - one's methods and success in dealing with toxic individuals will depend directly on one's place in the power hierarchy. As in, easier for tenured faculty, not so much for the contract secretarial staff.

Unfortunately, I think Dr. Sutton has a bit of a blind spot himself about the effectiveness of bad behavior. While those of us who do not like working with these people (and I include myself in this group) may choose not to believe it, bad behavior in the workplace is actually highly effective. Individuals who act this way are feared but respected. They are encouraged, they are promoted and they are rewarded. If anyone dares complain, a reprimand (or worse) is sure to follow.

This is largely why the people who can get away with it continue to behave this way. Not really all that hard to understand.
Profile Image for Sean O.
727 reviews25 followers
February 22, 2017
Lets say that you're being exposed to a bullying asshole. Everywhere you turn, you see this clown, and the things he says makes you sad and depressed and ineffective.

Sound familiar?

This book is about that guy. How to identify him (easy), how to limit him (hard), how to see it in yourself (harder), and how to deal with it when you can't do anything about it (hardest.)

Basically being an asshole is five times harder on everyone else. Do yourself a favor and get rid of the asshole.

Recommended to anyone who has an asshole at work. And all Americans.
Profile Image for Haidee Cardoso.
11 reviews3 followers
March 2, 2021
I ended up reading this for my Library Management class. While it does make interesting points and observations, it is certainly outdated to today's times. For example, this book was published in 2007, before Facebook became huge and before the internet was filled with internet trolls. I think his compare and contrast with a "temporary a**hole" and "certified a**hole" was intriguing.

I liked reading about the data of certain companies Sutton talks about, particularly Costco and how they keep a**holes to a minimum. But based on personal observations, this creates a new set of challenges for outsiders like how it's impossible to get a job with the company because no one seems to ever quit.

I would recommend this book to anyone who works with a**holes. It doesn't really provide much solutions, but it does provide a closer look into this workplace phenomenon.
Profile Image for Laura.
1,169 reviews121 followers
August 6, 2017
So I’ve somehow found myself in management, and I’m trying to figure out how to do it. This book came well recommended. Heavy on the “don’t hire assholes.” A little light on survival strategies when they are there already. Among this book’s bits:

1. Proposes two tests for determining if someone is 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 venon at people who are less powerful rather than at those who are more powerful?


2. “Assholes have devastating cumulative effects partly because nasty interactions have a far bigger impact on our moods than positive interactions – five times the punch, according to recent research.” 30.

3. big study in the UK determined that for companies of a 1000 people, the average annual cost of bullying was just shy of $2 million in replacement costs alone. 45-46.

4. If you can’t get rid of your assholes, DO NOT LET THEM ON YOUR HIRING COMMITTEES because “assholes will breed like rabbits.” 66.

5. Emotional contagion spreads asshole behavior. “[A]cting like an asshole is a communicable disease. Once you unleash distain, anger, and contempt or someone unleashes it on you, it spreads like wildfire.” 96.

6. “It’s easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.” Don’t hire them; don’t take jobs with them.

7. People react differently to confrontation all the way down to cortisol levels. 117.

8. There is a helpful self test to figure out if you are an asshole. https://www.electricpulp.com/guykawas.... 124-26.

9. There’s no moral imperative to be passionate about a job where they don’t treat you with dignity and respect. 136.

10. If you have to work with an asshole, go for small wins. 147.
Profile Image for Angela Risner.
334 reviews14 followers
June 5, 2012
I came across this book about 2 years ago when I was tasked with buying some behavioral training books for a group event. I saw the title and knew exactly the person who deserved it the most. But I also knew that the person would only be offended and not learn anything.

I was reminded of the title recently by another event and decided to finally read it. And I’m so glad that I did!

The book is a very easy read, filled with stories about, well, assholes. I don’t think that I need to define what an asshole is, as we’ve all known at least one.

So what does the No Asshole Rule mean? It means that your business makes it a point to avoid hiring assholes. It means that even though you might be a high performer, making the sales, if you treat your coworkers poorly, you’re out. It means that if your customer is abusive to your employees, they are out.

The book references study after study that shows how assholes bring down your business. You can even do a cost analysis of how a particular asshole is costing you money:

from the stress s/he puts on other employees who then either end up calling off sick or quitting.
from the customers who leave because of his/her behavior.
turning other employees into assholes (it only takes one to ruin an entire bunch).
time the manager will spend calming the other employees.
reduced output as no one can focus on work.

The No Asshole Rule does not say that there will never be constructive conflict at work – your business needs that as well. It does suggest that you offer your employees training on how to fight with the facts and leave the emotion at home.

All in all, it’s a fabulous book about human behavior that can be applied in all of your relationships. I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Mardra.
Author 6 books10 followers
September 24, 2012
Leading with the title, Sutton’s style is forthright, to the point – honest. Don’t let this fool you into thinking the book is filled with crassness or undocumented rants. In fact, the rules listed are concrete, well researched and documented. Sutton references case studies from companies of all sizes including Disney and Intel. He includes facts from research studies on bullying and its affects on people in both childhood and workplace environments. In addition he keeps the tone personal with antidotes from his own experiences.

The section “Teach People How to Fight” early in the book is worth the cover price alone. Sutton recognizes that “the only thing worse than too much confrontation is no confrontation at all.” Organizations poised for growth and improvement must have disagreements to get to the best possible outcome. While recognizing personal feelings affect each moment, learning healthy confrontation is imperative to a company’s capacity for improvement. Sutton’s tips should be shared in every boardroom, production meeting hall, and R&D forum.

Sutton goes on to teach recognition of your own asshole tendencies, including instruction on the high tech MIT gadget the Jerk-O-Meter. He continues with tips on how to “survive nasty people and work places.” A topic many readers will benefit from reading and implementing.
Profile Image for Putu.
37 reviews3 followers
February 19, 2009
Buku ini gwe beli sebagai referensi terhadap keadaan gw pada waktu itu. Ternyata ada beberapa perusahaan yg menolak adanya asshole di dalam perusahaan mereka. Emang sih -dalam buku disebutkan- kalau orang asshole itu justru adalah orang-orang yang top performance...they have great egos and know how to please the bosses. Huhu, dan gwe baru sadar ternyata buku ini telah berpindah tangan jadi milik bos EkA. Ya ngga apa2 lah...buat kenang2n deh Pak E!!
Profile Image for Timofey Peters.
391 reviews14 followers
October 18, 2017
В книге описаны различные типы мудаков в организации, вред от них, рекомендации по избавлению и методы диагностики «а не мудак ли я». В нашей маленькой компании мудаков нет ни внутри, ни снаружи. И мы не работаем с ними даже за деньги.
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