Bob Sutton’s ‘No Asshole Rule
post # 224 — October 26, 2006 — a Careers, Managing post
Bob Sutton, for those of you who donâ€™t know him, is a Stanford professor who has written some superb business books (including the co-authored Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense.)
He has a new (200-page) book coming out in February called â€œThe No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isnâ€™tâ€.
Many of you may be aware of his themes, because Bob has a terrific blog and has been talking about the topics of his new book in a number of posts.
As you would expect from Bob, itâ€™s a terrific book — a true â€˜must read.â€™
The theme is clear from the title, but the chapter that really got me was â€œHow to Stop Your â€˜Inner Jerkâ€™ From Getting Out.â€ In other words, how to stop being an asshole yourself.
Bob notes that we all act as assholes sometimes. â€œMost of us, even the most â€˜naturallyâ€ kind and mentally healthy, can turn caustic and cruel under the wrong conditions,â€ he writes. He also points out that â€œonce you unleash disdain, anger and contempt or someone unleashes it on you, it spreads like wildfire. â€¦If you join a group filled with jerks, odds are you will catch their disease.â€
Bob covers a lot of territory in his book. What assholes do, and why you know so many. Why every workplace needs the â€œno assholeâ€ rule. How to keep the rule alive. Tips for surviving nasty people and workplaces. And, to be fair, the virtues of assholes.
Without a doubt, this book will make you think. Iâ€™m just sorry youâ€™ll have to wait until February to get it.
In the interim, let me try to start a dialogue based on Bobâ€™s ideas.
I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve ever been the type of asshole who transgresses Bobâ€™s two tests ( first, making other people feel humiliated, de-energized and belittled and second, aiming venom at people who are less powerful than me.)
But there are other ways of being the primary asshole in the room without going that far.
Not in Bobâ€™s sense of the truly nasty person, but nevertheless saying or doing inappropriate things. Bobâ€™s book says that past performance is a good predictor of future performance and one of the good ways to avoid being an asshole in the future is to figure out when and why you have been one in the past.
So, under what circumstances have you found (past tense, of corse) that you yourself ended up being the asshole?
Hereâ€™s the beginnings of my list:
I have been the asshole when:
- I got overexcited and overenthused on a topic (I lose my sense of proportion , just keep trying to make my point and donâ€™t let people finish their sentences)
- I got tired
- Three things went wrong in a row. Two I can handle, but make it three and I lose it.
- I was asked to do more than one thing at a time. Iâ€™m not a multitasker, and I get shirty when people interrupt my concentration.
- I got criticized too directly (I reacted badly)
- I felt like Iâ€™m not being treated with respect
- I was trying too hard to â€˜show off.â€™
Anyone else wanna play this game?
Under what circumstances do you become the asshole?
Carl A. Singer said:
Perhaps all replies to this one should be anonymous.
I thought of responding to your question with something like …. “When I get up in the morning”
I think, truthfully, it is most often in response to someone else’s behavior.
The other day I was in a deli having lunch with my boss. Someone at a nearby table saw a friend and motioned him over — the two were standing about six inches from my ear and having a very loud conversation — After a minute or so, I turned around in my chair and firmly spoke at them “Am I disturbing your lunch!” — clearly I could have been civil (“Excuse me please ….”) but perhaps my (New York) environment is rubbing off on me. Then again, they did move away — so perhaps I can talk myself into believing that my behavior was justified.
Not to overanalyze but we might speak of the situational (as above) when we know we could have handled things differently in constrast to those (fortunately few) among the people we interact with who consistently behave in such a manner.
posted on October 26, 2006