The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t by Robert I. Sutton

2. The Damage Done: Why Every Workplace Needs the Rule

  • This rule is necessary as mean-spirited people do massive damage. They drive people out and sap effectiveness. Small indignities accumulate. Nasty interactions have a far bigger impact than positive interactions. Perhaps five times as much. Negative interactions also impact other people who interact with the victim. Jerks are also victims of their own actions. Organizations that shelter assholes risk great legal claims that are easier to prove when open hostility runs rampant. When fear rears its head people focus on protecting themselves rather than on the organization’s progress. The end of this chapter deals with calculating the total cost of assholes (TCA) to an organization.

3. How to Implement the Rule, Enforce It, and Keep it Alive

  • Some think that you are a big winner if you can get away with being an asshole. What you want to foster, however, is a workplace where it isn’t efficient to be one. People are often hired and fired for their attitude. Every organization will have occasional outbreaks of temporary assholes. The key is to deal with them immediately so they can apologize and move on. The rule needs to be made public throughout the organization. You should apply it to customers and everyone else encountered on the job. Having a policy and some training isn’t enough. You have to focus on what’s happening in every conversation. Keep in mind that power can breed nastiness, so watch out when you give someone power. Make sure that conversations focus on the problems at hand and not on the people in the room.
  • Hiring in critical. (Doug: I thought it was the most important thing I did as a principal.) If you screen people who already have professional competence, you can focus your interview process on human qualities or lack thereof. Interview committees should be composed of peers, superiors, and subordinates. People tend to hire people who are like themselves. If your company has one or more high performing assholes, don’t hesitate to let them go. In many cases, the performance of others will increase with the asshole all-star gone.
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One Response to “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t by Robert I. Sutton”

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