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

6. The Virtues of Assholes

  • Some people exhibit asshole behavior but still manage to get the people around them to succeed. The poster child for this is Steve Jobs as everyone who knew Steve has an asshole story. Research does show that rewards are more effective than punishments, but people will work to avoid punishment. The key is that effective assholes are not nasty all of the time. There may be times when it is useful to play the part of an asshole to get something you need or deserve. Playing one and being one, however, are not the same thing. Assholes often suffer from asshole taxes. Service providers, for example, will often charge premium rates to nasty clients.

7. The No Asshole Rule as a Way of Life

  • Here is a bit of review featuring Sutton’s seven principals. They include: 1) A few demeaning creeps can overwhelm many civilized people. Negative interactions have five times the effect positive ones. 2) Talking about the rule is fine, but not of much use if people don’t act on it. 3) Little moments matter. You need to treat the person right in front of you right now, in the right way. 4) Should you keep a few assholes around? No, their negative behavior is far too contagious. 5) Enforcing the rule is not just management’s job. 6) Embarrassment and pride are powerful motivators. People will go to extreme lengths to save face, feel respected, and avoid embarrassment. 7) Assholes are us. Start by looking in the mirror and remember that admitting to bad behavior on occasion is the first step to avoiding it in the future.


  • Since publishing this book in 2007, Sutton has found that people often refer to him as The Asshole Guy. In this section, he shares some of his experiences after publication. Many churches have adopted the book and used it for sermons and adult programs. One priest told him it should be required reading for every priest as it is just a subset of the golden rule. The title has been problematic as many outlets have censored it. He also tells stories of people who shared the book with their bosses and were soon fired.
  • Surveys find that people are 80 times more likely to report being bullied at work than they are to admit bullying. Since this can’t possibly be true, it should help us focus more on how we behave. It is too easy to be a jerk when you are the boss. Sutton warns not to use the A word if you are telling someone that they are being unkind as that can be an asshole move. Many people sending Sutton email talk about how implementing the rule has improved their culture. He has also heard from recovering assholes who have recognized that their behavior needed to be changed. The final takeaway is that organizations need to push the delete button on assholes as soon as possible.
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