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

Posted April 27, 2011 in Communication, Leadership, What We're Reading

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

Reviewed by: Glain Roberts-McCabe

The Premise: In Bob Sutton’s pre-release to his most recent book (Good Boss, Bad Boss) he zeroes in on the epidemic of bad (actually, abusive) behaviour in the workplace and its effect on individuals and the bottom-line. This easy-to-read book walks through the varying degrees of “assholeness” that are inflicting our workplaces: from borderline assholes to certified assholes and everything in between. Using psychology and research, Sutton shares his own personal experiences along with organizational horror stories of nightmare behaviour… typically exhibited by leaders. The book provides not only tips on how to deal with a bad boss, but also red flags for leaders who may find themselves crossing over into asshole territory – which is easier to do than one may wish to believe. Power corrupts! Sutton also shares stories of organizations that have embedded policies that limit “asshole” behaviour and even bravely looks at the virtues of being an asshole.

The Bottom-line: This is a very quick, conversational read that should make anyone in a leadership role gulp and look in the mirror to see where they may be falling on the “asshole” spectrum. Bad workplace behaviour, especially from people who get results, is so common place it’s depressing. An interesting factoid I got from this book was about Apple’s Steve Jobs. When Sutton wrote it in ‘07, he googled “Steve Jobs” + “asshole” and got 89,400 matches. Do it now and you’ll get over 377,000. Unfortunately, there are some incredibly talented jerks out there but does that make it excusable to behave like one? My answer is quite simply “no”. Being an asshole who gets results isn’t the same as being a leader. And let’s face it, it’s not good for business in the long run either. Apple without Jobs is clearly at risk – every time his health seems to deteriorate, stocks take a hit. Leadership is about building the team, not being the smartest person in the room. Fortunately, with new anti-bullying legislation in effect (in Ontario it’s under Bill 168), employees have the law on their side. Whether you’re working for an asshole, want to bullet proof your team from assholes, or need to understand what the warning signs for becoming one are, this book is for you.

Roundtable Rating: Good read. Some great advice and warning signs to be heeded.

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