The No Asshole Rule.

Author:Ellet, Bill

The No Asshole Rule, by Robert I. Sutton, Book, 2007, Warner Books, Inc., $22.99.

I am guessing that the publisher and author gave some thought to the shock value of the title of The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn't. Not a bad way to cut through the clutter that American book publishing puts out each year.

It isn't the title of the book that matters but its topic. Someone has written a book that describes what all of us have experienced at work and as customers and has even used the word that many of us often use for the perpetrators.

The weird thing is that the book has so little company. You can find business books and training videos that tell you how to deal with "difficult" people. Given the amount of this material, it stands to reason workplaces are populated by difficult people and other people have trouble knowing how to handle them.

So why aren't there more books and media products about putting limits on how difficult people can be at work? The term "difficult" suggests one reason. I suppose it is meant to be a big tent for all the varieties of workplace behavior that typically cause some kind of conflict. But I think it's often used as a euphemism to get around the pungent colloquial terms for those who aren't just chronically hard to get along with but regularly harm others.

Robert Sutton, author of The No Asshole Rule, is a professor at Stanford and caused quite a stir when he published an article on assholes in the Harvard Business Review.

He provides a definition of a workplace asshole that involves two tests:

  1. Does the other person feel worse about him or herself after an interaction with an individual?

  2. Does this individual typically aim abuse at less powerful, not more powerful, people?

Besides this useful working definition, Sutton...

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