The No Asshole Rule | By Robert I. Sutton

Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

About Robert I. Sutton:

Robert I. Sutton is Professor of Management Science and Engineering in the Stanford Engineering School, where he is Co-Director of the Center for Work, Technology, and Organization, an active researcher and cofounder in the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, and a cofounder and active member of the new "," a multi-disciplinary program that teaches and spreads "design thinking." Sutton is also an IDEO Fellow and a Professor of Organizational Behavior, by courtesy, at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Why You Need this Book

The No Asshole Rule shows you how to keep tough-to-deal-with people out of your workplace, how to reform those you are stuck with, how to expel those who can't or won't change their ways, and how to limit the damage that these people can cause.

Author Robert Sutton confronts this topic simply and directly, and provides extensive and easy-to-use strategies into how these kinds of negative characters can be understood,

identified and dealt with, or eliminated, for good. He delves into the theories concerning assholes and comes up with some surprising revelations and discoveries not the least among them that many among us may be assholes in our own ways and how to deal with these as well in order to improve the organizations we work for.

What Workplace Assholes Do and Why You Know So Many

Who deserves to be branded as an asshole? It is first important to be able to identify assholes properly. How do we know we're not distinguishing between people we simply dislike and those who really deserve the label?

We need to be able to distinguish between those who are simply having a bad day from those who are persistently or consistently nasty and destructive.

Here are two quick tests:

Test One: After talking to the alleged asshole, does the “target” feel oppressed,

humiliated, belittled or de-energized by the person? Does the “target”, as a result, feel

worse about him- or herself?

Test Two: Does the alleged asshole aim his or her venom at people who are less

powerful rather than at those who are more powerful?

It's obvious that assholes operate differently some do their damage through open rage and

arrogance, while others have enough skill and emotional control to act as assholes quietly and privately and are far less obvious.

To be more specific, here are twelve common

everyday actions that assholes use to do their

dirty work and which illustrate the range of

behavior that assholes can use.

1. Personal insults

2. Invading one's “physical territory”

3. Uninvited physical contact

4. Verbal and nonverbal threats and intimidation

5. “Sarcastic jokes” and “teasing” used as insult delivery systems

6. Withering email flames

7. Status slaps designed to humiliate victims

8. Public shaming or “status degradation” rituals

9. Rude interruptions

10. Two-faced attacks

11. Dirty looks

12. Treating people like they're invisible

There are also such things as temporary and certified assholes. The former are only considered assholes because of one or two events; the latter display persistent patterns and have histories of episodes where they put people down.

The Damage Done: Why Every Workplace Needs the No-Asshole Rule

The effects of assholes are so devastating because they sap people of their energy and

self-esteem mostly through the accumulated effects of small, demeaning acts, not so much

through large dramatic episodes. Tiny indignities take their toll and add up as we

go along our workdays. They have cumulative effects on our mental health and our

commitments to our bosses, peers and the organizations we work for. Research shows that negative interactions have a fivefold stronger effect on mood than positive interactions, showing that nasty people pack a larger punch than their more civilized counterparts! In addition, assholes also damage more than just their intended targets. Coworkers, family members or friends who watch or even just hear about these ugly incidents, may

also be damaged as well. Organization-wise, assholes' actions result in increased turnover, absenteeism, decreased commitment to work, distraction and impaired individual performance.

How to Stop Your “Inner Jerk” from Coming Out

Here is a cautionary note: we all have to realize that it's all too easy to become assholes


Even the most naturally kind and mentally healthy people can turn caustic and cruel under

the wrong conditions. The pressure of most jobs makes it difficult to get through one's

workday without (at least occasionally) losing one's control and becoming a creep.

The first step towards not going down this path is to view acting like an asshole as a

communicable disease. If you join a group filled with jerks, the odds are that you will catch their disease you'll end up just like them. Don't give in to the temptation to join them in the first place. Better yet, stay away as much as you can or simply walk out. Or, if you are stressed out and pressured, take a step back before you say something nasty that you might end up regretting.

When Assholes Reign: Tips for Surviving Nasty People and Workplaces

This section is for those who, for whatever reason, are unable to easily and quickly leave an office or company where assholes rule the roost and/or for those who can't leave said offices at all. Some survival tips:

1. Reframe: change how you see things. If you can't escape a source of stress, changing your mindset about what is happening to you or reframing can help reduce the damage done to you. For instance, you could try the following.

  1. Avoiding Self-blame

  2. Hoping for the best while expecting the worst.

  3. Developing indifference and Emotional attachment

  4. Look for small wins

  5. Simply limit your exposures

  6. Fight and win the small battles

The No Asshole Rule as a Way of Life

To sum up the preceding chapters and the entire book, here are seven key lessons about the No Asshole Rule.

1. A few demeaning creeps can overwhelm the warm feelings generated by lots of civilized people. Negative interactions have five times the effect on mood than positive ones.

2. Talking about the no asshole rule is nice... But following up on it is what really matters-- far more than just talking about it or marketing it in the first place.

3. The rule lives or dies in the little moments. Having all the right philosophies and practices and strategies to support the no asshole rule is useless unless you treat the person with you right now in the right way. This is an elaboration of the preceding point.

4. Should you keep a few assholes around? Very bad people can be a good thing if handled right. However, assholes breed like rabbits; their poison easily infects others. So be very careful if you decide to keep some assholes around for this reason or if you cannot get rid of some of them easily.

5. Enforcing the no asshole rule isn't just management's job. Because it's not just

those in management who might end up as assholes and/or who are obligated to do

something about an asshole wreaking havoc in the company. Everyone in the

organization has to step in to enforce this rule if necessary!

6. Embarrassment and pride are powerful motivators. People will go to great lengths to

save face and feel respected, and avoid shame and embarrassment. In organizations where the no asshole rule is king, people who follow it and refuse to let others break it are rewarded with respect and approval; those who do break it are faced down.

7. Lastly, assholes are us. Everyone has been an asshole at one time or another (or

maybe even more than once...). If you want to build an asshole-free environment, start

by looking in the mirror, maybe admit that you have been an asshole in the first place,

and resolve to change your company for the better by doing something about it.

Take these lessons to heart and begin to pave the way for an asshole-free company, one that

everyone will beat a path to.

Hope you enjoyed reading!