Thursday, April 15, 2021

The No Asshole Rule


The No Asshole Rule

Book stresses curbing vile workplace behavior

It may no longer be necessary to tolerate really bad behavior in the workplace, according to this new book, which also discusses how to modify the behavior of habitual offenders.



Originally published in The Miami Herald on 4/2/07


The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't. Robert I. Sutton. Warner Business Books. 210 Pages.


Are you an asshole?


Of course not.


But if you were, you probably would not admit it. After all, bad guys rarely consider themselves villains, and even the most misguided or murderous dictator usually claims a higher purpose. The people that author Robert Sutton writes about in this bracing new book are often oblivious to the unacceptability of their behavior.


Yet, almost every workplace seems to have several jerks who regularly run roughshod over others' rights and feelings. Most of us have toiled with weasels who blamed us for their own incompetence, laziness or malfeasance. Some may have even messed with us for the own amusement — or just because they could. I sure could tell you a few delightful stories, in fact, but as Don Corleone wisely declared, "This is business, not personal.''




In recent years, a new term for this stuff has gained popularity, both in the workplace and in academic settings: bullying. That's what it is. Employees who abuse their authority are craven bullies. Just as principals and teachers have come to recognize the corrosive and dehumanizing effects of such behavior, so too, have a growing number of employers.


It's not just bosses abusing subordinates; hostile words and/or actions directed at co-workers are also counterproductive and a waste of time and money. Sutton tells of a company in the UK that itemized the costs of the aberrant and abhorrent behavior of one such scoundrel and presented him with a bill for the expenses the company incurred as a result of his antics. Though commendable, the author points out that it's still a half-measure and that the firm really should have just fired the bad bloke.


Sutton provides a very solid and honest examination of the phenomenon but is not above recounting his own behavior when it veered near the precipice of iniquity. And there's a large dose of good-natured humor throughout the text, as any genuine discussion of human behavior must include, but he's also pragmatic. Despite his solid academic credentials, he is well acquainted with the world beyond the ivy-covered walls.




While the diverse examples and knowing asides Sutton invokes are interesting and reveal the ubiquity and universality of purposefully intemperate conduct, he also discusses a number of possible reactions and remedies. There is a lot of humor in his anecdote about the put-upon office worker whose boss always ate the food on her desk. The disgruntled employee left some chocolate laxatives for the transgressor -- with the expected results -- but the ideal approach to handling such situations varies, Sutton explains. Too often, however, management can't or won't take matters seriously until a subpoena or lawsuit serves as a wake-up call.


Even more interesting to me is Sutton's informal survey of organizations that actually implement the dictum of this book's title. It's tough, for example, to toss out a top performer who is otherwise a total SOB, but companies that are truly serious about creating and maintaining a positive and non-threatening workplace are well worth exploring.


Don't you wonder if any of 'em are hiring?

No comments: