The Asshole Rating Self-Exam (Or ARSE test) started as a 24-item self-test in Chapter 4 of The No Asshole Rule. This chapter is about 'How to Stop Your Inner Jerk from Getting Out." It emphasizes that any of us, in the wrong setting, can turn into assholes -- in particular, following research on emotional contagion and the behavior changes that occur among people who work for nasty bosses, it emphasizes that if you join a group or company that is knee-deep in assholes, odds are that you will become just like the rest of th jerks around you. The chapter also proposes that -- while settings are powerful -- there are some people who are more prone to act like jerks regardless of their group or company. And it makes the point that, if you are worried about being a certified asshole, the first step is realizing that you are an asshole. So, with help from my wife Marina, I developed the 24 item self-test in the book.
Then Guy Kawasaki and the folks from Electric Pulp took the 24-item test and put online on February 5th, 2007 -- just a couple weeks before The No Asshole Rule -- was released. Since then, people have been filling out like the ARSE Test like crazy. I have since received several hundred emails from people bragging that they weren't assholes, bragging that they were assholes, and expressing concern that -- when they took it for a boss or co-worker -- that they realized that they were working a flaming asshole. In a couple recent cases, I had managers write me to ask if i did executive coaching because, after taking the test, they realized that their inner jerk was rearing its head too often. And I have had at least two people write me to say that, after taking the test "for" a boss, they started searching for another job, and were happy to report that people were more civilized in their new workplace.
I was delighted to get an email from Aaron Mentele of Electric Pulp this morning announcing that ARSE completions had passed 100,000 (100,446), with the final push coming from a post I put up on Huffington. So the self examination continues!
Finally, on a serious note I am wary of instant cures of any kind, and the ARSE Test isn't a scientifically validated test, So please be cautious about putting too much weight on it -- use it as just one piece of information. But I am glad that it has helped some people out there think more deeply about their own behavior and the settings where they work.
And I would also caution that, if you do decide that you are a certified asshole and want to stamp out such behavior in yourself and your organization, beware that "recovering assholes" are not always well-suited to this task. As my teenage son likes to say, "Just because you suffer from an affliction does not make you an expert on it."