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» The enemies of doing from The Art of Doing
Theres a new book out by one of The Department of Doings favourite people - Bob Sutton. Professor Sutton was co-writer of The Knowing-Doing Gap, a must-read for any aspirant doers. His latest is The No Asshole Rule... [Read More]

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Reillyn

Carnegie Mellon University has an offbeat student organization called KGB who hosts one game of Capture the Flag with Stuff per semester. It's rather complex, but the main rule of the game, known to players as Rule 0, is simple: Don't be a jackass. If you scroll down to the bottom of the rules, it's in bold in the largest font of any of them.
Link: http://www.cmukgb.org/activities/ctfws/full.php

Russ Helms

Dear Dr. Sutton,

At our company, we have introduced “Results, Relationships, and Impact” as the core expectations for all employees. The “Relationships and Impact” expectations rely heavily on the concepts you laid out in “The No Asshole Rule.”

The “Results” part has its roots in the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). The gist of ROWE is that it doesn’t matter how you do your work, when you do your work, or where you do your work, just that you produce results. What this concept lacked, however, is the understanding that there are some aspects of how work gets done that matter a great deal. We do care how our customers are treated. We do care how co-workers treat each other. We do care about performing quality work in an ethical way. Results-only cannot mean results at any cost. That is where relationships and impact come in. Results matter, but we do not and will not reward or accept behavior that generates results at the expense of building relationships and having a positive impact.

Central to the expectations of Relationships and Impact is a commitment to building a civilized work place. We will not tolerate jerks, bullies, or Eeyores. We avoid hiring individuals that exhibit this behavior, we do not reward those who produce results through this behavior and, in extreme cases, we have dismissed employees who choose to continue this behavior.

At the senior management level, we started talking about, and to some extent using, these concepts about two years ago. We broadened that conversation to include the entire company about a year ago. There are two concrete steps we’ve taken to implement this:

• It is OK and increasingly expected that employees confront behavior that is intentionally hurtful and negative. To that end, we have provided peer-to-peer feedback training for employees at all levels.

• We now have a member of senior management interview every potential new hire for cultural fit.

It hasn’t always been easy, but we are beginning to see a change for the positive. Thank you for being a big part of our inspiration for this change.

MD

I think the book is great. Sadly, the assertion that "it does not pay to be an asshole in open-source world" is not true. It may be true of Mozilla specifically, I don't have experience with them, but not of the community as a whole. Just witness the effort (successful, but with a lot of objections/resistance still) to create a conference anti-harassment policy, which came as a result of a long series of incidents. That's the main reason very few women are in open source software, the environment is often really hostile.

http://geekfeminism.org/2011/12/06/example-conference-anti-harassment-policy-turns-one-year-old/

I personally think the open source world as a whole would benefit enormously from applying the "no asshole rule".

 S Romig

Bob,
wonderful book, short but perfect length. I noticed one notable instuitution missing in your list: Stanford. Beyond your department, are your principles adopted there as well?

Remy Gervais

Bob, this book was beyond awesome. I quoted you today in my post www.thegazellegoal.com I hope you enjoy it! Thank you for what you do. Remy Gervais, The Gazelle Goal

Nein Butzheadz

Bob - I work for a Fortune 500 firm. I had a lot of fun reading your book and thinking of examples of the behaviors described that fit people in my company. As I shared with colleagues I realized I was not alone in observing these behaviors. I've started buying your book and mailing it to the most flagrant offenders (yes, anonymously). It may never accomplish anything, but it makes me feel better! Several colleagues have started doing the same thing - perhaps the message will sink in with a grass roots effort.

Barbie

Hi Bob!

I know everyone above me have addressed you as Mr. Sutton, but your book certainly provided me great insights on how to go about my daily tasks at work. Your insights, research and personal experience have somehow made me feel that you were somewhat of a colleague more than just an author of a best selling book. I am working as a Director of Operations in a company with 600 employees in 2 locations, and I was hugely convicted when you mentioned that being a jerk is sometimes being heralded, especially if they are good at what they do. This taught me to think that "assholedom" should really be treated as incompetence. Your book changed the way I look at things everyday, and you have no idea how this allows me to do better at my job and influence others to do the same.

The No Asshole Rule is now one of the best books I've ever read in my lifetime. You do great work and treat people well. It will never be one without the other!

Deborah Edgar

It's really more of a question. I am currently working on a team to design and promote "strategic compensation" in the school system. On page 74 of The No Asshole Rule you state that ...when the difference between the highest paid and lowest paid...where can I find the host of studies to support that? I think it's a really bad idea but the government (Race to the Top) is requiring it. Thank you.

Binaraga

"No Asshole Rules" is really a fantastic book which has lots of sattires as well. Actually I love book with sattires, that's why this book attracted me so much.

runbei

I watched a major Silicon Valley implode because despite a wonderful, serviceful product line, it was pervaded by assholes - and their targets. On the flip side, I've lived in yoga-based communities for 34 of my 68 years. Meetings and management here are harmonious to a degree that "outsiders" would probably find incredible. My message to the many commenters who suffer under assholes is that life is too short to simply endure, or to hope to change assholes. In the Ananda communities, I've seen that assholes always self-select themselves out. They can't stand being in the company of so many positive people. If you see a hope of creating that kind of positively weighted atmosphere, fine - gather your forces and wage war. But if the organization is stacked with unrepentant assholes, get out. Research at Heartmath Foundation (and elsewhere) shows that the negative attitudes of others have serious health consequences for ourselves. Is it truly your karma to suffer? If not, leave!

David

Dear Suton the book is great good points but the real problem is the system I have had older people over the years say that companys look for the guys that get the most pleasure out tormenting others. The people they know that will belittle employees and keep them in control they don't want the Boss to become budys with there co-workers and they don't want them to treat them as equals so how do you change the system.

eli clyne

After years of hearing the words fag and faggot directed at me, I verbally lashed out at my supervisor when I heard her use the word. I'm being accused of bullying a supervisor. I'm a gay man and the supervisor is a woman. You mentioned in your book that 3%(?) of bullying is not from co-workers or superiors. Who are these people who bully up?

Brian H

I came over to this site from reading about the author's recent intro to a new "Peter Principle" edition. It's a fascinating thought to consider the promotion of assholes to their level of incompetence; is it their assholeness that worsens the incompetence, or does their continual failure to do their "Final Placement" job make them more vindictive assholes? Or both?

Chriswaterguy

And at Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, it's "Don't be a dick".

Gary Smith

I disagree with the comments below claiming the workplace will never change, that "The No Asshole Rule" is a nice effort but in vain.

Our R&D group in our human services company formally introduced a number of concepts, among them Human Sigma and No Asshole Rule (which became required reading among management). While we made some good initial progress, these efforts in the end came to almost nothing. What we discovered is that few managers read the book, or bothered to learn about Human Sigma for that matter. Apathy, "not my idea so I don't like it," a lot of reasons.

Rather than shrug our shoulders in frustration and surrender to the paralysis of those around us, all of the key members of this R&D group left in December to start our own venture.

Positive progress in the human aspects of organizational development may seem so slow as to not be taking place, but don't be discouraged. We are not the only ones who have been inspired to action by efforts like "The No Asshole Rule." Eventually a large number of "asshole-proof" businesses will spring up, offering a work environments in keeping with our intelligence.

Trixiebelle

Dear Mr. Sutton - two days ago I was fired from an employment and labor law firm before my probationary period was even up. I worked for two assholes. One was a Type A, narcissistic yeller and screamer, the other was a very indifferent, unfriendly and cold female. I was told by the managing partner, when he hired me, that they did not tolerate "jerks". Obviously, he was lying. In any event, from the standpoint of a worker and not a professional executive, I now, after 25 years in the legal field, have come to realize that we workers will NEVER have any rights. We will never be protected by management and the best we can do is pray that we can fly under the radar. I could write volumes on the abuses I have been subjected to by countless lawyers over the last 25 years and I truly understand why people go postal and end up going on a killing spree out of frustration and anger. A human being can only take so much and until there is real legislation that is seriously enforced, the worker will just have to endure the oppressive treatment of those who have more power over them. The corporate culture in America is akin to legal slavery. I can only say that I am happy to be in my 50's and not in my 20's or 30's. I think I'd shoot myself. I wish everyone would read your book and apply it's principles but that is highly unlikely. Even some of the companies you say who use the No Asshole Rule ... I wouldn't say that until I could send a spy to work at some of these companies for at least a year, and I don't mean an executive or manager, I mean a secretary or other staff member. That is where you will find the abuse. You have a great philosophy, but unfortunately, I doubt it will ever be applied across the board in all fields of work.

ItalianAssholeVictim

Dear Mr. Sutton,

I'm not signing this comment because I'm to scared to risk to be recognized. I'm an Italian fan of your fantastic book "No asshole rule". It's the best thing that I've ever read about companies, management and running a business.
First of all, I want to sorry for my English, and the mistakes that for sure I'm gonna do.
The problem is that I'm in a slightly different situation form that you describe. I'm one of the two partners of the company, and I've discovered to be running my business with a complete asshole.
before opening this company, we were working together as colleagues and she was great, A person that I used to see as pigmalione, as a mentor. But form the moment that we became partners, she changed completely. Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Now I really don't know What to do and how to go on. Leaving my part of the company it0s not so easy, not impossible of course....but difficult, very difficult with all the bureaucracy that we have here in Italy. But this situation is driving me mad, and I'm not joking. My self-confidence, my proudness are going down every day. I'm not eating so much and I don't quite sleep at night without "a help". I want to cry all the time and my energies to react are finished.
My partner is all you describe in your book, It's like you've written thinking about her.
What do you suggest? Kill her or kill myself?

Steve Marcus

While I love your book, I don't see it making much of a difference in the workplace.

I'll explain why in a moment, but first, let me say that I have direct experience with an "asshole" as defined by Dr. Sutton. I think I can guess with much accuracy that Ms. "Debra Probable Marketing Person" below probably uses "utilize" and "impact" (as a verb) and "branding" way too much. Based on what she's written, I can surmise that she knows nothing about this subject other than what she just read on this blog. I figure Debra for an asshole herself, which is a common malady among marketing people, in my experience. Most of them can't tell their, uhhh, asshole from a hole in the ground. I would encourage her to read more on this subject. She's like those people who used to scoff at the problems of priest-to-child sexual abuse and similar such "hidden social epidemics." On the other hand, I think Kevin Bush, whose comments also appear below, has hit the target dead-on.

Let me explain that several of my colleagues and I were victimized by a maniacal, bi-polar asshole for about 10 years. MY personal antagonist personifies the term "asshole." Luckily, about six years ago, I was able to escape her clutches, but she continues to make my former colleagues' lives miserable. We've all suffered emotionally and physically from the stress of working with Ms. Asshole.

Over the past decade, I've read nearly everything I can on this subject. Occasionally, I'll come across a new "list of asshole characteristics," which propose to help people identify who is truly an asshole and who's merely a jerk. My antagonist meets virtually every one of the criteria on every list I've ever seen.

Her asshole actions range from small slights -- like never acknowledging a co-worker she's passing in a long, narrow hallway, even first thing in the morning, to the larger -- like threatening to kill a subordinate, and worse.

Your book has helped raise awareness, and I'm sure more people have applied some thought to the subject as a result of reading it, although, of course, true assholes would never see themselves in its pages.

As a survivor (which neither you nor Gary Namie can claim); a close, first-hand observer (which you can't claim, Dr. Sutton); and a long-time student of the subject in question, I think I speak with some authority, and I'd submit that the only problem I find with your book is the use of the word "asshole."

Although I don't personally object to the USE of the word (my daughters thought I invented it), I have the same problem with "asshole" that I have with its counterpart from the Namie group -- "bully."

Here's the problem, as I see it -- When you tell upper management that you're having a problem with a "bully," even if he/she seems to be sympathetic, they consider you a cry-baby who can't take the pressure of the business world. They're used to hearing that word in only one context -- as it's used on the playground.

If instead, you label the offender an "asshole," those you're complaining to either question your ability to express yourself, or you find later that they never take such an allegation to a higher-up, especially if they're a "good Christian" -- as many "unseeing" managers profess to be here in the Midwest. So your case is dead the first time you tell it. Even if you can produce pages of documentation about the asshole's actions, no one will take it seriously enough if you use either the term "asshole" or "bully." Although I love the term, and I love your book, I don't believe it will do anything to curb the abuse of employees in the U.S. workplace by assholes.

We simply need another descriptive term. I don't HAVE that term -- I only know that we don't have it yet. I can tell you this, because I've tried and seen it tried by others -- you do not get serious attention from a COO, CEO, or any of their direct-reports when you use the term "bully" or "asshole."

By the way, ANY attempt to improve your situation by dealing directly with the asshole is doomed to failure. I've seen only one result from going to the asshole directly -- bad. That is, unless you're a minority. And I'm not criticizing minorities. It takes courage to confront a bully. The problem is that most assholes are well-versed about what they CAN and CAN'T get away with. And most bullies know that even in so-called "right-to-work" states, you don't mess with minorities because they're protected from discrimination by law. Also, I believe assholes invariably have psychological issues, so you may as well try to reason with Charlie Manson.

Our only hope is legislation like that which has been enacted in a few countries (and in Quebec, I believe?). So in a sense, I think both "asshole" and "bully," while helping to bring awareness to this cause, should be scrapped, as they now seem to be trivializing the issue.

Unfortunately, I'll die before I see any positive action in this arena in the U.S. (But I did just get a good laugh out of picturing George Bush supporting "anti-asshole" legislation.)

olive

I wish a book like this had fallen into my hands years ago. Things were so low for me at one point in time that I fantasized about the best way I could "off" the assholes and get away with it (yes, I was that low). Now, things are better and I have adapted. I do not fight assholes because to do so only encourages them that their stance is correct, and they become bigger assholes. I do not support assholes and the logic of that statement should be self-evident. Now, I ignore assholes. That is the only solution to survive. Thank God I am nearly done and getting closer to retirement.

P.S. The outfit I work for has recently commissioned an outside firm, at the cost of several million dollrs, to determine why things are so lousy with employee productivity (hint, maybe they should abandon their mission statement which says that "the beatings will continue until morale improves").

Bossy Bosserton

The book changed my life. Literally. After living 6 sleepless months under the draconian regime of a certified "asshole" I decided that it was my professional responsibility to speak up on behalf of my subordinates as well as myself. After voicing my concerns through the obvious channels, word got back to my manager of my complaints and I was fired for displaying "an ingrained sense of self-importance." At least now I know that the no asshole rule did not apply in that organization. I may be unemployed for the moment, but at least I'm not an asshole. Thanks to your book, I'm much better prepared to spot one when I see one next time. And I'll steer clear.

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