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Ash Bhoopathy

I'm going to have to agree with Wally on this one.

*Everyone* is inherently creative.
I think there is a disconnect here between a personality disorder that result from hubris...and the very natural desire to use one's imagination to solve a problem.

And your point about teams is right on. I'm currently a graduate student in Design- and I'm learning extremely quickly that *teams*, creativity, and the vigorous discourse that arises when you combine the two, are absolutely vital to the development of a superior product,platform, or service.

In other words, NO, you absolutely don't have to tolerate any a$$hole just because they are considered a "creative". However, you DO need to help them perform effectively on your team... that's your responsibility as a manager/leader.

Bob Sutton


You have an interesting point. No, I have not systematically analyzed the stories and related information about assholes and how to avoid becoming one... and I get all sorts of amazing things, just yesterday,someone sent me a great poem. You are right. It might be interesting to look for patterns. Thanks for the suggestion.

Robert Hruzek

Y'know, Bob, I've been following this 'asshole' meme since I first started blogging in June. You have the readership; I wonder if you or anyone else has conducted a survey that might capture some of the fascinating attitudes, opinions, etc. of your readers. You have enough responses for a fairly decent sample, so the results might be a good follow-up for the rest of us.

(If you've covered this in your book, forgive my ignorance. I freely admit I'm basically too cheap to buy many of the books I'd like to.)

Lilly Evans

I remember a Danish researcher writing on Genius around 2000 (and I believe late Prof Hans Eysenck addressed the same topic in his last book in 1997). What struck me in the former is that Genius, as identified by their peers, were also almost always shown to have much higher Testosterone levels.

In both cases, male and female, the higher testosterone levels are linked with agression. So, Assholes by your definitions.

Plus, for men there also a significant link with multiple partner liaisons. Given that there were almost no women in the sample, can't comment on them!

Bob Sutton

I am in over my head!

Pascal Venier

Dear Bob,
Please allow a "a native French speaker, French, but living in England" to point out, very respectfully, that my fellow countryman is mistaken in thinking that "enfant" is always masculine.
It is only masculine when the enfant in question is a boy (un charmant enfant), but feminine when the enfant is a girl (une charmante enfant).

Bob Sutton

I received a "backstage" email from a "a native French speaker, French, living in France" who I have corresponded with in the past. Based on his advice, I am back to "enfant terrible." I repeat his thoughtful note:

I don't want to spawn a language troll on your blog that's why I write you privately. If "enfant terrible" is french, then the good writing is actually "enfant terrible" (terrible child). And even in french, "enfant" is *always* masculine, moreover, "terrible" doesn't change it's writing when used with a feminine word "fille terrible" (terrible daughter), it only changes with the plural : "enfants terribles"
(terrible children).

Bob Sutton

A quick comment on the mental illness thing. I agree 100% that being mentally ill in some way DOES NOT mean you are an asshole. So I appreciate the correction. But as I say, there are some occupations where it appears to help people be more creative!


Surely 'enfante terriblee' (English keyboard, missing accent inevitable)?

Wally Bock

We have two dumb beliefs that bear on this issue.

We believe that creative people are different and therefore crazy in some way. So when anyone who is, by definition, "creative" acts like a jerk, or doesn't bathe, or insists on eating dessert first or bringing his pet iguana to work, we shake our heads and say, "Oh, well, you know he's creative."

All of which is nonsense. People are creative. That's how God made us. The folks we call "creative" are the ones who do a better job of capturing and articulating ideas. "Creative" also includes anyone in certain lines of work. Artists and rock musicians, fiction writers are automatically creative. Interestingly, classical musicians and writers of business books or direct mail copy are not.

Then there is the idea that you need some kind of star to succeed as a team. The logical result of that idiocy is that you should put up with awful behavior from your stars.

Nonsense again. Effective teams routinely beat the pants off "king and his court" teams. Even Michael Jordan, who gets my vote as the best basketball player ever, didn't win any championships until he changed his game to a more team-oriented approach.


Enfant Terrible: Does it Mean a Creative Asshole Who is Worth the Trouble? Only if you have no other options. The thing is, there are always other options you just have to decide which one works best for you. Sometimes, it may be worth the "price" to work with one but you really need to understand what the price is. It involves not only you but your other employees and the impact of the asshole on employee relations, company (and your) reputation etc. Choose wisely and very carefully. Personally, I'm with you Bob. Life's too short to waste it on assholes.

I also need to comment on the reference to the Icelandic studies of mental illness and creativity. Being mentally ill doesn't mean your an asshole although the opposite may be true. Some of us crazies are creative and nice guys too!

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