Book Me For A Speech

My Writing and Ranting

Press Room

Good Books

« The Psychology of Waiting Lines: A David Maister Classic | Main | Why Creativity and Innovation Suck »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Bob Sutton


Now, I certainly respect and understand that you might like the title, and realize that everyone is offended by something. But your post has now turned to going after the content of a book you haven't even read. I predict you will hate it, as you have prepared yourself to do.

By the way, perhaps Pope John Paul wouldn't talk that way, but it turns out that a number of priests and rabbis have written me very supportive notes about the book! It was even used to lead a bible studies in Texas, you can find that on my blog.

More generally, I do think that you are taking a little dirty entirely too seriously. It is the word that people think and say about such people, like it or not.

joseph martins

This is a copy of my post at BNet, with a few additional comments.

Begin original post ------------

I will take a look at the book this evening while I am in Borders, but I do not have high hopes for it. I am sure you have done your homework, and I am certain I will find your points to be valid. I'll probably even recall several people in my past who fit your definition of an asshole. Perhaps I will fit the profile too. We shall see.

I prefer to refer to workplace assholes as dumbasses, and, quite frankly, they're easy to handle. Tough on the outside, soft on the inside, just like the rest of us.

Dumbasses are, relative to other obstacles, a minor problem in the workplace. Obviously, management should remove them from the environment, or compel them to seek help. But management should be far more concerned about individuals who discourage or even undermine positive change (be it a policy change, process improvement, technological change, etc...) by erecting obstacles at every opportunity.

While dumbasses are easy to identify, this particular group operates in a much more underhanded, sometimes stealthy fashion. Motivation ranges from job security and ego to a desire to maintain the status quo. Tools of the trade may include deception, misinformation, coloring the facts, and outright lies.

Perhaps your book already addresses this group. If not, perhaps you should broaden your definition of an asshole.

------------End original post.

On a different note, regarding a few of the statements and misperception of previous readers, as well as your own comments...

A persuasive position, delivered articulately, doesn't require profanity. I don't recall hearing such language from Dr. King, President Kennedy, Pope John Paul and others who have moved people and nations with their words - certainly not in public.

Yes, I believe so-called "political correctness" is out of control, but good manners never go out of fashion. The same can be said for professionalism. I do not refer to garbage workers as sanitation engineers, nor do I refer to short people as vertically challenged. To me, such terminology is simply nonsense. But, as a professional, I choose to refrain from using profanity in my daily business discourse (except here, in response to a book about them).

Bob, in your comment on BNet you justify your use of the word asshole because, you write, it is a reality of the workplace. While I agree that it is, indeed, one of the many words I've heard time and again in different work environments, there is never a justification for it to be used in an office setting. Behind the scenes with friends or close coworkers, perhaps, but not within earshot of others in the office. Clearly, that is unprofessional no matter how you spin it.

Just to clarify - I find it perfectly acceptable for you to use the word asshole in a book to describe reality. I do not find it acceptable to use such language in the workplace.

Rick, your comment is the adult equivalant of saying "he who smelt it, dealt it". Assholes aren't necessarily going to be the only ones to complain. Some may not realize they are assholes, while self-aware assholes really could care less. The fact that someone is offended by Bob's decision to use the word doesn't automatically qualify him for asshole-hood.

Yes, Bob's decision to use the word asshole in the title of his book may get some people to pay attention, perhaps even compel them to buy his book. But do not think for a minute that this will somehow bring about a change in behavior. To those who are not already assholes, Bob is simply stating the obvious. And to those who are, Bob's book is irrelevant - after all, that is what makes them assholes.

For the record, I've never used the word asshole this many times in a single year, let alone a single conversation.

Mark Ambler

Dr. Sutton,
I have had this same issue since I began public speaking. As you know, I recently completed a nursing conference lecture about evidence-based management. I received my evaluations and one person was offended that I cursed. I don't remember swearing during my talk, but I do remember talking about your book. I agree with your statement - if offending means they think, then it was all worth it.

Scott McArthur

There is no such thing as bad language just inappropriate people!



This shows that some people will always take offense irrespective of the message or intent. Calling them anything other than Assholes is hiding behind Political Correctness and avoids the real discussion. This poster needs to get past his sensibilities and focus on the good that you are achieving by creating a debate on this issue.


I have a question regarding the use of the word "asshole" or actually a question regarding its translation :
I'm French and here your book is titled "objectif zéro-sale-con", the meaning is quite the same, but the translation is much different from your own words, so I would like to know how do you do to monitor those variations ?


HR Wench

I'm offended that he is offended.

Sorry, couldn't resist.


My experience is that many people that are more concerned with the style of teaching, are actually not that interested in learning or changing in the first place.

They haven't thought through the fact that sometimes a different style is needed to break through people's eggshell of understanding in order to bring them into wider spaces.


Bob--The last line of the email you received would be perfectly fair...if the writer of the email is an asshole. A black person plugs their ears to avoid hearing a racist joke, and an asshole cries foul when someone writes about assholes.

Your point that only by getting people to pay attention can one bring about needed change is exactly right. And, language has the power to awaken, enthrall, and piss off. All can prove to be helpful reactions in the process!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Asshole Survival

Scaling Up

Good Boss Bad Boss

No Asshole Rule

Hard Facts

Weird Ideas

Knowing -Doing Gap

The No Asshole Rule:Articles and Stories