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I loved this book!! It changed my attitude about my very toxic workplace. My boss gave me the book because our company is full of toxic managers. Due to the economy I am stuck here for a while. The book changed the way I deal with the Aholes. I also remind myself not to become one.


Like Deborah (see her own latest blog post!) I swear sometimes too: so this is not about censorship or prudishness. The point is, in the workplace, using language which some may find abusive, harrassing, etc. is just not okay. It is even, in many of the occasions where I've observed/experienced it, a form of deliberate, stereotypically- masculine "bantering," which is both coercive and unacknowledged, because it (in turn) results from that persistent myth that for women to be successful in the workplace means women need to act more like MEN. "Learn to Banter!" still appears in career advice books selling to women, while I just don't see (yet) any pressure being exerted in the other direction, e.g., to make the workplace more truly ecumenical.

And sure Bob, I get that crusading against censorship has got quite a lot to do with marketing your book. But it just seems particularly ironic to do so at the expense of your own "don't be an asshole" message, which is such a GOOD and IMPORTANT one!

Account Deleted

To answer your question, I don't think you're being hard on the Times. Their position is priggish.

Do you mind if I ask you about the article and blog post themselves?

I have worked with more than my share of assholes, and I own your book and have found it very useful (the fine arts thrives on bad behavior--every artist should own your book). So it's not as if I don't believe that bullying behavior exists.

But many of the responses on Pope's blog entries seem like situations that are less about "bullying" and more about spinelessness--about not standing up for yourself in a work environment and/or needing an excessive amount of stroking and affirmation, regardless of what you've actually done.

I have two specific questions, because I work with a lot of really young people and struggle sometimes with what I perceive as their entitlement to rewards that they don't earn:

1. How does a supervisor deal with people who assume they are being bullied when in fact they are simply being held to reasonable standards, like coming to work when you say you will, or listening to straightforward directions, or finishing what you start, in what I certainly hope is a straightforward, unemotional way?

The more I work with young people, the more questions I have about how to deal with this effectively, without becoming an asshole myself.

2. How do you work to create a respectful workplace without catering to people who are too sensitive, who need *everything* affirmed? I have found myself buying into all this love-festing, but it creates sloppy work and mixed messages about what is and is not acceptable.

Thanks, love your work. Congrats on all the Times coverage!


If I were working with you and you used that word in my hearing, even if you were referring to a third party, I would be offended. In my opinion using obscene language (referring to body parts, sexual and excretory functions) is intolerable in a workplace and obliging others to accept it is a form of bullying. To me that is similar to discussing your sex life or fantasy life in a workplace. That is also common these days. Being expected to be cool and tolerate that is also a form of bullying. I have a female friend who quit her job because of that behavior from co-workers (interestingly, it was both heterosexual men and lesbians discussing their fantasies of what they would like to do to various women). That behavior, like your language, is a form of harassment and at the least in a workplace you should be disciplined for it. I have been a manager and would give you a warning about it. Your book may be interesting but I will never buy it because of the title. What do you know about it, if that is the language you use? You yourself have already stepped over the line.


No, you are not being too harsh. But it does not really matter because anyone with any interest in this topic will google you. Thanks for writing an excellent book and maintaining your Blog. I have it on igoogle. Keep it up! You are making an impact.


Thanks so much!

What I actually meant was that perhaps the ones TALKING so insistently about "assholes" might, at times, themselves be the assholes for doing it.



Thanks so much!

What I actually meant was that perhaps the ones TALKING so much about "assholes" might, at times, themselves be the assholes for doing it.


Bob Sutton

Thanks for the comments! In response to the last one, indeed, I agree that calling someone an asshole is a way to turn him or her into one at times.. an irony not mentioned in the book, but one I talk about during speeches and seminars. And there is some related evidence that is along the lines of your suggested study. I blogged about a study showing that when men raised in the south (But not in the north) were bumped into by a confederate and called an "asshole," they did in fact become quite aggressive. Here is my post:


I guessing that your MAIN mission is to get rid of assholes, not to insist upon the right to use that particular word.

'Cause, you know, there are OTHER ones, like "jerk." I'm just saying.

People are funny generally, and for some, I think blue-ish language (like "asshole") actually feels assaultive.

Thought experiment: could you imagine there ever being an occasion when using a word that people genuinely experience as offensive might constitute "being an asshole" in and of itself?

I love your blog, and your book, and your crusade against assholes. Worthy work, indeed, and kudos to you for doing it!


Sounds like you are trying to bully the times into changing their policy by calling them names? Good luck with that!

Daniel Cooke

>>Am I being too harsh?


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