Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The No Asshole Rule

Warning: This post contains the word "asshole." A lot.

I've written about Bob Sutton's The No Asshole Rule before, but I hadn't read the book in its entirety. Now I have. It's a great book. Bob Sutton is a professor of management science at Stanford, and this is a research-based book on how to identify, avoid, and manage assholes in the workplace.

I discussed The No Asshole Rule at lunch today with my neighbor in reference to a certain attorney we both know. After only four total interactions (a two-minute introduction at a public meeting, one cup of coffee with him and others, one conference phone call, and a lovely abusive email), we determined that he is a certifiable asshole.

That is to say that this person consistently used the dirty dozen of everyday actions of assholes (personal insults, invasions of personal space, unwanted physical contact, threats and intimidation, sarcasm, email flames, status slaps, public shaming, rude interruptions, two faced attacks, dirty looks, and treating others as if they are invisible). Actually, in only four interactions, he managed to use eight of the dozen. Just imagine if we actually had to work with him!

What I found interesting about interacting with this asshole is that he brought out my own asshole nature. Honestly, after he tried to put his arm around me (unwanted, trust me on that), interrupted me, and treated me like I was developmentally disabled in some fashion, I acted like a total asshole to him. I interrupted him right back, used a little status slapping, and lots of sarcasm. It was classic asshole poisoning.

Bob Sutton writes about asshole poisoning, which is one of the reasons you don't want to work with an asshole. It's contagious. He also writes about those rare times when you may need to act like an asshole. Here's his concise summary of the book:

We are all given only so many hours here on earth. Wouldn't it be wonderful
if we could travel through our lives without encountering people who bring us
down with their demeaning remarks and actions?

...If you are tired of living in Jerk City---if you don't want every day to
feel like a walk down Asshole Avenue---well, it's your job to help build and
shape a civilized workplace. Sure, you already know that. But isn't it time to
do something about it?


And here's a link to send an arsemail.