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Book Review: The No Asshole Rule by Robert I. Sutton, PhD

April 2nd, 2007 · 2 Comments


I have to admit I was a little bit uncomfortable purchasing this book. I don’t use “bad” language often. As a general rule, if my seven year old daughter isn’t allowed to say it, neither am I. Every now and then I’ll stress out and say “dammit” or call someone a “jackass” under my breath, but that’s about as far as it goes.

So, when this book arrived at my home I was careful about leaving it around. I didn’t want to have to explain what an “asshole” was to my kids, or why dad was reading a book about them. My wife gave it a funny, skeptical look when I pulled it out one evening and started reading it after the kids had gone to bed. I felt like maybe I should wrap it in a brown paper cover…

That said, I’m glad I bought this book. Yes, it could have been the “no jerk” rule, but who cares? Perhaps Robert Sutton is right when he says that “censored and watered-down variations like “the no jerk rule” or the “no bully rule” simply didn’t have the same ring of authenticity or emotional appeal.” At any rate, the point is well made – it’s okay to have one. It’s not okay to be one.

The book is extremely well-written and entertaining. Dr. Sutton uses true examples from the corporate world to illustrate his points in memorable ways and he cites research (without becoming boring) to help illustrate how damaging jerks at work can be. He also talks about strategies for keeping jerks out of your environment, getting rid of the ones you already have, and dealing with the ones you get rid of in healthy ways.

Everybody is an A-hole some of the time. Sutton differentiates between “temporary A-holes” and those who consistently exhibit mean-spirited behavior. The book includes a test you can use to help you figure out if you are an A-hole – one of the questions you will inevitably have as you read this book. I haven’t taken it yet – I’m thinking of writing it up and handing it out to some of my colleagues and letting them evaluate me with it, kind of a 360 degree A-hole evaluation.

So, what to do if you are consistently an A-hole? Get help. This book isn’t that thick.


The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t
should be required reading for corporate IT.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 shows para eventos // Mar 31, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Sounds like a funny book!

  • 2 eric // Jul 13, 2009 at 5:57 am

    I think most people these days just don't stop and think about their actions and the repercussions of their actions and mainly how they affect everyone around them. In fact I would prefer to keep thinking that they are not stopping and thinking about what they are doing because that would imply that they do it on purpose!

    Its sad really that people have to write books about being an ahole instead of people just NOT doing things that would give them the label!

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