ICE Book Review – The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t

By Rob Cooney (@EMEducation)

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t
By Robert I. Sutton, PhD

As work has become more difficulty, we have also learned the importance of culture, psychological safety, and many other factors. Dr. Sutton adds to this discussion vis a vis the colorful terminology of “assholes.”

The book is an exploration of the profoundly negative effects of toxic behaviors on organizational and individual performance. He provides an analysis of the strategies used by the individuals as well as some strategies for dealing with the behaviors.

Raise your hand if you have ever been subject any to the following behaviors (Pg 9):

  • Personal insults
  • Invading one’s personal space
  • uninvited physical contact
  • Threats and intimidation, verbal or nonverbal
  • Sarcastic jokes and teasing used to deliver insults
  • Withering emails
  • Status slaps
  • Public shaming or “status degradation” rituals
  • Rude interruptions
  • Two-faced attacks
  • Dirty looks
  • Treating people as if they are invisible

The above list constitutes the “dirty dozen” actions that fall into the category of toxic (asshole) behaviors. I know that I have certainly received many of the above from certain individuals who I now recognize were perpetuating a toxic culture.

After introducing the behaviors, the author goes on to explain how these behaviors are bad for business. Employees subjected to leaders who engage in the above behaviors can decrease productivity, damage morale, increase employee turnover while decreasing recruiting efforts, and overall harm the reputation of the company that they work for. Leaders must be vigilant about identifying individuals who engage in the behaviors, coaching them for behavioral change, or terminating their employment.

Unfortunately, many people are naive to their behaviors and the impact of these behaviors. Dr. Sutton outlines the importance of feedback and coaching to make positive change from those who may not recognize the full extent of their poor behavior. The book also provides advice for employees stuck working with an asshole and how to survive. In one of my favorite chapters, he even provides guidance on how to make sure that you are not one of these people.

Overall, despite the somewhat crass title, the book drives home the importance of addressing these behaviors before they have the chance to become indoctrinated within a culture. The organizational and self-assessment will help any leader confront the hard truths and make positive change.

Click here for some bonus reading: Why I wrote the No Asshole Rule By Robert I Sutton.

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