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The No Asshole Rule

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The No Asshole Rule

Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn`t

Business Plus,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

In the business world, jerks rule. But you can employ numerous strategies to ensure that they don’t hurt you.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable


Robert I. Sutton, Ph.D., professor of organizational behavior, teaches management science at Stanford University. He is a learned, respected academic. Is it odd that such an erudite, sophisticated individual would write a book with the word “asshole” in its title? Not according to Sutton. Yes, mean-spirited, nasty people are weasels, jerks and dirty rats. But the word that ideally summarizes such a person, Sutton says, is in his title, so that’s what he uses. He first employed it in a much-quoted piece in the Harvard Business Review. He expanded that article into this book, which explains why the business world seems to be knee deep in ratfinks, how to avoid them and how to deal with them when you must. getAbstract suggests that if you work in an office or hospital or bank or submarine or massage parlor, or on a cement crew, loading dock, oilrig or spaceship to Mars, you probably must deal with your share of – let’s call them jerks. Sutton’s book teaches you how to do so most effectively and not get too banged up in the process.


“Certified Assholes”

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is a brilliant genius and one of the world’s most visionary business leaders. He also is a “certified asshole.” At work, Jobs loves to rant, rave, scream and shout. Within the computer industry, “Steve-Jobs-the-asshole” stories are legendary. Do a Google search that combines the name “Steve-Jobs” with that label and you get more than 89,000 hits. It’s sad, but in the business world, certified bullies like Jobs are all too common.

Of course, if you are in business, this is no surprise. You can find vile people in every nook and cranny, and under every rock, of the business world. Famous business jerks include Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein (fearsome bullying), former Sunbeam CEO “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap (temperamental loudmouth), former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (icy stares), Oracle Corporation CEO Larry Ellison (excessively difficult) and former Warnaco CEO Linda Wachner (mean attacks). Considering their rotten dispositions, it’s no wonder many of these despots fall into the category of former CEOs.

Bottom Line Tests

A certified ass is someone who exhibits a “sustained display of hostile verbal and nonverbal...

About the Author

Robert I. Sutton, Ph.D., teaches management science at Stanford University and is the former co-director of its Center for Work, Technology and Organization. He is the author of Weird Ideas That Work.

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