Saturday, April 07, 2007

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't (Hardcover)
by Robert I. Sutton (Author)

Finally, someone wrote a much needed book and dared to call spade a spade.

Well, the word/cliche a**hole is not something you see in book titles or at least in a book that is written by a highly respected and regarded Stanford business school professor. But, you have to read  the book to understand and agree with the author as to why there can not be any other word than asshole that so perfectly characterizes all those who vitiate the workplace in particular and the world in general.

Jerk, creep, pain in the neck (or ass) are all similar words that people use to describe an asshole in the workplace. But, most common exclamatory phrase is 'what an asshole?' after having been screwed by someone who is an asshole.

These people destruct people and organizations systematically. The magnitude of destruction they cause in the lives of people they work with is too high to tolerate such people on day to day basis. If you do decide to survive in such a place, you better have a reward that far far exceeds having to put up with such people. In many cases, it is simply not worth it.

The author makes a passionate case for not tolerating such people and creating a workplace where people can achieve their best by giving their best to the company or the group they are working for. Sometimes short sighted companies tolerate highly successful people even when they are certified a**holes. But, the amount of business such people bring in is minuscule compared to loss of morale and other damages they are causing in the process. In the book, there is even a case study of a silicon valley sales executive and how much he cost to the company by being an a**hole. The amount calculated does not take into account all damages but even then it runs in 6 figures per year per one person. Imagine having few such people on your rolls and doing nothing about them. Sure recipe for corporate disaster

In my observation, this a**hole phenomenon is mainly concentrated in small companies where individual contributions sometimes are so big that it does seem to make sense for the management to put up with such people just because they are so good. Thankfully in larger companies just due to sheer number of people a**holes get booted out although not as fast as we would like to see them go. It's just a matter of numbers. Majority of the people are nice and they want to work in a nice environment and are sensitive enough to do their best to create a nice environment or at the least not vitiate it. So, in large companies, we have many such nice people and when an a**hole surfaces, he/she is rejected like a virus. But, as said, depending upon other things it may take a long time before that happens and the company may collapse under such a**holes. The book mentions at least 3-4 such companies that went under where certified a**holes were at the very top. No wonder they brought down the companies along with them.

One word of caution. It's not appropriate to brand someone as an a**hole just because of a few incidents of nasty behavior. Everyone does exhibit such a behavior from time to time in varying degrees. The author gives a good test to determine who are occasional a**holes and who are certified a**holes. Author correctly states that we are all a**holes one time or other. If someone disagrees, he must be a God or an ass(hole).

It is an interesting observation that most of us show our a**holic tendencies more often with people near and dear than people at work. Why? Simple reason - people who are near and dear put up with our such behavior more often than our professional acquaintances. It's unfortunate  but true. Also, by giving an opportunity to be at our worst form and patiently bearing it, our near and dear ones prevent us from being in such a form with our professional acquaintances where the consequences from being an a**hole could be getting booted out. Our near and dear ones provide a safe outlet when we have to show our ugly side. There should be 'world a**hole day' when we can make it a point to kiss and make up with our near and dear ones at least once year for being patient and bearing all the times we were at our a**holic best with them. They deserve one such day. If not for them, all of us would have shown our ugly side in places and with people who would have kicked us in our a** and shown us our place.

"It is nice to be important. But, it more important to be nice." If you are here for a long term, it is better to be nice all the time. It is true that nice people do end up last in the short term but in the end, you will emerge as a winner in your own eyes  regardless of what others may think of you. All those who won sprints by being a**holes do not even complete the marathon called life. When you  reminisce in your old age you will inevitably remember all those a**holes who flared real bright for a few years and then burnt out from their own flames of hatred, nastiness and many other assoholic qualities.

"When you are good to others, you are best to yourself."


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