Bookcase : The No Asshole Rule – Building a Civilised Workplace and Surviving one that isn’t

• Robert Sutton • $34.95

This book is the comforting coffee and chat with good friend you make time for on Wednesday when half the week still looms and the office ‘asshole’ is driving you potty. Sutton’s descriptions of said assholes and their impact rings very true and I defy anyone to have survived long in an office environment without encountering few.
Personal insults, invading personal territory, rude interruptions, withering emails, status slaps and dirty looks are just some of the ways Sutton’s assholes reveal themselves. As professor of management science at Stanford University in the US, he has amassed plenty of amusing and serious examples to draw from.
On serious note, Sutton offers tools to help calculate the total cost of assholes to an organisation and goes into some depth on the damaging impact of impaired performance they cause. This manifests itself in increased staff turnover and absenteeism alongside decreased commitment and productivity.
He is firm believer that civilised workplaces are totally achievable and that zero-tolerance attitude to assholes can, and will, improve performance at an individual and organisational level.
The rule referred to in the title is one of zero tolerance and Sutton works through the chapters explaining how this can be implemented in various aspects and states of organisations.
If all else fails, or you join an organisation too late to stop it, he offers various mechanisms for survival including building pockets of sanity, looking for small wins and developing emotional indifference. Easier said than done.
A final chapter – which Sutton admits he only wrote on pressure from his friends – details the virtues of assholes. It admits that some people seem to succeed precisely because of their asshole status and attempts to drill down to the more positive attributes they display. Yes, it does name names and no, I’m not going to share them here. You have to do some of the work yourselves.
So all up, while I’m not sure I can see The No Asshole Rule solving any major problems, there is definite power in the feeling the you are not alone when working with assholes and that in itself is worth an awful lot.

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