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The No A****** Rule by Robert I. Sutton: Building a Civilised Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

Updated on November 22, 2016

Just Say No!

Creative Commons Licence  Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Creative Commons Licence Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) | Source

Danger: ******** At Work!

What Do You Do With A Problem Like An 'A**hole'?

Some book titles are just always worth a grin, almost irrespective of the contents, aren’t they? The content of this book – having to work for or with difficult, perhaps even toxic individuals – is actually pretty darned serious. But I defy you to present it to any bookshop assistant or librarian, and not see a slight smirk play about their lips. Don’t we all sometimes wish we could institute a ‘no a**holes’ rule at our place of work? (If not, then you’ve been lucky.)

The book itself is a study of approaches to dealing with difficult (that's extremely difficult) people in the workplace, but rather more from the organizational point of view that that of individual employees. That is to say, it looks at what organizational approaches are effective in dealing with them. It isn't just a series of personal accounts and whinges!

Are 'A**holes' Really All Bad? (Clue: Yes.)

Sutton's study is fair-minded in that he also takes a look at what advantages the 'difficult' person (or shall we just say 'a**hole') brings to the workplace. He examines that theory that this personality type has justification for their behavior in that it pays dividends in efficiency and profitability for the company. (Unsurprisingly, his conclusion is that this viewpoint is standing on rather shaky ground when you look at actual results for companies in which difficult and toxic employees are allowed to thrive and run roughshod over other people).

I did find it a little surprising how 'personalised' the book is, i.e. focusing a lot on specific individuals (and often not hypothetical ones, but rather real people in real companies whose names you might well recognise). I suppose Sutton was careful only to make assertions well supported by the known facts, but in the place of a person or two in the book I might well have felt a bit aggrieved. It's hard to feel sympathy if people have genuinely misbehaved, but on the other hand I wouldn't much enjoy having my behaviour analysed and excoriated in an international bestseller.

Danger: 'A**holes' At Work

The book is quite fun to read in a way - at least, as long as it doesn't stir up too many furious and emotional memories and get you all upset. Certainly the tales of some 'a**holes' getting their just deserts are very satisfying. Certainly it would be nice to work somewhere where such behaviour simply isn't tolerated, but I think based on experience, that this is still rather more the rule than the exception. Sadly so!


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