Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Book Review: The No Asshole Rule

I recently read Robert I Sutton's book, The No Asshole Rule. Apparently it was borne of an article originally published in the Harvard Business Review. I cannot claim to have read that original article but the book is great; I enjoyed it immensely.

Besides the frequent smirks spawned by the amusement derived in reading a "serious" work about assholes, there's plenty of just great writing, sound advice and lots of "yeah I agree" moments.

The book is pleasantly short, with just seven exquisitely crafted chapters covering everything from the definition of an asshole in this context (not just someone who pisses you off ;-) through to eradicating them if you have the power, or dealing with them as best you can if you don't. In addition there's material on the virtues of assholes (there are some) and how to stop your own "inner jerk" getting out too often. It was nice to read that we're all assholes some of the time. The acknowledgment of this reality in the book is good, because without it I believe it would preach an unattainable level of asshole free zones. In other words it's OK to be a temporary asshole, indeed as the virtues section indicates sometimes it's necessary to jolt slackers and under-performers out of their stupor.

The section on dealing with an asshole infested workplace has some solid advice. Since most of us lack the authority (not being the CEO and all) to go on an asshole eradication spree it's probably the section most useful to most people. In particular I liked the ideas like attending meetings with assholes via telephone: if you have a meeting with an asshole in at least you can avoid having to be physically in their presence. Similarly take pleasure in answering their emails slowly, or maybe not even at all. Having a sense of control over the situation as the author suggests is indeed a very empowering feeling.

Luckily for me, there are very few assholes I have to contend with these days. Nonetheless, having finished the book there are still a few candidates whose desk I am considering leaving the book on...

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