The "No Asshole Rule" from Stanford

Last Updated Aug 20, 2007 7:28 PM EDT

The No Asshole RuleThere's a ton of literature out there on the topic of business leadership, but Robert Sutton is in a field of his own. The Professor at Stanford University's Management Science and Engineering department has written a volume of influential work on topics ranging from data-driven decisioning to his latest piece on jerks in the office, called The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't. A recent article from HR Executive's Julie Ramirez gives a nice synopsis, mentioning the 2004 HBR article, "More Trouble Than They're Worth," that preceded Sutton's new book:
In a landmark Harvard Business Review essay, Stanford Professor Robert Sutton showed how assholes weren't just an office nuisance, but a serious and costly threat to corporate success and employee health. In his new book, Sutton reveals the huge TCA (Total Cost of Assholes) in today's corporations. He shows how to spot an asshole (hint: they are addicted to rude interruptions and subtle putdowns, and enjoy using "sarcastic jokes" and "teasing" as "insult delivery systems"), and provides a "self-test" to determine whether you deserve to be branded as a "certified asshole." And he offers tips that you can use to keep your "inner jerk" from rearing its ugly head.
You can take that self test here, if you'd like (it's a little long, but amusing). In his post on HBR's Conversation Starter blog, Sutton explains why he chose such a "bold" title for his new book, and says the most important reason for writing it is that:
[...] demeaning people do terrible damage to others and to their companies. And even though there are occasions when being an asshole helps people and companies "win," my view is that if you are a winner and an asshole, you are still an asshole and I don't want to be around you!
That about sums it up. If you haven't already, check out BNET's Field Guide to Bosses. If you can think of anyone who resembles The Dictator, consider handing them Sutton's book, or perhaps leaving it anonymously their desk.

(Image of Book by the Hachette Book Group)