Book review: The No Asshole Rule, by Robert Sutton | Building a Civilised Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

"The No Asshole Rule: Building a civilised workplace and surviving one that isn't" by Robert Sutton is a short and interesting read. To understand what it's about, the title and subtitle say it all!

The definition of an asshole for the book goes like this: they do or say something that makes the target feel worse about themselves, and they target people who are less powerful.

The book goes on describing negative effects of assholes, at many different levels: emotional, organisational, and even financial, handy should you ever need a $$$ breakdown to make your bosses or company understand why it would be helpful to get rid of the assholes or at least prevent them taking over the company and culture. There'll be a lot of echoes and parallels you can draw with a few unhealthy open-source communities (e.g. earning the right to be a jerk once you've proven your technical chops, etc.), particularly if you've seen the excellent Poisonous people tech talk.

Other interesting aspects covered in the book include how to survive assholes when you really have no other choice, without becoming one yourself, and also what to do when you are the asshole. I thought that was really interesting! It's easy to get reading and imagine yourself as the recipient or appalled onlooker rather than the asshole dishing it out, but truth is we've all had our bad days. The book truly aims to be thorough, even touching on the benefits of behaving like an asshole, and how setting up a 'no asshole' policy can backfire: if it's only lip service, suddenly you become an hypocrite in addition to being an asshole.

Reading the book, it's obvious and clear that maintaining and establishing a workplace with a "no asshole" rule is a much better and healthier alternative for everyone, assholes included, and for organisations themselves. Hopefully the book will also act as a guide and help for people who want to expose, flee or get rid of the assholes around them.


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