The No Asshole Rule

I heard of this book a few weeks ago and I bought it at the airport and read it on the plane. It is an extended defense of the idea that assholes are detrimental to working conditions in many ways and should be either retrained or gotten rid of.

This is the sort of book that, in my fantasy world, all execs read and implement.

The book carefully distinguishes between assholes and temporary assholes — we all have our weak moments and, I feel certain, have all acted like jerks on occasion. The author offers two diagnostic tests to identify chronic assholes. First, does interacting with the person consistently drain your energy and leave you feeling oppressed or humiliated? Second, how does the person treat other people less powerful than him- (or her-) self?

The author also differentiates between “not being an asshole” and being a wimp. In particular he understands the virtues of disagreement and conflict, provided they are done properly — assholes have trouble disagreeing without being disagreeable. Conflict avoidance is also a bad approach, though, so people have to learn to fight fair.

I found the writing in this book a bit odd, as if it is targeted at high school students. But, I didn’t mind; it has nice anecdotes, many research references, and is generally a good read. It has a bit of information on how to cope with assholes even if you are (institutionally) powerless, though not as much as I would have liked.

Please read this book.

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