Thursday, May 28, 2009

No A-Holes, Please

So I bought the next book I'm going to read.

This despite the fact that I have a backlog of a dozen books I still need to get to.

Yesterday on the way to work, I was driving down a one-way street. A bicyclist was toodling along in the far right lane, squeezed up against the parked cars.

There were three lanes on this one-way street. But some jerk got right up behind the bicyclist and started honking his horn. He could have gone around. But after much consideration, he decided that driving 7 MPH and honking his horn at a bicyclist would be an overall better use of his time.

Later, after leaving a client's office, I ran into an even bigger jerk.

True story:

I came to a stop light and stopped. I had my right turn signal on. Schmuck in a red car stopped behind me. To the right there was a blind man with cane waiting to cross the street.

The light turned green. I watched the blind guy because he obviously didn't have a way to know that the light had changed. Other people started to cross. But the blind guy stood there.

So the jerk behind me starts honking his horn!

I check the blind guy. Someone has now started helping him across the street.

The jerk in the red car pulls out to my left, into oncoming traffic, and proceeds to turn right in front of me -- cutting off the blind man crossing the street.

All I could think of was "What an Asshole!" I'm sure if you look up a-hole in the dictionary it has this guy's picture.

This is the guy who parks with one set of tires in the next parking space.

This is the guy who yells at his employees and treats them like servants.

This is the guy who is abusive on the phone to technical support, office managers, interns, and everyone else with less "power" than him.

- - - - -

So I wandered into a bookstore and discovered a nicely printed, hardcover, overpriced book -- and I bought it immediately.

The book is called The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton.

I read the introduction in the store. It sounded all high-tone, erudite, and collegiate. The No Asshole Rule originated at Stanford University and made its way into the Harvard Business Review.

And I've only read four pages of Chapter One, but I find these twelve attributes of the workplace asshole. Assholes use these actions on other people:

  1. Personal insults [bunch of a-holes]

  2. Invading one's "personal territory"

  3. Uninvited physical contact

  4. Threats and intimidation, both verbal and nonverbal

  5. Sarcastic jokes and teasing used as insult delivery systems

  6. Withering email flames

  7. Status slaps intended to humiliate their victims

  8. Public shaming or status degradation rituals

  9. Rule interruptions

  10. Two-Faced attacks

  11. Dirty Looks

  12. Treating people as if they are invisible

- - - - -

Maybe it was just a day with one too many a-holes. And maybe this book tells me what I already know:

Many a-holes bad;
few a-holes good.

It doesn't matter. This is the next book I read.

I started my business because of an a-hole boss. Many (most?) of us have the same experience. And I have gone through some dramatic growing pains because of my insistence on getting rid of clients who were, according to this academic research, a-holes.

Note, please, that some people are just difficult. That doesn't make them a-holes.

Some people just communicate differently or have different personality styles. That doesn't make them a-holes.

But it's also the case that some people go through life abusing the people around them. And you don't have to put up with that!

I'll let you know how it goes.



  1. LOL- an entire post about A-holes!
    what a great way to start the day- with laughter :)

  2. Great post. I just fired a client who insisted that I drive 40 minutes to his house on a Saturday night to press the F1 key on his computer to continue to reboot. He reason was: "that's what I pay your guys to do." Fired!

    It's amazing how much time and energy bad clients will suck up. By firing them, we make room for new, nicer clients.

    My life is less stressful by eliminating these negative types and filling it with positive people.



Feedback Welcome

Please note, however, that spam will be deleted, as will abusive posts.

Disagreements welcome!