The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace – Robert I. Sutton Book Summary

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace – Robert I. Sutton | Free Book Summary

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace – Robert I. Sutton

The Reason for workplace toxicity.

Implementing The No Asshole Rule

  • Make it known through what you say and, more importantly, what you do.
  • Weave the rule into hiring and firing policies.
  • Apply the rule to customers and clients.
  • Status and power differences: the root of many evils. When the social distance between higher- and lower-status mammals in a group is reduced and steps are taken to keep the distance smaller, higher-status members are less likely to act like jerks. 
  •  Focus on conversations and interactions: small, seemingly trivial changes in how people think, talk, and act can add up to some mighty big effects in the end.
  • Teach people how to fight.

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Following Rules And Policies

When we see someone break a known rule—like “don’t litter”—and no one else seems to be breaking it, that single “deviant act” sticks out, which makes the rule more vivid and powerful in our minds. But when we see a person break a rule and everyone else seems to be breaking it, we are even more likely to break the rule, too—because there is evidence that we can get away with it, or even are expected to break the espoused rule.

When one or two “bad apples” are kept around—and perhaps rejected, punished, and shunned—everyone else is more conscientious about following the rules.Free book, podcast summaries

The Real World Is Right Now

Enforce the rule by linking big policies to small decencies. Having all the right business philosophies and management practices to support the no asshole rule is meaningless unless you treat the person right in front of you, right now, in the right way

If you can’t or won’t follow the rule, it is better to say nothing at all—avoiding a false claim is the lesser of two evils.

You don’t want to be known as a hypocrite and the leader of an organization that is filled with assholes.

Assholes Will Hire Other Assholes

Keep your resident jerks out of the hiring process, or if you can’t, involve as many “civilized” people as possible in interviews and decisions to offset this predilection of people to hire “jerks like me.”

Organizations usually wait too long to get rid of certified and incorrigible assholes, and once they do, the reaction is usually, “Why did we wait so long to do that?”

Manage The Moments

Effective asshole management means focusing on and changing the little things that you and your people do—and big changes will follow. Reflect on what you do, watch how others respond to you and to one another, and work on “tweaking” what happens as you are interacting with the person in front of you right now.

Model and Teach Constructive Confrontation

Develop a culture where people know when to argue and when to stop fighting and, instead, gather more evidence, listen to other people, or stop whining and implement a decision (even if they still disagree with it).

When the time is ripe to battle over ideas, follow Karl Weick’s advice: fight as if you are right; listen as if you are wrong.

Adopt the One Asshole Rule

Because people follow rules and norms better when there are rare, occasional examples of bad behavior, no-asshole rules might be most closely followed in organizations that permit one or two token jerks to hang around.

These “reverse role models” remind everyone else of the wrong behavior.

Stopping Your Inner Jerk

Being around people who look angry makes you feel angry.

Don’t join the jerks.

Seeing coworkers as rivals and enemies is a dangerous game. 

Organizational life is nearly always a blend of cooperation and competition, and organizations that forbid extreme internal competition are not only more civilized but perform better too—despite societal myths to the contrary.

See yourself as others do.

Face your past. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. 

To avoid acting like or becoming a known asshole, know yourself.

The Hidden Jerk: Observing How People React To Us

  • You notice that people seem to avoid eye contact when they talk to you—and they often become very nervous.
  • You have the feeling that people are always very careful about what they say around you.
  • People keep responding to your email with hostile reactions, which often escalate into “flame-wars” with these jerks.
  • People seem hesitant to divulge personal information to you.
  • People seem to stop having fun when you show up.
  • People always seem to react to your arrival by announcing that they have to leave.

Benefits Of Being An Asshole

It is nave to assume that asses always do more harm than good. So this chapter is devoted to the upside of assholes. Beware, however, that these ideas are volatile and dangerous: they provide the ammunition that deluded and destructive jerks can use to justify and even glorify their penchant for demeaning others.


  • Gaining personal power and stature.
  • Intimidating and vanquishing rivals.
  • Motivating fear-driven performance and perfectionism.
  • Bringing unfair, clueless, and lazy people to their senses.

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