Is Your Boss an Asshole?


Bob Sutton and the mavens at Electric Pulp have created the ARSE (Asshole Rating Self Exam) to help people to determine if they are assholes. This is an offshoot from Bob’s book, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t, which I reviewed at the end of October.

I’m sure that none of you need to take this test, but you might know someone who does. 🙂

On a related topic, Bob told me about a company called SuccessFactors. It makes performance and talent management
software to automate performance reviews across global organizations and create visibility into performance data across the organization. This helps its customers determine how to find, promote, and pay people as well as how to manage succession planning.

The company is a no-asshole zone. It requires employees to agree to sign this document:

Rules of Engagement

  1. I will be passionate—about SuccessFactors’ mission, about my work. I will love what we do for companies and employees everywhere.

  2. I will demonstrate respect for the individual; I will be nice and listen to others, and respect myself. I will act with integrity and professionalism.

  3. I will do what it takes to get the job done, no matter what it takes, but within legal and ethical boundaries.

  4. I know that this is a company, not a charity. I will not waste money—I will question every cost.

  5. I will present an exhaustive list of solutions to problems—and suggest actionable recommendations.

  6. I will help my colleagues and recognize the team when we win. I will never leave them behind when we lose.

  7. I will constantly improve Kaizen! I will approach every day as an opportunity to do a better job, admitting to and learning from my mistakes.

  8. I will selflessly pursue customer success.

  9. I will support the culture of meritocracy and pay for performance.

  10. I will focus on results and winning—scoring points, not just gaining yardage.

  11. I will be transparent. I will communicate clearly and be brutally honest, even when it’s difficult, because I trust my colleagues.

  12. I will always be in sales and drive customer satisfaction.

  13. I will have fun at work and approach my work with enthusiasm.

  14. I will be a good person to work with—I will not be an asshole.

I agree to live these values. If my colleagues fail to live up to any of these rules, I will speak up and will help them correct; in turn, I will be open to constructive criticism from my colleagues should I fail to live by these values. I understand that my performance will be judged in part by how well I demonstrate these values in my daily work.

I hope you pass the ’hole-in-oscopy! If you don’t, be sure to get the book.

Question: How many bosses does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Answer: One. He holds up the light bulb and expects the universe to revolve around him.


This is the distribution of ARSE scores of people who took the test. Clearly, most of my readers either aren’t assholes—or don’t believe they are assholes. However, there’s a niche (orifice?) to fill in asshole tests: Helping people determine if they work for an asshole.

At a basic level, this determination is very easy: Is your boss rude? Asshole bosses keep people waiting; they yell and scream at people; and they are demeaning. They think they can get away with this because, largely, they have gotten away with this since society tolerates bull shiitake from the rich and famous.

I digress, but I’ve often wondered which came first: Was the person always an asshole or did accomplishing something great (probably by luck) mean that people would tolerate bull-shiitake behavior? One thing is for sure: not all assholes do great things, so there’s no causal relationship. 🙂

  1. Thinks that the rules are different for him For example, a parking space for handicapped people is really for handicapped people plus him because his time is so valuable that he can’t walk fifty additional feet. Or, the carpool lane is for cars with multiple people, hybrids, and her because she’s late for a meeting.

  2. Doesn’t understand the difference between a position making a person and a person making a position. The vice-president of acquisitions for a big media company is a big deal, but all her power, and therefore the ability to act like an asshole, evaporates without this title. Assholes usually don’t understand that their current position affords them temporary privileges.

  3. Requires “handlers.” This means a personal assistant, appointments secretary/lover, public relations flunkie, and chauffeur. It’s funny but if an asshole didn’t have the position/money/status, he would probably be able to answer the phone, make appointments, talk to the press, and drive himself.

  4. Requires the fulfillment of special requests in order to be happy/productive/efficient. For example, she needs a special brand of spring water from the south of France bottled by chanting monks when she’s making a speech. This type of actions represent flexing for the sake of flexing—not because any of this crap is necessary.

  5. Relates to people primarily in terms of what they can do for him. In other words, “good” people can do a lot for him. “Lousy” people aren’t useful. The way a lousy person becomes a good person is by showing that he can help your boss in some way.

  6. Judges people by her personal values, not the employees’ or society’s values. Assholes judge people according to only what they think is important. For example, a boss may value only professional accomplishments, so someone who is “merely” a mom or dad with a focus on a family is therefore inferior.

  7. Judges employees’ results and his intentions. A boss never comes up short when he juxtaposes his intentions (“I intended to do your quarterly review”) versus an employee’s results (“You didn’t finish the software on time”). Instead, a boss should judge his results against his employees’ results and never mix results and intentions.

  8. Asks you to do something that he wouldn’t do. This is a good, all-purpose test. Does your boss ask you to fly coach while she flies first class? Does she ask you to work weekends while he’s off at a hockey tournament? I’m all for using boss time effectively (for example, not making her drop off a package at Federal Express), but were it not that your boss could be doing something more valuable for the company, would she do what she’s asking you to do?

  9. Calls employees at home or on the weekends. Rarely, as in once per year, this is okay, but any more often and your boss is certifiable. His happiness is not your problem 24 x 7. You are entitled to your personal time and space because slavery was abolished a long time ago in America.

  10. Believes that the world is out to get her when faced with criticism or even omission. For example, bloggers don’t write about her because they are all jealous of her. Frankly, it’s more likely that he’s not worth writing about than the blogosphere is colluding against him. This boss needs to learn that “it’s no always about her.”

  11. Slows down or halts your career progress. One can forgive or ignore the previous nine issues, but this one is by far the worst thing an asshole boss can do. Usually it’s a matter of convenience: “How can you leave me? I need you.” For doing this, a boss should go into the anals (sic) of asshole-dom. God didn’t put you on this earth to make your boss’s life better, so don’t hesitate to abandon a boss who holds you back.

You may be concerned that only you think your boss is an asshole. For this issue I offer the “Kawasaki Theory of Perfect Information About Assholes.” It goes like this: If you think your boss is an asshole, most likely everyone else does too. It’s seldom true that you think someone is an asshole, and everyone else thinks he’s great.

By | 2016-10-24T14:22:29+00:00 February 9th, 2007|Categories: Management|85 Comments

About the Author:

Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple. He is also the author of The Art of Social Media, The Art of the Start, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, Enchantment, and nine other books. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.


  1. Wendy Piersall :: eMom February 9, 2007 at 9:27 am - Reply

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for #6. This is way more common than it should be – at least, it’s common in the land of assholes. 😉

  2. Zoli's Blog February 9, 2007 at 9:30 am - Reply

    Are You an A**hole?

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  3. brem February 9, 2007 at 9:39 am - Reply

    The problem with your article, Guy, is that most bosses don’t fit the descriptions you provide us. Indeed, not everybody is a TRUE asshole. In my experience, bosses are usually just unaware, unexperienced, sometimes outgrown by the company’s success, bad managers, incensitive to their employees needs, but they are not bad persons.
    Well, most of them. 🙂
    I think that all that counts is the actual behavior, not the reasons why the behavior exists. To excuse asshole behavior for any reason perpetuates it. We need to draw a bright, hard line in the sand!

  4. Bob Sutton February 9, 2007 at 10:28 am - Reply

    Guy, thanks for this most interesting post. I would add that there is an interesting blend of Guy’s and Brem’s position. I agree that most assholes aren’t inherently bad people. I’d even add that nearly all of us will act like temporary assholes under the wrong conditions — when we are tired, under pressure, and so on, and especially when we are around assholes because, like other emotions, acting like a jerk is a contagious disease.
    BUT the problem — if you look closely at most of Guy’s points — is that there is a vicious cycle that can happen when people are put in positions of power. The effects of power are on people are very well documented. I talk about this in The No Asshole Rule and have written a number of posts on it. People who are given moire power than others tend to be less focused on other’s needs and feelings and more focused on satisfying their own needs, and they feel more free to break social norms (Guy’s point 1). And to the extent that there are bigger power differences between their underlings and themselves, these thoughts and behaviors get more pronounced. If you look at Guy’s list — behaviors most of us have seen — you can see how a once perfectly reasonable person can go down this path. Because power blinds them to other’s needs, feelings, and perspectives, they call people on Saturday, make special requests, and see people only as means to satisfy their own needs. And the more they do this, the more the power distance grows between them and their underlings — and the worse they get!
    The upshot of all this? Two things come to mind. First, if you are given a position of power, do everything you can to reduce unnecessary power difference between yourself and others (a good example is the new CEO of Home Depot — he just got rid of the executive dining room; he also cut his own pay). Second, you need a group of close advisors and friends who can and will tell when you are acting like an asshole — and even better — assign your subordinates the responsibility to tell you when you are a jerk. If think this is impossible, check out the SuccessFactor’s blog or my post about the guy there whose boss thanked him for being a jerk.
    Guy, thanks for the post and let’s keep talking and arguing.

  5. Kilroy Was Here February 9, 2007 at 10:32 am - Reply

    We had a guy who was a 20+ on the ARSE meter. He single-handedly created a toxic work environment which lingers a year after he left. In a start-up, there’s nothing worse than a jerk who controls a major functional area. I’d rather have a great team and subpar market opportunity because a great team will change gears and re-focus on a better market opportunity.

  6. Pajamas Media February 9, 2007 at 10:45 am - Reply

    Is Your Boss An A**hole?

    (Guy Kawasaki)…

  7. Beth C. February 9, 2007 at 10:53 am - Reply

    >>“Kawasaki Theory of Perfect Information About Assholes.” It goes like this: If you think your boss is an asshole, mostly likely everyone else does too. It’s seldom true that you think someone is an asshole, and everyone else thinks he’s great.<< So you would think. However when we look at exit interviews, we see that's often not the case. Some bosses are simply assholes to some and sweethearts to others. Other times YOU are the asshole and so you think the boss is an asshole when she asks you to get your....ummmm...ass...back to work.

  8. RBA February 9, 2007 at 10:54 am - Reply

    To tell you the truth, Guy, I’ve never needed a test nor guidelines for me to know whether my boss was or wasn’t an asshole. Someway, somehow I just knew 🙂

  9. JAR February 9, 2007 at 11:13 am - Reply

    Agree with BethC, there are few absolutes. The worst though is when they are aware of their behavior and choose to do it anyway. -Hello TJ Rodgers
    Funny line kinda off subject… Al McGuire had a quote that went something like “A team usually can stand one ass, but not two because they’ll breed.”

  10. Bob Sutton February 9, 2007 at 11:18 am - Reply

    I would also add that #2 is especially critical, indeed, if that problem is conquered, the rest of the problems will go away. I also agree with Guy that the danger in explaining the problem — as I try to do — is it can also serve as an excuse for not tackling it because, after all, that is what happens to people in power!

  11. Jas February 9, 2007 at 11:18 am - Reply

    I concur with bob that the best way for a boss to distance himself from being labeled as a AH is to distribute power among his group. The result of this is 2-Fold – first he gets in close contact with the people whom he works with to get a vibe of people’s perception around him towards him secondly he’s grows himself out of his position for the next level as more people would have clarity and understanding into his job and hence would be able to replace him.
    To take it forward Guy we should have a forum called SOAK – Society of Ass kickers which are essentially beings which kick the AH’s into shape. 🙂

  12. John Lilly February 9, 2007 at 11:31 am - Reply

    I’ve been following Bob’s work for a long time & think he’s terrific (and he’s a great friend of mine). Glad you’re posting about it and helping to develop this important meme.
    But I find this post troubling in many ways. It’s a form of populist discussion that creates divisions between classes (and creates the classes themselves) by giving an over-simplified message that’s easy to agree with emotionally: “Isn’t your boss an asshole??” “Hey, yeah!”
    I have a tough time with the way you end, too: “You may be concerned that only you think your boss is an asshole. For this issue I offer the “Kawasaki Theory of Perfect Information About Assholes.” It goes like this: If you think your boss is an asshole, mostly likely everyone else does too. It’s seldom true that you think someone is an asshole, and everyone else thinks he’s great.”
    The reason that I have a tough time with it is that, mostly, I think that tension & strife in organizations comes from well-intentioned people trying to do things who don’t understand each others’ points-of-view and motivations. I think that there are a legitimate number of assholes in the world, and that responsible organizations should do everything they can to exterminate them from the organization and not let new ones in — but even if you remove all the assholes, there will be misunderstandings and legitimate conflicts. And my feeling is that people should strive to understand each other — assuming “asshole” because of position is, I think, a major problem, and probably a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  13. What's New with Mick February 9, 2007 at 11:39 am - Reply

    Is Your Boss An Asshole?

    Guy Kawasaki offers 11 questions to help you answer the question….

  14. Marketing & Strategy Innovation Blog February 9, 2007 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    Is Your Boss an Asshole?

    By: GuyKawasakiQuestion: How many bosses does it take to screw in a light bulb?Answer: One. He holds up the light bulb and expects the universe to revolve around him….

  15. Rick February 9, 2007 at 12:55 pm - Reply

    I guess I’ve got a pretty cool boss. I don’t see any of those traits in her. Quite the opposite, in fact. And, she is free to call me on an evening or weekend. She doesn’t take advantage of it, but does use it once or twice a year, usually in an emergency situation.

  16. Respect February 9, 2007 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    Is this business advice? Or the drippings of an unprofessional VC?

  17. Dennis Meyler February 9, 2007 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    Since I’m my own boss I’d say it’s quite possible.

  18. Marc Duchesne February 9, 2007 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    Dear Guy,
    You write : “For example, she needs a special brand of spring water from the south of France bottled by chanting monks when she’s making a speech. This type of actions represent flexing for the sake of flexing—not because any of this crap is necessary.”
    May I ask you a question, please ? (well, this is the ‘Comment’ section, so I shouldn’t ask 🙂 What do you mean by ” any of this crap “? Is it the special brand, the spring water, the chanting monks, or the south of France ?
    Sincerely Yours,
    _Marc, from the North of France 😉
    Anything beyond tap water in a clean glass is evidence of an asshole.
    Guy, from the North of Menlo Park

  19. Dr. Todd Narson February 9, 2007 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    My wife and I are partners in our own business….how do we answer this question?
    I would believe your wife before I would believe you. 🙂

  20. Nox Dineen February 9, 2007 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    Great combination of humour and helpful commentary.
    I’m pleased to have official proof now that although my boss is what might best be termed a lunatic genius he is definitely not an asshole.

  21. Brandy Galos February 9, 2007 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    I put this list right next to Seth Godin’s “How to be Remarkable” list. That post generated a great amount of positive buzz.
    It is amazing how many of the attributes that Seth is saying are good lined up exactly with the attributes that Guy is saying are bad.
    For example:
    “Roger Bannister was remarkable. The next guy, the guy who broke Bannister’s record wasn’t. He was just faster … but it doesn’t
    “Assholes judge people according to only what they think is important”
    Is all it takes to become an asshole just listening to bad advice?
    It’s hard to imagine that Seth and I would disagree on anything. Suppose Roger Bannister judged people solely by how fast they could run the mile. Then, for example, he’d judge Mother Theresa to be inconsequential.
    My interpretation of this would be that Roger Bannister is an asshole if he thought this.

  22. T-Shirts February 9, 2007 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    You just pinpointed every boss I’ve had since middle school.

  23. shefaly February 9, 2007 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    The converse of your perfect-information theory is also true – if you think someone is great but all else think he is an arsehole, chances are they are right and you better change your opinion.. eh?

  24. Jon February 9, 2007 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    Guy, who do you consider the bigger asshole? The asshole boss or the board of director that allows the asshole boss to remain in their position? Ahhh… the stories I could tell… remarkable how some companies even stay in business! It’s because of bad bosses that I never regretted creating my own opportunities in life… no clue how people deal with this stuff on a daily basis.
    Founder of – free & anonymous health monitoring

  25. Jean Naimard February 9, 2007 at 5:37 pm - Reply

    A boss who **needs** a bottle (of anything) from Southern France cannot be an asshole.
    Assholes are those who won’t take **anything** from France by dismissing it as “froggy crap” and “unfreedomish”.
    Have you seen this?

  26. Hdr February 9, 2007 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    I think that there are even a few more things that could be added to that list.

  27. JimboNC February 9, 2007 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    Six questions that define “Is Your Boss an Asshole” defines ordinary bosses. They aren’t assholes as much as jerks. Probably less education than their staff, whom they resent having more.
    Try three bosses who were criminals when all the facts were in: one was a blackmailer who proudly displayed his checks after setting his victoms up for his “treatment”. A second was a child abuser who beat his adopted Downs daughter with his fists trying to make her smarter. And the third was a rapist. All three were friends who did bad things to their “underlings”.

  28. February 9, 2007 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    I Hate My Boss

    We’ve all thought it and most of us have said it at least once in our career. “I hate my boss!” So what do you do when you can’t deal with the person you work for? Well, Im updating this post (February 9, 2007) so you can see Guy Kawasak…

  29. Anonymous February 9, 2007 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    So this post begs a poll.
    Which boss would make YOUR list for the biggest asshole?
    Steve Jobs?
    Larry Ellison?
    T.J. Rodgers?
    Tom Siebel? (even though he’s now unemployed)
    Let’s have a vote!!

  30. Vincent Wright February 9, 2007 at 10:53 pm - Reply

    I don’t mean to be disrespectful or anything but don’t you think the “AH” level is for amateurs?
    I mean, I don’t think bad bosses are really worth their salt until they achieve the “PP” level of badness attained by one of my former bosses.
    His claim to fame is that he’d fired 4,800 people.
    Whether or not that’s true, I do know this: In just 3 months of working with him, this guy took over $1,000,000 Dollars in earnings value out of my life over the last 10 years.
    Oh, what is the PP level???
    If interested, one fellow is trying to describe his first-hand experiences with it here:

  31. Jan February 10, 2007 at 12:49 am - Reply

    My ex-boss was #11 – I resigned in December 2004; she was fired 16 months later. I developed a personal motto immediately after meeting the “supidvisor”: Gettin’ Better by the Tic’ Toc’ – in 2002. How did I get better? Two months after resigning, I created Jaz Live Cash Culture; resumed studies in a master degree program [November 2005]; anticipate graduating from Keller Graduate school of management in June 2007; and …

  32. Barcepundit February 10, 2007 at 3:11 am - Reply

    LA IDEA del Economist es buena, pero esta es mucho…

  33. David Wayne February 10, 2007 at 8:51 am - Reply

    Isn’t it also possible that there are a lot of employees who are assholes? It seems to me that an asshole will tend to see the other people in his life as assholes.
    I agree with the commenter who said that we can all be temporary assholes, I know I have on many occasions.

  34. Jon February 10, 2007 at 9:29 am - Reply

    Your ‘asshole’ posts are incredibly depressing to me because I spent 16 months working with a flaming a-hole building an internet startup. How I enabled his success is hard for me to even contemplate; only the thought that I would walk away with no equity after developing the product for the sole benefit of a no-talent blowhard kept me around. The start-up was eventually acquired and the asshole ended up with a huge check and an impressive title at the acquiring company. Like many assholes, his emotional problems and paranoia were second to none, only matched by his general idiocy. At the end of the day, he found a fellow asshole to join the board and support my demotion. I was too exhausted to put up a fight. I can add a few more items to your list:
    12. Uses his title to intimidate and bully others. Lacking the general ability to win over minds by offering a compelling viewpoint, the asshole resorts to intimidation and bullying tactics in order to kill ideas or discussions that threaten his ‘vision’. Anyone who challenges an idea or product feature ‘owned’ by him might be accused of insubordination or have to deal with an angry come back. Another favored tactic of the asshole ‘visionary’ is to keep all discussions focused on peripheral topics that avoid addressing why the main ‘vision’ is failing.
    13. Focuses on perceived mistakes rather than the underlying decision making and execution. Unable to understand that real leaders find solutions to problems, the asshole loves to find ‘mistakes’ that inflate his sense of self-righteous victimization, even when those mistakes are merely imagined or nothing more than the normal by-product of building a company. Instead of examining the decision making process or execution that underlie a perceived mistake, the asshole finds immediate and personal flaws to blame and fails to offer any constructive criticism or guidance.
    14. Lacks accountability. An extension of Part 1, the asshole loves to set standards for others that are far above his own ability to deliver or track record of performance.
    15. Will say or do anything to make him/herself look good or to cover up mistakes. When things go wrong for the asshole, it’s always because someone else made a mistake or because the task at hand represents one of the great undertakings of the century and it’s only reasonable to expect problems to arise.
    16. Is too arrogant or threatened to learn from others. Seeing all around him or her as potential adversaries and competitors, the asshole carefully avoids opportunities to let others lead in ways that would grow the company or dramatically improve the product. For the asshole, keeping his or her image intact as the singular visionary and talent in the company is paramount. Any threat to the asshole’s image or total control is not tolerated.
    17. Loves to fire. The asshole typically sees himself as a great victim at the hands of others who lack the talent or vision to work with him. When progress is sidetracked by a problem, there’s always a remedy that’s so fulfilling that it compensates for any lost time- a good firing. When firing, the asshole likes to help the exiting party understand that there’s absolutely no chance of ever working at the company again. It’s also important for the firee to understand how much the asshole has suffered over the course of their working relationship.

  35. Jonathan February 10, 2007 at 10:08 am - Reply

    Someone mentioned Jobs.
    While the stereotype of him would peg him near the top of the ARSE scale, I don’t think a lot of the rules apply.
    There’s no doubt that he’s exceptionally demanding, but from what I’ve heard he’s the kind who expects everything from you because he expects the same from himself. I read of one presenter who found that his presentation skills went through the roof because Jobs kept gaving him a hard time while preparing for a MacWorld keynote. So long as you know you’re getting into that kind of business relationship, it can be a wonderful thing.
    And needing an assistant isn’t automatically a bad thing: I can’t imagine Jobs trying to deal with his public e-mail address(es) directly, let alone some of the other more menial elements of his CEO position. Some bosses don’t have this excuse, and they deserve to be flayed for their self-importance. But let’s not confuse needing an assistant with wanting one!

  36. Thomas Promny February 10, 2007 at 10:12 am - Reply

    Have you tested yourself, Guy?
    You even have your personal email answered by employees when you’re travelling. 🙂
    Let’s say that I took the test, and it showed that I was an asshole. What does that make you, the reader of an asshole’s blog?
    There’s no upside for either of us in me taking the test.

  37. Christian February 10, 2007 at 11:22 am - Reply

    Why do i get the feeling that this post is your way of venting some frustration?
    I had an intuitive thought that perhaps something recently happened between you and Steve Jobs….
    You made several examples and references in your list of Asshole Boss qualities that have striking similarities to Jobs’ history;
    1) demand for “special” spring water
    2) parking in handicapped space (this has been known about steve for years)
    3) Great vs. Lousy people = “A players” vs. “B/C players”– Steve is known only want “A players”, because everyone else is “shit.”
    I can go on, but i think you get my point.
    I just find this particular line of discussion interesting given you just discussed the ARSE topic 2 blogs ago.
    Well, just my 2 cents….
    Sometimes a post is just a post. I haven’t seen Steve in over a year…so there’s goes that theory.

  38. Kitty February 10, 2007 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    It’s spelled ‘arsehole’. An ‘ass’ is another word for a donkey.

  39. Antonymous Co-weird February 10, 2007 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    On all the voting for which boss is the biggest asshole, let me throw out a name:
    Philippe Courtot
    Anyone who has worked for him knows he is an asshole, albeit a minor league self-important tyrant. I mention his name only because I’m sure he is fuming people haven’t thought him important enough to already mention.

  40. john harper February 10, 2007 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    Assholes are People Too!
    Sorry just trying out some of that liberal – everyone can be saved KoolAid.
    I certainly do like reading what you have to offer. Perhaps that is the way to change the world – one asshole at a time???

  41. Ugh February 10, 2007 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    Assholes are People Too!
    Sorry just trying out some of that liberal – everyone can be saved KoolAid.
    You sure you weren’t talking about Dick Cheney? Now THERE is an asshole.

  42. Shailesh February 10, 2007 at 10:45 pm - Reply

    I have been lucky to have good bosses in my short career of two years.
    But this post will surely make managers to think about their behavior towards subordinates.
    I am fan of you blog from now !!

  43. Mike LaMorte February 10, 2007 at 11:11 pm - Reply

    I can add three other items to the list, after Jon’s excellent commentary:
    18. Believes that by their title and position, that they know everything about everything, and use their title & position to bully their underlings into doing things that they want done, regardless if what they want done is the right thing to do. This can be best described by the oft-uttered “I’m the boss, so do what I tell you if you value your job!” Questioning them or suggesting a better way only leads to being labeled as “hard to work with”, “argumentative”, or “belligerent”. Asshole bosses that fit this criteria have zero respect for other employees’ skill, knowledge, or experience in their chosen field and instead try to tell their employees how “the real world” works as if they’ve never worked there before.
    19. Bosses that are “red lights” to ideas that aren’t their own. As one of their underlings, if you bring up an idea that they don’t deem worthy, the idea ends with them. No need to waste the precious time of other people, because obviously they know best! The motivated employee is left either disheartened (again) or faced with going around/behind the back of their boss and bearing the political fallout.
    20. Bosses that deem their underlings “unworthy” or “unskilled” enough to talk or present to those above him/her. Have an idea that your boss agrees with and wants to pitch it to upper management? That’s great, but don’t block off time on your calendar for the meeting because you’re part of the hoi polloi. Instead, they pitch your idea as their own.

  44. Theo Tonca February 11, 2007 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Nice post Guy! I think before someone steps into a leadership position they should develop themselves not only professionally, but also emotionally and spiritually.

  45. George Bezou February 11, 2007 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    Is your boss an asshole? Tell her so anonymously at
    You can also read stories of other asshole bosses and find great bosses, too.

  46. Cambrian House Blog February 11, 2007 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    Weekend roundup: Mashups, mobile apps, is your boss is an asshole

    Every weekend well be bringing you a list of cool stories, projects, ideas and startups that you may not have seen. Its just a little extra service, because we love our community.
    Is your boss an asshole?
    If youve ever wondered wh…

  47. Adeel Ansari February 11, 2007 at 8:00 pm - Reply

    What asshole thingy are you doing?
    I just started reading this blog a month ago. It was just great and then suddenly I found assholes everywhere here. I mean the word “Asshole”.
    I found some of you are calling others asshole by mentioning his/her names. What a frustration it is.
    If you really don’t have something to publish don’t publish. Or make the same a bit more decent. For example you can think of “Creating Passionate User”.
    I would encourage if you moderate the comments and make those out of profanity. At least remove the person’s name who is called an asshole. Indeed, calling a person an asshole publicly and simply makes you an asshole.
    You can always go here:

  48. John C. Randolph February 11, 2007 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    I’d have to say that #6 really isn’t very well stated. We *all* judge people according to our personal values, which may or may not align with those of most of the people around us. Societies can be right and wrong, too.
    Two of my heroes (Miep Gies and Harriet Tubman) were certainly going against the grain, and that’s why I honor them.

  49. Yuri February 11, 2007 at 10:14 pm - Reply

    Well, as you say, slavery was abolished in America, but, apparently, not in the other parts of the world? A$$holes know no international boundaries, you know.
    The point you missed is that “Boss is always right”. That one can be huge.

  50. Bill Ferrante February 12, 2007 at 2:48 am - Reply

    I’ve been telling a close friend recently to get out of her current job for a variety of reasons. Many of them are listed above.
    I sent this to her yesterday. About 8 hours later she had decided to quit and had an alternative career path all laid out.
    The article may just have been the straw, but either way I think it made a difference. You helped change someones life yet again.
    All the best,
    Bill Ferrante

  51. Ashish February 12, 2007 at 2:57 am - Reply

    Guess this is the topic where everyone has something or the other to say. I have also been with asshole bosses and every time I get a new boss, I realize that my erstwhile boss was a shade better “asshole”. So much so for normal assholes. My last boss was a real-real asshole – a guy who sucked all the energy of the place and left the place stinking and stuffy…finally was transferred but not before I left the company!

  52. Maureen Rogers February 12, 2007 at 6:19 am - Reply

    Guy – Although I don’t think it applies across the boards, one of the key points you make is that an asshole “doesn’t understand the difference between a position making a person and a person making a position.” Some of the biggest assholes I’ve worked with have had both what I call personal (tremendous ability) and positional authority, but they’ve managed to abuse both,squandering their intelligence and vision by demeaning people,treating subordinates like crap, etc. I’ve also seen plenty of assholes in action who have the big title (professional authority) but no personal authority (“all hat, no cattle”). Neither types are much fun to be around, but in my experience the worst are what I call “charismatic assholes” who manage to suck you in with their brilliance, only to spit you out once they’ve used you.

  53. Subverting Mediocrity February 12, 2007 at 7:18 am - Reply

    Weekend Link Love

    Christy Veer, one of our former students, is heading off to Kenya next month to a mission stint. She has set up a blog to keep people updated. Christy is one of those students we sorely miss around here, but are excited about what God has in store f…

  54. Adeel Ansari February 12, 2007 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the link (
    ), Guy. It really helped me alot. But was unable to refrain me from this asshole stuff. 🙂

  55. Jarin Udom February 13, 2007 at 5:39 am - Reply

    “I had an intuitive thought that perhaps something recently happened between you and Steve Jobs….
    You made several examples and references in your list of Asshole Boss qualities that have striking similarities to Jobs’ history;
    1) demand for “special” spring water”
    SmartWater (the water Steve Jobs always drinks during keynotes) is available at Vons and Safeway, it’s just water with electrolytes in a nicely-designed bottle.
    I’m not disagreeing with the rest of your post, just saying.

  56. Jeff N February 13, 2007 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    I’ve encountered shades of “asshole”dom throughout my career (and perhaps stepped over the line once or twice myself in the name of getting things done or being a “company man”… but I’m recovered now… mostly… I think)
    The biggest one for me is #8, no willing or able to do the jobs that any of their staff could do. I only encountered this once and it was one of the most absurd situations that I’ve ever been in. As a manager myself from time to time I’ve made sure that I knew exactly what each role in my teams did so that I could:
    A) Know if they’re doing a good job or not
    B) Understand where additional training or assistance was needed and step in myself to take some of the burden
    Folks who aren’t willing to take on the role of “hurdle pusher” as a manager and aren’t generally supportive of their staff (pick any of the other criteria) really need to step aside.
    -Jeff N

  57. Cason Esperante February 13, 2007 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    Well thought out framework that describes yourself. I have witnessed many an episode of “The Guy Kawasaki Show” to potential invesments of your fund, and your typical behavior fits this criteria to a “T”.

  58. Rick February 14, 2007 at 6:27 am - Reply

    Yeeee, Guy
    My boss takes out a 10/10 on your list !
    Any advice for now ?
    How to manage your boss from an asshole into a facilitator ?

  59. Andre February 15, 2007 at 12:13 am - Reply

    “because slavery was abolished a long time ago in America.” uhm, not abolished. It was replaced with self-exploitation (a system inherent necessity), what is much more effective than slavery. 😉

  60. Al Sacco February 15, 2007 at 11:14 am - Reply

    My name is Al Sacco and I’m a writer with We recently assembled a handy guide to boss relations, and I thought I’d share with you and your readers. Though aimed mostly at the IT exec, the guide also includes valuable insights for non-tech staffers, including articles on how to tell your boss you’re overworked, how to read his facial expressions–or anyone else’s–and a piece on how to tell you’re about to get fired.

  61. El Blog Salmón February 15, 2007 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    ¿Es tu jefe un pesado?

    Guy Kawasaki nos da su lista de once temas que nos ayuda responder esta pregunta, aunque su título es menos elegante. Esta lista proviene del libro “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t” escrito por el…

  62. Todd Friers February 15, 2007 at 5:37 pm - Reply

    Guy, YOU are an asshole!
    Did I say anywhere that I wasn’t? Perhaps it does take one to know one.

  63. Reap What You Sow February 16, 2007 at 6:38 am - Reply

    (1) The biggest asshole boss ever: “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap. Hands down, the Hannibal Lector of CEOs.
    (2) Asshole bosses reap what they sow. So if I were working for such a company, I would think nothing about interviewing like crazy during work hours, doing consulting gigs “on the side” and otherwise being actively disengaged at work making my move the hell out, while avoiding the assholes (who are also often clueless). IMHO, the best defense against asshole bosses is a passive-aggressive offense.

  64. Reap What You Sow February 16, 2007 at 7:09 am - Reply

    I will make one more general comment on books and such on how to manage a asshole/bully-type boss who unpredictably goes into tirades. These advice books are in general misguided. It’s like a battered woman who thinks ‘as long as I do this that and the other perfectly, he won’t lose his temper and beat me up.’ It’s just wrong, ruinous thinking. The only way to ‘fix’ such a situation is a passive-aggressive stance which helps lead the asshole boss into finding others to harass as an aid to leave the company on your terms.

  65. A Face February 16, 2007 at 9:58 am - Reply

    I’m tired of people telling employees how to deal with bad bosses. Bad bosses need to be told that they are idiots. Alastair Onetowne’s You’re an Idiot, and People Talk About You Behind Your Back! is an excellent book that talks about the idiot bosses out there. My friends have read it, and some have sent it to their bosses. Great anonymous gift. The book is a quick, funny, true read of idiot bosses and how they affect their employees. Fun read. Amazon/Barnes&Noble.

  66. Allison February 16, 2007 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    —There’s no doubt that he’s exceptionally demanding, but from what I’ve heard he’s the kind who expects everything from you because he expects the same from himself.
    Just because you didn’t violate rule 8 doesn’t mean you’re not an AH.
    rule 11: expecting others to perform as you did just because you behave that way, so they should too.
    This is madness. It’s just the validation of the cycle of violence. it’s Arbeit Macht Frei.
    There is absolutely no way to actually judge if someone is performing as you did, and no way in heck that you accurately remember or portray your own behavior.
    I had an AH prof tell me that to work for her, I had to work as hard in grad school as she had when she was in grad school. WHO THE HELL could possibly live up to that fantasy? no one, unless she decided they did. it wasn’t about reality, just perception.

  67. Sathvik Tantry February 16, 2007 at 11:46 pm - Reply

    I found the above discussion quite interesting, but I must disagree with some of your premises:
    I think of the “asshole” criteria above, 1,2,10, and 11 are by far the worst. I think the worst thing a boss can do is impede your career or take criticism personally and non-constructively. These traits are generally indefensible and will cause organizations to fall.
    However, I believe that other things (such as calling people on weekends and asking for specific perks) are completely reasonable. People spend years working their way up so that they can enjoy these perks of first-class seats and not having to do mundane tasks. In a fast-paced, entrepreneurial environment, employees should EXPECT to take calls at home as opposed to needlessly complaining.
    Basically, I believe that the fundamental traits of human nature make it very justifiable to ask for perks – most successful executives ask for, and receive these things. However, I absolutely agree that when such behavior cuts into the growth of an organization or the people within, there is cause for concern. Until then, suck it up and have a thick skin.

  68. creativecocktails February 18, 2007 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    Funny how the phone rings when your thinking of a certain someone *sigh*..

  69. big ralph February 19, 2007 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    Oh my GOD # 11 is it. My *&$&*&#@ boss told me I cound not get a promo cause it would be bad for the client. WTF!!
    So how does anyone make mo money and move on up to the east side?
    How does that motivate the guy under me to do a better job and get to my level?
    The client would benefit by having more people able and WILLING to help. It would show the client we are not lacking skilled personel.
    No F-ing wonder HR wanders around asking why we are losing good people!!!!

  70. Manny Hernandez February 21, 2007 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    I guess I am very fortunate. My boss is REALLY not an asshole.

  71. The Simple Guy... February 24, 2007 at 9:17 am - Reply

    Is your boss an Asshole?

    Guy Kawasaki, former Apple Evangelist now working in venture capital, and well seen for many years in both print and web spheres, has an interesting article on his blog about “Is your Boss an Asshole?” The article is tied into a series of posts about …

  72. yoda February 24, 2007 at 9:32 am - Reply

    I think it’s human nature to not like your boss. People don’t like having to answer to someone else. Loss of freedom.

  73. bhattathiri February 26, 2007 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    One of the greatest contributions of India to the world is Holy Gita which is considered to be one of the first revelations from God. The management lessons in this holy book were brought in to light of the world by divine Maharshi Mahesh Yogi , Sri Sri RaviShankar and Swami Bodhanandji, and the spiritual philosophy by the great Adi Sankaracharya the greatest philosopher of India and proud son of Kerala, and Sri. Srila Prabhupada Swami and humanism by Mata Amritanandamayi Devi and Satya Sai Baba. Maharishi calls the Bhagavad-Gita the essence of Vedic Literature and a complete guide to practical life. It provides “all that is needed to raise the consciousness of man to the highest possible level.” Maharishi reveals the deep, universal truths of life that speak to the needs and aspirations of everyone. Swami Chinmayanandaji preached and educated the people and Swami Sandeep Chaitanyaji continuing the mission by keeping this lantern burning always knowing the wishes of the modern generations. Arjuna got mentally depressed when he saw his relatives with whom he has to fight.( Mental health has become a major international public health concern now). To motivate him the Bhagavad Gita is preached in the battle field Kurukshetra by Lord Krishna to Arjuna as a counseling to do his duty while multitudes of men stood by waiting. It has got all the management tactics to achieve the mental equilibrium and to overcome any crisis situation. The Bhagavad Gita can be experienced as a powerful catalyst for transformation. Bhagavad gita means song of the Spirit, song of the Lord. The Holy Gita has become a secret driving force behind the unfoldment of one’s life. In the days of doubt this divine book will support all spiritual searches. This divine book will contribute to self reflection, finer feeling and deepen one’s inner process. Then life in the world can become a real education—dynamic, full and joyful—no matter what the circumstance. May the wisdom of loving consciousness ever guide us on our journey? What makes the Holy Gita a practical psychology of transformation is that it offers us the tools to connect with our deepest intangible essence and we must learn to participate in the battle of life with right knowledge?. It shows us the path to handle the situation with equipoised mind irrespective of what comes our way and reminds us time and again, that what the right action is.

  74. aprincess March 19, 2007 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Glad I found this place to vent. I not to long a go lost a job I really liked, because I unfortunatly was put under the supervisor from HELL! alot of times you have people above management who are nice and like you, but when you get a manager who is evil, they can’t do anything to help save your job. To this manager I had a Bitch(which I did do to her face, AFTER I knew she was firing me) is an understatement, she is a complete Psychopath! She was extremely condescending and screamed and yelled, and this always makes #11 become true, they ruin yourchances to grow and of course you can’t do your job when you have someone viciously insulting you. I basically discovered she was planning to fire me because she interviewed a possible replacement for me IN FRONT OF MY FACE! and I know she wasn’t trying to replace my other peer, cause she made her into her ass-kissing sidekick. And she was saying things to other people in a very tactless way all week, and I knew she ment me when she interviewed the other girl. Anytime she screwed up, she of course somehow managed to put it on me(#10)! She slowed down our scedule, and then when I had to clean up after her, she yelled at me for cleaning too slow. She made me work sick with a fever once, because unlike other managers, she refused to work a full day by herself, which correlates to #8. She was also a pathological Lier. this girl was a true psychopath. I suggest any of you who have had a a boss or manager of this like read a book I am currently reading called Without Conscience, by Robert Hare, about psychopaths. There is a chapter about white coller psychopaths, with a section called subcriminal psychopaths, about people who aren’t physically violant, but destroy people emotionally, it described my ex-supervisor and probably many of your bosses/ex-bosses quite perfectly. has anyone else delt with someone like this she devil who screwed me over? I love to hear other peoples stories. And please don’t tell me I’m probably overreacting, because I’m not!

  75. aprincess March 19, 2007 at 1:00 pm - Reply

    Amen to A Face, I gotta find that book!

  76. Guyinga March 24, 2007 at 8:22 am - Reply

    I interviewed with a company head recently — and was told he was a ‘quick decision maker.’ After having talked with him, I’m wondering if that should be included as part of being an asshole boss. The interview wasn’t really an interview — just a chance for him to fire off questions, act rude and disinterested, then say “sorry, not cut out for the position.” I actually hope I never hear back from them, which is a really weird feeling to have if you’re looking for a job.
    Either that or my initial perception is wrong.

  77. Revenge April 7, 2007 at 9:40 am - Reply

    Why not give your boss the asshole award? at or just put one in the washroom and watch all your co-workers laugh.

  78. Get revenge on your boss April 7, 2007 at 9:41 am - Reply

    you guys should just give him an asshole award, lol.

  79. Success from the Nest May 18, 2007 at 10:39 am - Reply

    If Working for a Jerk Motivated Your Self-Employment, What Are You Motivating?

    I would rather work for an up-turned broom with a bucket for a head than work for anyone else in this office besides myself. ~ Stanley from The Office
    One of the top reasons that people set out on their own is that they hate their boss. O…

  80. Paula June 10, 2007 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    My boss is an asshole. He evaluated me unfairly. Said I had an attitude problem and had no entusiasim. He based this on someone elses opinion of me. The other someone is a person who has hated me ever since she came to this job. She bad mouthed me to the boss and he took it all serious. I feel I have been dumped on and given a unfair evaluation this year.

  81. Jazi July 18, 2007 at 4:32 am - Reply

    My boss is really an a**hole..
    This is my first month of doing job in a new compant & in the begining only my boss wants to see me a perfect employee, Niether he is much helpful when it comes to a difficult situation of doing something which I havent done before.. I just don’t understand how to deal with my boss.He gets pissed off very soon when I ask him questions..
    Kindly help me with this situation.. Tell me how should I manage my boss.. Write me a letter so that I can email it to my boss.. I am too much frustrated… I just dont know what to do..
    Please write me a letter on my e-mail:

  82. Mcgill September 3, 2007 at 11:08 pm - Reply

    I’m loving the graph. Look at how it shooted up initially and later came down rapidly. This shows the bosses have come across this blog lately. lol

  83. One Dude October 18, 2007 at 7:49 pm - Reply

    I know good bosses are hard to find these days and I had one once. He was one that I can trust, respect, comunicate with and rely on any given day. We stood up for each other very well and there was never a dull moment.
    The boss I have today is totaly the opposite, but I am here for the company. Here are some advice 1) Be quiet and do the best you can even if he wants you to wipe his hairy butt or hear him trash talk. 2) Be friendly with everyone, except the co-workers that are not your type unless you absolutely have to in order to get the job done. 3) Think before asking questions and be honest and specific about it. 4) Be at work early and leave later than expected. 5) You will always find an a**hole in the crowd and don’t let them get to you in any way. 6) Take notes for yourself in what areas you can improve on to be the better person.
    What burns me up is someone who takes 20-30 minute smoke break every hour and gets promoted. This same guy only does (works) what he wants to do. I bet he has never worked 24 hours straight like I have. And I don’t expect a medal or a chest to pin it on either.

  84. Jobosity - The Job Blog February 11, 2008 at 9:07 am - Reply

    Is Your Boss an A**hole?

    So…how many people out there think their bosses egotistical are a waste of time? OK, don’t all raise your hands at once, I don’t want our server to overload. Sometimes, bosses just stand in the way of being productive because

  85. Judson Stettner March 15, 2017 at 7:12 am - Reply

    So good to find someone with some original thoughts on this subject. realy thank you for beginning this up. this website is one thing that is needed on the net, somebody with just a little originality. useful job for bringing something new to the internet!

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