You have to like an author who has the testicles (or ovaries) to walk away from Harvard Business School Press because it wouldn’t let him use the word “asshole” in his title. (HBS Press also turned me down once, but I digress…) Robert Sutton is the author who did this; he’s a professor at Stanford in the engineering school. While I am not a big fan of profanity, “asshole” is the only word that delivers the proper connotative meaning in some situations, so forgive me for using it in this posting.
I have an early copy of Sutton’s book, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t, and it’s the definitive guide to understanding, counteracting, and not becoming an asshole. I am qualified to make this judgment because (a) I’ve been an asshole a few times and (b) been a victim of assholes more than a few times.
The first step is to recognize who is an asshole. Sutton’s blog cites one method. It’s called the Starbucks Test It goes like this: If you hear someone at Starbucks order a “decaf grande half-soy, half-low fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light ice, with one Sweet-n’-Low and one NutraSweet,” you’re in the presence of an asshole. It’s unlikely that this petty combination is necessary—the person ordering is trying to flex her power because she’s an asshole.
A second method is to use Suttons’s dirty-dozen list of everyday asshole actions:
Invading one’s personal territory
Uninvited personal contact
Threats and intimidation, both verbal and non-verbal
Sarcastic jokes and teasing used as insult delivery systems
Withering email flames
Status slaps intended to humiliate their victims
Public shaming or status degradation rituals
Treating people as if they are invisible
A third method—albeit the least reliable, scientific, and fair but the most fun—is to search Google with a person’s name (or a profession) plus “asshole.” This yields some interesting results. For example, I am associated more with the word “asshole” than Terrell Owens.
How To Avoid Being an Asshole
The first $64,000 question is, “How does one avoid being an asshole?” No big surprise, but I’ve compiled a top-ten list to summarize what Sutton says:
Face your past. The past is a very good predictor of future behavior. For example, were you a bully in school? If your parents and siblings were assholes, you may have caught the disease. Knowing that you’re an asshole is first step towards change.
Do not make people feel oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled. If you find yourself having these effects, it’s time to change your behavior no matter what you think of yourself.
Do not mistreat people who are less powerful than you. One of the sure signs of an asshole is treating people like clerks, flight attendants, and waiters in a degrading manner.
Resist assholeholics from the start. The easiest time to avoid becoming an asshole is at the very beginning. Don’t think that you can do “what you have to” to fit in and can change later. It won’t happen.
Walk away and stay away. Don’t be afraid to leave a bad situation. It’s unlikely you’ll change the assholes into good people; it’s much more likely that you’ll descend to their level.
View acting like an asshole as a communicable disease. If you have any sense of decency, when you’re sick, you avoid contact to prevent spreading the disease. So if you act like an asshole, you’re not just impacting yourself; you’re also teaching other people that it’s okay to be an asshole.
Focus on win-win. Children (young and old) think that the world is a zero-sum game. If another kid is playing with the fire truck, you can’t. As people get older they should realize that life doesn’t have to be a win-lose proposition–unless, that is, you’re an asshole.
Focus on ways you are no better or even worse than others. Thinking that you’re smarter, faster, better looking, funnier, whatever than others turns people into assholes. Thinking that you’re no better or even worse keeps you humble.
Focus on ways you are similar to people, not different. If you concentrate on how you and others have similar goals, desires, and passions, you’re bound to be less of an asshole. How can you treat people that are similar to you with disdain?
Tell yourself, “I have enough stuff (money, toys, friends, cars, whatever).” Discontentment and envy is a major factor in becoming an asshole. If you’re happy, there’s no reason to stomp on others.
How to Deal With Assholes
Let’s say that you’re not an asshole, but you have to cope with assholes. What can you do? That’s the second $64,000 question that Sutton answers.
Hope for the best, but expect the worst. One of the most frustrating aspects of dealing with assholes is that they disappoint you–making you wonder the very value of humans. Lowering your expectations can help reduce disappointment. Don’t solely lower your expectations, though, or you will slip into cynicism (and possibly turn into an asshole too.) Continue to hope for the best.
Develop indifference and emotional detachment. Sutton may be the only author who has the insight and courage to recommend that being indifferent and detached may be a good thing in work environments. If it permits you to survive, then it is. In other words, don’t let the jerks get to you.
Look for small wins. Small victories can keep you going. Most assholes pride themselves in total control and absolute domination. Any victory, no matter how small, can keep you going. Rest assured that small victories can lead to winning the war.
Limit your exposure. You can do what you can to avoid meetings and interactions with assholes. This involves finding or building pockets of “safety, support, and sanity,” to use Sutton’s words. He cites an example of a nurse’s lounge as a refuge from an asshole doctor.
Expose them. In Sutton’s blog he mentions Marge’s Asshole Management Metric. This refers to four-point system from 0 to 3. Marge, the boss, would point to people who were behaving like assholes and hold up one, two, or three fingers according to this code:
1 = You are a normal person who can occasionally assert yourself on an issue you are passionate about, but you handle yourself in a non-confrontational way in nearly all occasions.
2 = You can consistently assert yourself in a non-confrontational way and are occasionally an asshole, but you feel horrible about it afterwards, and you may or may not apologize (but you probably will have to confess your remorse to someone).
3 = You can consistently be an asshole and you either do not recognize this or you simply enjoy it.
By the way, 0 in her system means this:
You are a very nice person, and very passive. No one can say a word against you and would never think to call you an asshole.
If you are safe in your position, then calling assholes out is a good way to deal with them.
De-escalate and re-educate. This strategy requires that the asshole you’re dealing with isn’t a “chronic,” “certified,” and “flagrant” asshole. It means meeting asshole behavior with calmness (instead of either similar behavior or fear) and trying to re-educate the person about how he’s behaving.
Stand up to them. Funny thing about assholes: Standing up to them shouldn’t necessarily scare you. While I was an Apple employee, I was in a meeting with a highly placed Apple exec and Apple’s ad agency. The ad agency person showed the new television spots and said he’d give a copy to the Apple exec and me. The Apple exec told the agency person not to give one to me. I spoke up: “Are you saying you don’t trust me?” The Apple exec answered: “Yes.” To which I replied, “That’s okay because I don’t trust you either.” You know what? The sun rose the next day, and my family still loved me.
The book also explains how to implement a no-asshole rule in your company; how being an asshole can be a necessity, if not a virtue; and how to calculate the TCA (Total Cost of Assholes). I want you to buy the book, so I won’t reveal any details. (Another way to avoid being an asshole is to resist the temptation to steal other people’s thunder.)
Yup, “Asshole” captures something that “Bozo” does not.
Great post Guy.
It’s nice to see at least that more than half the people replying to the poll don’t work for assholes.
Being self-employed I think this–“Resist assholeholics from the start”–helps a lot in how a client relationship develops. When things are made clear and fair right from the very start (no over-billing, straight-talk about your services, etc…) it’s surprising how the level of assholyiness decreases ;-)
I keep thinking there’s going to be a discussion somewhere about the new name of your blog. But I don’t see the discussion, so I’ll just say here that I love the name. Love the tagline. Watching your blog morph has been a great lesson in taking marketing risks and being smart about personal branding. Thank you.
Thanks! Glad that you like the changes. You pushed me to change the tagline. I was sitting on the fence until you contacted me.
More of an asshole than Carly Fiorina and Terrell Owens? ;)
Thanks. Do you think if my “in-denial” asshole husband would read this? His behavior is intolerable and unbearable at times. I’m trying the de-escalate and re-educate tactic, and turning the other cheek, but when he’s an asshole to the other kids on the soccer team, that’s when I’ve used the stand up to them tactic, without any luck. So far, turning the other cheek is an extremely difficult exercise. I’ll pass this blog on to him and see what ensues.
Maybe you could videotape him and show him what he’s doing?
Or, have your kids take up hockey. Parents really cannot interact with kids because of the glass. :-)
This is a good list of bad behaviors in both personal and corporate situations. I would like to add a couple that seem common in corporate environemnts:
– NIH (not invented here) syndrome, mode 1: any idea you suggest that I didn’t think of first cannot, by definiiton, be worthwhile
– NIH syndrome, mode 2: thanks for reminding me of what a great idea I had
– people who make decisions based on race, gender, national origin, political leaning, religious faith, etc.
– incompetence creates its own bad behavior, especially when the incompetent one defends his idea/decision/project
– it’s all about me, so the sooner you learned this the easier it will be for you (also known as “my way or the highway”)
– last but not least: the manager who fires you “for your own good”, and then greets you later as if he was your best friend
1. What do you do if you’re a boss and someone who works for you is an asshole but not so terrible that you can just fire them out of hand. Hard to ‘manage’ someone into being a civilised person.
2. If you’re a boss, how can you create an environment where people can call out your own idiotic (quasi-asshole-ish) actions without getting fired or making the boss feel miserable.
I know I’ve been in both situations and never really found a happy answer.
11. Escalate. This works with anyone who has less of a capacity of being an asshole than you do. My favorite recurring example is someone who comes to me and says that he needs me to do such and such yesterday or his credibility will suffer. I call them “emergency mode people”, always spreading their crises, never ever planning ahead, never keeping lines of communication open when there isn’t an impending catastrophe. “It’s not my emergency” establishes you as the alpha asshole in this silly power game and puts you in a position to dictate the terms. I’m sure there are lots of other asshole ju-jitsu moves. Anyone care to brainstorm?
“If you’re a boss, how can you create an environment where people can call out your own idiotic (quasi-asshole-ish) actions without getting fired or making the boss feel miserable?”
I think it’s really important to show a sense of humor … you unveil your secret, approachable, humanity. At the same time, when you have to be firm, you remain respectful (an employee is as much a human being as you are).
The sense of humor lets people relax; the sense of respect discourages going postal. In this way you invite critique that won’t make you miserable. In other words: you reap what you sow.
This test is great for extraverts – people more likely to be “the boss”, for example – but it seems to miss the introvert assholes. Introverts are commonly mistaken for being assholes because they don’t communicate as actively, which is obviously bogus.
But there are also real introvert assholes, who present actual problems as opposed to simply a different communication style. Differentiating them is difficult and is important when building teams of people that tend to be introverts – engineering, software development, etc. – because an asshole on the team can easily ruin the culture.
Do you know of any similar tests for diagnosing introvert assholes?
Thanks for the post on my book! And I wanted to thank everyone for the great — and quite insightful — comments. I also want to add a bit more to the Harvard Business School story. Guy is right, they wanted the book, but not the title. But there are also two other interesting twists. First, I wrote the book because of the amazing response to a short essay that I wrote on the no asshole rule in the Harvard Business Review in 2004 on the rule, which contained the word “asshole” about 8 times in 800 words. So ironically, it was Harvard Business School Press (which runs both HBR at the book publishing part) that started me down this path. Second, I actually think that — because the title is so inconsistent with the Harvard brand — I wouldn’t publish a book with that book either, so I don’t blame them!
This is easily the best advice I’ve read in a very, very long time about life and the dealing with the people you meet along the way.
I just posted about Steve Ballmer http://nickgogerty.typepad.com/thoughts_for_now/
I think he is on the way out for the reasons you spoke about.
Any bets on the Ballmer watch.
i am looking for the opposite techniques
will anyone help me?
The best way to avoid them is to not work for them in the first place. Remember that you are interviewing the company to see if you want to work there too.
And if you can tell that your future boss is an asshole or that the company is full of them, don’t complain if you take the job. That’s called being a “whiner” which is almost worse than being an asshole.
By the way, “douchebag” has returned to the business lexicon as the hip cool term for these types of people.
Actually you are a fan of profanity as I recall. When I was working for a non-profit a few years back my ED and her co-hort were giving you a presentation so that you could provide them with feedback. You gave them quite a down to earth ear full, profanity and all. I came to respect you much more than I could ever respect the ED after that.
Several possible explanations. 1) I was younger and dumber then. 2) You guys caught me on a bad day. 3) The pitch was so bad that I had to swear. 4) I just didn’t get it. :-)
I have found it necessary to swear in pitches sometimes to break through and establish communication. I have often regretted it. It would be far easier to say, “Very interesting idea. I will get back to you on this.”
Instead, I tell people what I really think. Then it sometimes turn into an argument.
Guy, it maybe takes being a bit of an asshole to use objectionable terms repeatedly to attract readers. Maybe it has a shocking, take a second look effect the first couple of times, but after a few paragraphs and 15 instances, it loses all value, having numbed the mind for the next 100 instances. “Jerk” would have worked just as well.
There are good reasons you’re “not a big fan of profanity”. I wish you had stuck closer to your instincts and avoided bombarding us with coarseness to jack up a topic that’s already interesting on its own merits.
You think I used the word “asshole” to attract readers? And that I thought that by using it more, I would get more readers?
How would one review a book called The No Asshole Rule without using the word asshole? And to switch to jerk after the first instance, I think, is chicken shiitake (to use another profanity).
Once I decided to cover the book and topic, I decided to also be consistent.
Funnily enough, if you apply the first test (the starbucks test) to another person, then _you_ actually fail the second test. Anyway, we are all assholes. Trying to make up a set of rules that categorize others as ‘asshole’ actually increases the ‘assholeness’ of the rule maker. It’s a no win situation.
Your google test is being unfairly cruel to you because it is guilty of a base-rate fallacy. Mother Theresa scores a 214k on your test, making her a worse offender than you, TO, and Carly put together; while it’s nice to know that your asshole quotient is less than a Saint-to-be, it speaks a touch to the inaccuracy of the test.
You need to normalize this to get something comparative out of it – account for the fact that you will get more mentions with ANY word in the English language than smelly old Carly Fiorina. Basically you need not an asshole index, but an asshole *quotient*. Take your number and divide by total hits without the word asshole in there.
Guy Kawasaki: 4,730,000
Guy Kawasaki asshole: 72,700 (for me – different google cluster?)
Guy Kawasaki AQ: 72,700/4,730,000 = 0.0154
So if we denominate AQ in thousandths, your AQ would be 15.4.
George W Bush = 155,000,000
George W Bush Asshole = 1,460,000
Dubya’s AQ = 9.4
Clearly more calibration is required. I suspect a logarithmic normalization since extremely high notoriety leads to too many bozos writing about you and veiling their true feelings.
To take some more striking examples though, Tom Cruise has an AQ in the 20s, and Rush Limbaugh blows the scales at nearly 40.
[Note to math geeks: a more accurate equation to cope with the aforementioned popularity-attracts-bozos issue is to take the log of both numbers. So
log(Guy Kawasaki Asshole)/log(Guy Kawasaki)
Done this way, Guy comes in below GWB who still, interestingly, comes in below Rush]
Now this is funny stuff. I loved it. The other problem with the Google search is that a sentence like, “Guy is great but most venture capitalists as assholes” would create a hit. And it’s exactly the opposite of the intent of the search.
If you will calculate the log score of ten or so famous people, I will publish along with your methodology.
Advice for Jerks
Guy Kawasaki reviews a book about being a more civilized employee and gives some excellent tips on being a better person. As usual, his advice can easily be applied in non-business areas, because its all about interpersonal interactions.
Another test: somebody who calls you “Guy,” and your name isn’t Guy, is probably an asshole.
Scrubs – that damn funny show with Zak Braff that my wife loves…. has a no asshole policy. They talk about it alot on the DVD extras. The creator, Bill Lawrence, apparently made it very clear from the start that if you want to stay on the show, you have to be nice, funny, and not too full of yourself. In short – no assholes. It works. Hit show, “everyone” wants to have a guest spot on it, and still one of my favorite laughs.
I think driving behaviour is a great litmus test for assholes… when there’s a long line of cars waiting to turn down a busy street, the asshole is the person that zooms past everyone and tries to nudge in.
You know that, later at home, they’ll self-congratulate themselves for being ‘a winner’
I find it amusing how when you use the Starbucks test with the overly pointed coffee request, the example used is Female.
(I’m not being an asshole, and I agree with that stereotype)
You will see that in my blog I use the female pronoun quite often–and usually for the positions typically attributed to men: venture capitalists and CEOs, for example.
So what you noticed is just part of the normal course of bloggin for me.
AMAZING post – some of the most useful information I’ve heard in years. Guy, I think I’m an asshole. Is there a recovery group somewhere I can plug into? Me =”Hi everyone, my name is John, I’m an asshole.” Everyone = “Hi John!”
Not sure what to tell you. It’s been my experience that most assholes don’t know they’re assholes. Those that know, don’t want to change. Thus, you may be alone in your quest for a recovery group. :-)
Some decade ago, Italo Calvino stated that the word “unintelligent” was more offending than “asshole”. Consider that in Italy the word is much stronger, although is used more frequently, as suggested by a reader of the original post.
Is not profanity anymore, is more likely… a Kant‘s category of the understanding. :)
BTW: Michelle, try and read this essay by
Sutton choose the word deliberately. From his blog:
“This system fascinates me because it helps me understand why the word “asshole” rather than the milder “bully” or “jerk” is so important to use: This is the word that people actually use to think about, talk about, and in Marge’s case, manage this behavior. The other words may mean nearly the same thing, but simply lack the emotional punch that goes with it.”
“Strategies” 2 3 5 and 10 are all bad advice. Might want to qualify your article with “if your SOLE goal, at the cost of all other things is” how not to be an ahole. Jerk.
May I ask what is the economic value of this “no asshole rule”?
Bob addresses this in the book with a concept called TCA (Total Cost of Assholes).
I work at a place called SuccessFactors that actually has a “No Assholes” rule. It is part of a list of principals that are posted all over our office. I couldn’t believe it when I first walked in but I liked it a lot. Our CEO really believes in it and won’t hesitate to call someone out for violating it.
How not to be an asshole
Changing the world? Where did you get that one? Nice touch, though
It came to me as I was playing hockey one day…
Talking With, At, or To Someone – Arrogance in Conversation
We’ve all met arrogant pricks whose pretentiousness takes your breathe away. Arrogance can often reveal itself in conversations. I delineate three kinds of people: someone who talks with you, someone who talks at you, and someone who talks to you.
I cannot resist pointing everyone to the old Judd Nelson movie “From the Hip” which features a wonderful sub-plot where Judd argues the admissability of the word “asshole” in court, arguing that there is no acceptable substitute. The judge (Ray Walston) offers a few weak ideas like “annoying,” but can’t even muster the energy to defend them. I won’t ruin the rest, but Nelson finds ample historical support for the word…
On a less philosophical note, did you know you can’t get an iced cappuccino at Starbucks? Something about the hot foam next to the plastic, releasing carcinogenic chemicals. So now we can add “unsuccessful” to the list of descriptors of this asshole.
I’m a self employed asshole, that’s for sure.
Another great post on a great blog – keep’m’coming. We need more asshole testing in Denmark :-)
I always thought of that! It’s nice to see a book that clarifies my ideas!
Nice blog, just wanted to say Hi :)
Un foarte interesant review al lui Guy Kawasaki la cartea The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t scrisa de Robert Sutton.
Din lista de comportamente zilnice ale unui astfel de personaj e de reti…
Guy – I have been reading Bob’s blog and am thrilled you decided to weigh in on the topic. I am with Dacio on definitions. “Unintelligent” is a much worse offense as it implies the inability to ever get it. It fits in the same category with common sense and ‘class’ — you either have them or you don’t.
I think what Bob meant is to describe a behavior we sometimes get caught into. We forget ourselves and proceed to step outside our boundaries.
The other kind never, ever forgets themselves. They always act in a me-centered self-interest mode with no thought — or care — whatsoever to the impact they have on others. None. Period. That’s entirely another conversation.
Pucker Up For This One
I cannot come close to reviewing this book or analyzing it any better than Guy Kawasaki did today. To do so…would probably make me look like an….well….here’s the book title and and some quotes/analysis from the book that had me
I’m more of a jerk than an asshole (IMHO).
I can shorten the Asshole detection:
If you’re in Starbucks, you’re an asshole.
Buy less, buy local, make it yourself.
If you really want Change, keep it in your pocket. Your dollar is your only vote and the machines don’t count.
Thanks for the high praise – glad you enjoyed. I don’t know how well this formatting will come through in the comments, but here’s a semi-random list of folks, per your request (remember: for both linear and logarithmic AQ, lower is better).
– Most popular people tend to cluster in the 700s (sort of like FICO credit scores — correlation?) so the numbers after the hundreds column really do matter.
– The Clintons enjoy near-identical AQs
– Tom Cruise is going down much harder than Russell Crowe
– People really don’t like Rush Limbaugh
– Your own numbers (to say nothing of Bob Sutton’s, whom I didn’t even check) are probably going to biased from here on out because of the use of the term in this post and those that mention it. C’est la vie.
As a matter of fair disclosure, my own stats show me to be a reasonably nice guy, clearly I need to offend more people:
Don’t forget the 1 asshole rule… In any heated interaction there can only be one asshole.. If you look around and don’t see any assholes, guess what, your it!
The self-appointed asshole at my former start-up singlehandedly prevented us from being successful. Do not underestimate the toxic effect of having an asshole in a small company, especially a start-up.
One question is if there is a difference between asshole behavior and being an asshole. Guy, you say you’ve been an asshole a few times–I sure have, too–but, for example, I doubt we would generally accept someone saying “I’ve molested children a few times.” We would say that person IS a child molester. I tend to think that some people are real assholes, either for their whole lives or for significant segments of their lives.
The book sounds great–but I fear real assholes (serial assholes, dyed-in-the-wool assholes, call them what you will) won’t benefit from it. The people who will are people like you and me who feel that we sometimes lapse into asshole behavior. I guess that could make life at work a little more pleasant…
Still, my wife and I are already planning to have this book sent to a major asshole we used to work for.
Oh . . . I’m going to have a lot of fun with this one. Watch next week: http://www.gurubbq.com
Guy Kawasaki blog started out gangbusters, partly because he revisited and expanded upon and updated some of things hed previously written about in book form. I linked to it several times. Lately I havent found much in my RSS fee…
Guy, I wouldn’t worry about Mark (see comments above).. he sounds like a real asshole to me!! Thanks for the laugh… always a pleasure. I will definitely limit my exposure to assholes and I am pleased to say that when at Starbucks I order a Grande Mild Blend.. obviously, I’m no asshole! I love the idea of coming up with an official Assholeocity ranking, akin to the infamous Bozocity scale… regard
…dont be one and learn how to deal with them. Check out Guys Book Review of The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton.
When someone in business is talking about an “asshole”, the connotation is almost always that we are talking about an unpleasant male co-worker or boss. There is different word that starts with the letter “C” that more accuratley identifies female offenders. Does the book address this important issue?
The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton
You have to like an author who has the testicles (or ovaries) to walk away from Harvard Business School Press because it wouldn’t let him use the word “asshole” in his title. (HBS Press also turned me down once, but I digress) Rober…
An early start to my morning had me following links and remembering great experiences. Joe Drumgoole linked over to Guy Kawasaki who linked to Bob Sutton who linked to Bill Moggridge. It started on the topic of the definition of assholes but ended up o…
Guy, for what it’s worth:
I missed you by several years when I went to work in Apple Worldwide Developer Relations (started in ’02), and nobody there called you an asshole. Not in my earshot, at any rate.
BTW, you could do the shareholders of Microsoft a huge favor if you went up to Redmond and beat Gates and Ballmer over the head with these lists.
That company is fixated on beating their enemy of the month (Google, Apple, IBM, or anyone else who’s making money), and in the meantime they’re alienating their customers with stupid things like Windows “Genuine Advantage”.
As a former WSJ reporter who now speaks and writes on communication I, too was impressed by Sutton’s gutsy move re the title of his book, and noticed that his previous book is described as his “latest” on his Stanford bio. Here’s to putting this new title right on top
Does viral need a middle man?
Mark Glaser writes and open letter to Stephen Colbert asking him to resist efforts by Comedy Central…
I’ve Just Ordered Robert Sutton’s New Book
Warning: Inappropriate language for some (Forgive me.) I read about Robert Sutton’s book earlier in the year and thought I’d want to read it. Guy Kawasaki has already read it and blogs about it today. Sutton is a Professor of
As of today, it seems that George W. Bush is showing an increase of 62.19839% (now at 1,210,000) in regards to appearing with the word asshole on Google. Lawyers on the other hand show a slight decrease, -2.72727 % or only 1,070,000. It will be interesting to see if all of this will have an impact on the (election)results next week and on just how many law suits will fly because of election fraud, tampering and mis-counting.
Trou de cul
Un trou de cul. Parfois il ny a quune façon de décrire une personne et cest par lexpression trou de cul, ou asshole, comme disent les insulaires doutre-manche.
Kawasaki nous parle dun livre à paraître dont …
If you believe that George Bush is an asshole then YOU ARE an asshole! I’m sure they must be the same people who order soy-lattes, or soy-anything.
This is really a very interesting post. Everything makes sense and they should teach this stuff at the secondary schools of Kuwait. As majority of Kuwaitis are assholes by default. I’m talking facts here…..
I enjoyed the article on asshole, and that reminds me something.
There is a foreign minister in Japan
named Mr. Asou.
It is not a common surname but I have several friends named as such.
Well in Japanese it has no problem whatsoever-buuut, in English if you pronounce the name Asou
it can sound otherwise.
Watch out- Mr. Asou would be a prime minister of Japan someday.
Case in point- anybody who thinks himself he is not an asshole, is an asshole.
We are just human after all.
Hiro asshole Hayashida
The scenario is this: you need to work with several jerks and a couple of assholes (if you don’t, you won’t eat).
You suffer the numbers 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 from the Sutton’s dirty-dozen list, but still manage to be as polite and calm as you can.
This people think that you are polite because you are harmless, or idiot. They don’t respect you, they only fear more powerful people.
The entire process is hard and unpleasant, mistakes are made and none of them (the assholes) are going to acknowledge their responsibility, it’s all your fault. They are able to make you doubt of yourself and you real value as a professional and a human being.
Like Dennis Hopper in Speed, I ask: “what do you do”. What.
It happens to us almost all the time since we are living here. People base their judgement on appearances, money, the car you have (we don’t), and then proceed to treat you accordingly.
Maybe I should not be such a sissy, I know. But it’s a particularly depressing moment, don’t you think?.
Anyway, it’s much more fun to talk about assholes than finding them in your way (or living among them). Great post.
Develop indifference and emotional detachment. I will work really hard on that one :P
The book and post are funny…
I wrote this about assholes a year ago and didn’t do anything with it, so I’ll post it in your comments.
Senior management recently promoted a coworker to Sr. Vice President. When I asked why he hadn’t told anyone he said, “In our corporate culture, title doesn’t mean anything.” I thought, doesn’t mean anything? So I started asking myself some questions. Since titles are nothing but words, maybe he meant in our corporate culture words don’t mean anything, but I’ll stick with titles in my examples. So a title could be anything, but it doesn’t mean anything, right? So Sr. Vice President is no different from Asshole? His resume could read Manager 1996-1998, Director 1998-2001, Vice-President 2001-2005, and Asshole 2006. If title is meaningless, instead of CEO I could use any label I’d like. We could introduce someone at a speaking engagement as the Asshole from Enron or maybe introduce someone on the Today Show as the Sr. Asshole from Tyco.
Why limit this idea to corporations? Why not the government? Replace Presidential Chief of Staff with Asshole, Vice President with Vice Asshole, or State Senator with Little Asshole. Since titles don’t matter, no should mind, right?
Como evitar a los y evitar ser un hijo de puta (disculpen la expresión)
Un nuevo libro explica como evitar ser un hijo de puta en la vida laboral y también como evitarlos. Guy Kawasaki a resumido lo más importante en su blog. (versión en ingles).
Why is it that HBR published Sutton’s article and it became very popular but HBSP rejected the book? May be it has something to do with being an a***hole on the inside versus announcing loudly one’s status of a***holeage!
1. Three stars in a***hole instead of two, as we spell the species differently over here in the UK
2. For the usage “a***holeage”, a hat tip to Helen Fielding’s innovative use of a similar term in Bridget Jones’s Diary
I’m pretty sure the Starbuck’s rule was one of Bill Maher’s “New Rules” sometime last year.
Indeed, I think it was.
Great Blog!! I’ve spent the last 26 years working in Local Gov’t and so have more exposure to assholiness than most other people I’ve met. A question, “Does the book give all the non-Govt people tips on spotting assholiness in people who have spent a lifetime camouflaging it behind a veneer of bureaucracy. Sure we all spot it in the clerk who answers the phone, but they’re still learning. What about those who’ve been promoted to the lofty heights of bureaucracy? They won’t be unmasked by the simple means outlined in this post.
Some of you may remember the classic documentary series from the BBC called “Yes Minister” and “Yes Prime Minister”. It was disguised as a comedy series but anyone who works in Govt knows it as a documentary.
Sir Humphrey was obviously an asshole, but no-one who could do anything about it knew it. But what about Bernard Woolley – again an asshole, but much more able to conceal it even though being lower done in the bureaucracy.
It’s probably impossible to work in Govt and not be an asshole to someone. So here’s the real test for the book, can it help us find spot and deal with the Govt asshole, or better yet, provide help to us Govt assholes. Maybe we need to create a Govt Dept to develop strategies and policies to reduce the assholiness in Govt, or will this just mean we put more people defenceless people in harms way?
While I don’t appreciate profanity, I do really appreciate the simple wisdom of these “checklists”. Thanks for sharing.
Your asshole quotient is flawed. Johnatans first method is much more scientific.
Making the A list
Oh, wow, this book doesn’t come out until February, but it looks like it’d be great. And the “How-to-tell-an-asshole” rule on author Bob Sutton’s blog Work Matters is classic (even if he found it elsewhere): New Rule: The more…
Guy, tell something about how it was to work with one of the biggest assholes, Steve Jobs.
Someone asked why Harvard Business Review published an essay on the no asshole review, but declined to publish the book. Let me explain. There are two main parts to the story. First, the original essay in HBR in 2004 was called “More Trouble than They Are Worth,” but did explicitly describe “the no asshole rule” and in fact used the term “asshole” 8 times. One of the funniest things was that they put it in their “breakthough ideas” section, even though it is of course an old idea. I believe that the “breakthrough” was for HBR, as I think it was the first time they printed the word “asshole” their rather serious publication.
Second, I wrote a proposal for a book called “The No Asshole Rule,” which as you know will appear soon. Because my last book, Hard Facts, was published with Harvard Business School Press, I was obligated to show them the proposal first. They offered to publish the book but insisted it would need to be under a different, sanitized name… “no jerks” or something like that because — and I am not joking — it was “beneath me” as a Stanford professor and established scholar to publish a book with that crude title. Note this was a very nice conversation and they clearly wanted the book — but I told them I wouldn’t consider a dollar offer of any amount if they wouldn’t make a contractual commitment to the title because in my view, all other labels were euphemisms. I also commented that a book called The No Asshole Rule — while not beneath me — probably was bad for the Harvard Business School Press brand, and if I ran the press, I would likely not publish a book with that title either, even though they are an excellent house (they really are, I’ve done two books with them and they are great).
So we sold the book to Warner. My editor, Rick Wolff was so excited about the book when he read the proposal that he got Warner to make a handsome advance offer to “take it off the table.” When Rick called to “meet me” on the phone, he didn’t start with any greeting of any kind. His first words were “I am the asshole who bought your book.” Now that is my kind of editor! Also, as a sign of commitment to the title, Warner had “The No Asshole Rule” jacket cover done before I ever wrote word — they like the title as much as I do and have been a great publisher.
The upshot is that Harvard Business School Press did refuse to publish a book called The No Asshole Rule, which was right for them (although they wanted the manuscript); and I walked away, which was right for me and for the book. I talk on my blog about why no other word is right in more detail. Check out my post on Why I Call Them Assholes.
P.S. And in response to another question, as I say on my original post about the Starbuck’s asshole metric, my checking suggests that it came from Bill Maher’s show, although apparently George Carlin often gets credit for it.
Here is the link to the transcript from the Bill Maher show for his rule — the more complicated the Starbucks order, the bigger the asshole.
I started out doing a google search for my brother who is a Marine Colonel. We have what I thought was a rather unique name (I’m the only one in my city!)But guess there is a whole world of us out there (Starbuck).
Anyway, this came up in my search! No, my brother’s not an asshole, and neither am I :-)
BUT I work with a world of assholes, and you are so right, there is no other word that captures the essence of their being more so, than ASSHOLE! I work in surgery in a hospital. Need I say more?
I am surrounded by arrogant asshole doctors who talk down to you, and don’t acknowledge your existance in the room, unless you do something THEY feel is wrong, and high and mighty nurses who think they are goddesses, and then there is my boss – a world class asshole. I’m not even going to go there. So, I found this rather amusing to say the least, and I am going to buy this book. I have had bosses before in my life that were angels sent from heaven, so they do not have to be assholes to be efficient! And I have worked with doctors and nurses that were sugar sweet, so “assholiness” is not a prerequisite to the medical profession!
My question is…. if you know some assholes, should you give them a copy of this book annonymously? :-)
Thank you for my morning entertainment!
I came upon this site while searching google “how to not be an asshole.”
I am an asshole, and I’m realizing that I’ve been an asshole for a long time. For a long time I was a level 1 but over the past few months it has gotten much worse and I am definitely a level 2. Whenever I do an asshole-ish thing I realize it, get mad at myself about it, and try to apologize or ‘make up for it later.’ It was scary how well I could identify with the trademarks of an asshole, and even see how some of my friends act out the role of dealing with such people. I really hope I can stay objective and self aware so I can make some changes.
I really enjoyed reading the article Kawsaki, it definitely enhanced my perspective, and I look forward to reading Sutton’s book.
I wrote my first book “Odd Woman Out: Black Girl Abroad” and was accused of being an asshole for including some personal comments about my Taiwanese boss. I don’t think that telling it how it is qualifies me as an asshole. The man looked me in my face and told me that he thought God made the best people first and the worse people last, White people, Chinese, everyone else then blacks. Come on! Now that’s an asshole comment I think.
That thing about the white, chinese, and black people comes from a joke in an old book written by Sapir and Murphy in 1969, The Destroyer. The main character was Chiun, a chinese guy. He joked and said God did not bake the first person long enough, and he was white. Then, God baked the second one too long and he was black. And, Chuin said, since he was chinese, God baked the third one just right and he was oriental.
I can’t wait to read this book. I work in an office that has a huge asshole and I can use any advice you can give me.
Jerk – a “know it all” who doesn’t know what he is talking about.
Asshole – a “know it all” who does know what he is talking about
Whiner – a screamer in sheep’s clothing
Screamer – a whiner in creep’s clothing
Nice guy – someone who is afraid to get angry and mince meat for someone who isn’t
“A jerk is a know-it-all who doesn’t know what he is talking about, whereas a know-it-all who does know what he is talking about is merely an asshole” (from “Get Out of Your Own Way: Overcoming Self-Defeating Behavior,” Perigee, 1996*). Assholes are able to carve a wide path through the serenity in your lives, because you are so aghast, dumbfounded, and appalled by their outrageous behavior. Instead of reacting assertively, you stand transfixed like a deer in the headlights of a car. It takes almost all your self-restraint to keep your cool in the face of their audacity, which is why it is so difficult to “Just Say No” to assholes. They are the opposite of a good guy or gal [see: Top 10 Ways to Recognize a Mensch” at: http://markgoulston.com/articles/coachvillemensch.shtml).
1. They interrupt.
2. They don’t take turns.
3. They take advantage of people who are down.
4. They gloat in victory.
5. They are sullen in defeat.
6. They are not fair.
7. They lack integrity.
8. They are the people you hope you won’t grow up to be like.
9. They are the kind of person you wouldn’t want your sister (or brother or child) to marry.
10. They are the kind of person you’ll avoid, if you can break free of them.
(* We’ve come — or perhaps deteriorated — a long way since 1996 when my first book was published and this list was first published on the net. In both cases, I couldn’t use the word “asshole,” but the gap between it and the word I could use, “jerk”, was wide enough for all the impact of what I was saying to fall through.
Note: The character Chiun (as created by Warren Murphey and Ricahard Sapir) was North Korean from the town of Sinanju (folks claim it sounds like orange juice when pronounced) and found folks not from his village ‘inferior’ …
As to the Starbucks’ test – are you an asshole if you apologize before making a complicated order?
bought it, reading it, liking it. thanks!
Surviving assholes? Where’s the book about surviving incompetent, legally over-protected, potbellied freeloaders who jump on someone else’s good idea and complain about the fact they aren’t celebrated for showing up and doing their jobs?
The Starbucks Test is as spurious and useless as the example it cites. I have never met a single soul who has that many criteria for ordering coffee. Many of my friends, all of whom are friends because they’re not assholes, order specific kinds of coffee. So?
The ARSE rule, or whatchyoumaycallit, is just a catchy title for the most common sense “advice” tailored for a society as idiotically sensitive as America’s. The problem with a canon of this nature is that a timid or lame-ass loser (a breed that is just as common in workplaces as “assholes” by the author’s definition) may convenientnly label anyone whom he finds difficult to deal with “an asshole”. This difficulty may not stem for the duh-obvious traits such as unwanted physical proximity or CCing of the world at large on sundry emails (do we really need a book to understand that these traits are, um, undesirable?) but from the laziness or incompetence of the loser in question.
Concepts such as “borderline asshole” allow the author to escape being held to his convenient discourses. It’s time you over-protected whiners stopped complaining and got back to making the workplace a fun, collaborative place — an activity that, I’m afraid it must be pointed out, will indeed require some labor and some measure of discomfort for your spoiled asses.
And here’s an example of what I am talking about: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_17/b4031001.htm
….”decaf grande half-soy, half-low fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light ice, with one Sweet-n’-Low and one NutraSweet,” you’re in the presence of an asshole….
That’s very funny :) … and I agree 100%
The No Asshole Rule
I don’t know if you’ve read this book but I am currently reading it and it’s pretty good actually. It’s called the No Asshole Rule, and Robert Sutton, a guy with a brain, writed it.
Bob just put out something everyone of us knows. Offices and all…
I loved this review Guy!
I read your review in October, and finally bought the book a couple of days ago at Chapters after being an asshole and reading 60% of the book in the store while drinking my venti half-bold half-decaf with double coffee cream and honey coffee from Starbucks.
Interestingly, a few days before reading this book, I had time to read Wikinomics. With the two reads fresh in my mind, I came to the conclusion that asshole behaviour is just another form of monopoly rent collection. (A monopoly rent is the price premium you can charge on a good or service just because you can, and because there are no viable competitors or substitutes available).
A lot of examples presented by Bob were just people being assholes because they had (or perceived they had) a monopoly on something. For example they may think they have a monopoly on products, service, ability to sell, ability to employ, ability to be your spouse, ability to evaluate your job performance, ability to advance your career, etc, etc. This explains why, for example IBM could get away with FUD (a form of corporate asshole-ism) in the 1970s, while it would be unthinkable for them to use FUD today for many of their products or markets.
Therfore, I argue, the presence of asshole-like behaviour presents a juicy opportunity to break a monopoly of some kind. It would be an interesting thought exercise to come up with a canonical orthogonal list of archetypical asshole behaviours, then list the kinds of monopolies associated with those behaviours, and then present techniques to break those monopolies. (I admit that I may be an asshole for using “canonical”, “orthogonal”, and “archetypical” in the same sentence).
If you or somebody is willing to put together a wiki or something to compile thoughts of people on how to characterize asshole behaviours, associated monopolies, and ways to break the monopolies, I’d be more than happy to contribute.
P.S. If you miss hockey, you can still come up to Ottawa to watch. We still have at least 2 more home games left this season.
I have been intrigued by the problem of how to avoid accepting a new job in a jerk-infested organization, and I think I’ve found an excellent and unique way to avoid this costly and painful problem.
I just finished developing a website called www.ebosswatch.com that allows people to rate their current or former boss so that people who are considering a job change can search for bosses at potential workplaces and can receive reports detailing the ratings that each boss has received.
Bob Sutton, author of The No Asshole Rule, has called eBossWatch “fantastic, a great idea.”
IMHO this is the most important item in the article:
“Do not mistreat people who are less powerful than you. One of the sure signs of an asshole is treating people like clerks, flight attendants, and waiters in a degrading manner.”