Top positive review
One person found this helpful
Practical Advice, nice insights
on June 23, 2013
Sutton had fought with the publisher of Harvard Business Review, which published the seed article, to keep the word A****** in the title. That no doubt helped with sales, but there are other words for the same thing. I looked up synonyms and found
"A jerk; an inappropriately or objectionably mean, inconsiderate, contemptible, obnoxious, intrusive, or rude person"
I think "mean-spirited" captures it nicely. To be clear, the "Chronic A******s" are not people who are having a bad day -- these are nasty people by nature. To be Chronic "they have to show a persistent pattern, to have a history of episodes that end with one target after another feeling belittled, put down, humiliated disrespected, oppressed, de-energized, and generally worse about themselves." They are mean to peers and especially to those beneath them but they often suck up to superiors.
Ironically, and I suspect from little comments, anecdotes, and admissions, that Sutton can be a bit of one himself. In a revealing interview after the audiobook he snickered a bit that a co-worker glares at his visitors for him so they'll leave him alone, but will still think favorably. Of him. And get this: he advises all new Stanford faculty members to pick a few people to completely ignore. If you're not pissing a few people off, he said, you're not doing your job, and he seemed proud of that. So this fun little book is authored by an expert; these are kiss-up/kick down btihces and here is how they do what they do:
2.Invading one's personal territory
3.Uninvited personal contact
4.Threats and intimidation, both verbal and non-verbal
5.Sarcastic jokes and teasing used as insult delivery systems
6.Withering email flames
7.Status slaps intended to humiliate their victims
8.Public shaming or status degradation rituals
12.Treating people as if they are invisible
Sutton gives quite a few examples of high-profile a******s -- often bosses, CEOs and business people I'd never heard of, but with chilling, despicable stories. Steve Jobs, Bobby Knight, etc. come to mind. On the good end of the spectrum find Men's Warehouse, Costco, Southwest Airlines, Ideo, and Google. But this book is mainly about practical advice:
*Why are there a******s?
They may bully their way to positions of power, especially when they have redeeming qualities that are considered essential.
*How do you determine if someone is Certifiable?
We're all a******s sometimes, but if it's repeated, demeaning, and it mostly targets people with lower status, the person may be Certifiable
*How do you deal with a mean-spirited boss or coworker, or employee when you can't just fire them.
Avoid them; prepare yourself psychologically and anticipate abuse.
*How do you weigh the value of a skilled employee who is also an a******?
Within an organization being mean-spirited is incompetence.
* How does an a****** hurt witnesses and bystanders?
Those who intercede become targets, and intimidation drives good people out as well. Morale and trust declines through the whole organization.
*When should you confront the behavior, when to ignore it?
It may depend on how badly you need your job!
*How can you devastate an a******?
Publicize their behavior in a venue that is not under their control.
*When does it make sense to care less about work, if the environment is hostile?
If you can't just quit, disassociate -- in these cases, "passion is an overrated virtue, and indifference is an underrated virtue."
*What should you do if you have employed an a******?
Get rid of them quickly, don't promote them, and if you can't dispose of them, make them a public example of what not to do.
*Where do you find a******s?
A******s find another a******s, and they stick together. So look for the close associates of known a******s.
* Why is it much better to not have a "no a****** rule" than to have one that is not enforced?
It draws attention to the toleration of mean-spirited people, and it parades hypocrisy.
* Just how costly are they?
Targets quit, and bystanders and witnesses quit too. Those who remain become indifferent or hostile. Theft rates increase. Absenteeism increases. This is quanitfiable with a TCA analysis -- "Total Cost of A******s"
* And what are the advantages of being one?
Well, you do get attention, when you absolutely need it.
*What happens after an organization purges an a******?
There is a often palpable feeling of relief, and a realization that they were not so valuable to the organization as they had appeared, after all.
One of the most disconcerting things I learned is how easily a "culture of mean-spiritedness" can develop. For one thing, if they are on hiring committees they will tend to hire people like themselves. Secondly, when they meet another a****** they adhere to one another with a bond that is not easily broken. Third, their behavior and attitude is infectious -- regular people are easily sucked in and begin acting like jerks, too. So, as Sutton put it, a******s breed a******s, and there you have it -- a snakepit. There is nothing like a "swarm of a******s," Sutton wrote, "to suck the life out of civility."