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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:

1.Personal insults
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
9.Rude interruptions
10.Two-faced attacks
11.Dirty looks
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."
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on February 6, 2018
Fantastic book full of useful insights into identifying the low lives that infest a workplace. I did not realize the scale of this problem until reading this book. It helped me understand and analyze one specific case at my workplace. It also helped me see how employers harbour these vermins that cripple a healthy workplace.
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on May 5, 2015
A really good book that corporate executives should read. Plain truth that should be a management read. Evaluates the cost of specific personality and what they cost a company! Great management book for team building and analysis on group dynamic in the work place. If every corporation CEO drove the company to read and follow this it would create a much more productive work environment. It also weeds out poor performing managers and the creation of a poor corporate culture!
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on August 30, 2011
This book by Bob Sutton is equal parts sociology, psychology and management genius.

Once readers get past the slightly weird feeling of seeing Sutton's (mild) profanity in print, there is a realization that no other term would be quite as perfect for describing those nasty, negative individuals that can ruin a workplace.

Through a variety of stories and specific company examples, Sutton explores the idea that 'difficult people' aren't just annoying, but also destructive emotionally and financially. In one example, a firm went so far as to calculate the hard cost of dealing with a sales superstar who no one could stand -- counting lost productivity, counseling, employee turnover and other factors, the tab (aka TCA) totaled more than $150,000 a year. The organization didn't just go through this exercise for show, it formed the basis of a reduction in the offending salesperson's annual bonus!

If you happen to work for a company that is less thorough in dealing with these sorts of problems, Sutton does offer some coping strategies. But, his bottom line: life is too short to work with, for, or around 'difficult people'. And if you work for a company that willingly suffers them, it's probably not the place to be.

It should also be noted that eliminating 'difficult people' from the workplace does not mean creating a wimpy, milquetoast environment. In fact, Sutton is a firm believer in constructive conflict as a vital component of good decision making, and references companies like Intel where a healthy balance between politeness and professional disagreement has been struck.

This is the first of Bob Sutton's books that I've read, but I'll be back for more. For those of you looking for a sampler, you might consider reading Sutton's blog 'Work Matters'.
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on January 30, 2010
Are you a leader? A professional with a star on the rise? A creative coworker? Whether you're at the "top of the heap" or creatively reorganizing your company from the inside out (or bottom up), The No A*hole Rule would be a great book to keep you company as you navigate the complexity of the modern office.

It looks at:
- "Is it against the law to be a jerk?" from a world-wide perspective
- Provides surprising insights about how to lead in fear (or in trust)
- Inciting innovation by inciting smart and strategic approaches to fighting (and becoming better teams along the way)

The book whets the appetites of philosophers and scientists alike, with a rich and engaging narrative that incorporates financial, psychological, organizational, emotional and, yes, even legal implications of a*holes in the workplace using specific, current case studies. One of the enjoyable elements of the book is that the author doesn't preach at you from an expert perspective (although he is a respected one); Robert Sutton tackles many of the issues we're all facing right beside us. The book offers insightful examples from the world and his life, as well as a tidy summary at the close of each chapter as a helpful reminder at-a-glance about the simple takeaways from this complex topic.

It's clear from the writing that Professor Sutton embraces the fullness of being a teacher, a scientist, a father, and a husband - all elements which may have led him to explore what makes for a more humane work environment in which everyone can thrive. This book is an enlightening companion for those of us who believe in leading more-than-one dimensional lives, whether it's in the workplace or outside of it.
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on August 21, 2017
Truly an entertaining and insightful read: highly recommended for all top-execs!
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on July 5, 2007
As a person who was diagnosed with PTSD after three years of near-constant harassment, I found this book very heartening. It is filled with common sense and offers a clear-eyed look at just how many damaging ripple effects, both inside and outside a company, emanate from workplace bullies.

My former manager quickly burned through one scapegoat after another until I came along; I lasted as long as I did because I had low self-esteem, desperately needed the money, and because working 60-70 hour weeks gave me little time or energy to find something else. Since leaving, I have reflected on how much my manager actually cost the company; Bob vividly illustrates the damage a bully can inflict to an employer as well as to co-workers and customers. By the time I quit my job, I knew my department's products, procedures, and tools thoroughly, had streamlined many processes, was highly regarded by other employees and by customers, and had proven time and again to be a smart, productive, conscientious, reliable employee. It cost a bundle to replace me--and my replacement lasted less than a year. Obviously, the higher-ups weren't paying attention.

To those who characterize me and other targets of bullying as "whiners," I will say that when a company refuses to divest itself of people who are costing it and its shareholders money, who are driving its best talent away, and who are ultimately damaging its reputation, maybe it's time to start listening to the "whiners" after all. At my old company, morale was in the toilet--so much so that the company finally comissioned an anonymous "employee satisfaction" survey to find out why turnover and absenteeism due to illness were so high. When the results came in, I overheard a discussion between two managers. "I think," said one, "that we have a bunch of crybabies here." "You got that right," said the other.

When managers have an attitude like that, what do they expect? You reap what you sow. Listen to Bob--he knows what he's talking about!
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on May 31, 2017
Easy to read. A lot of common sense. All company managers should read this book. It tells you how to deal with bullies, and how not to become one.
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on February 18, 2018
I loved that this book was backed by a lot of research and real-life examples. I can see how much this rule matters in creating a great workplace. As the boss myself, I'm determined not to be one or employ one!
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on April 9, 2008
I purchased this book as a growing number of firms I have interviewed and interned at have this as a required item for employee training. They employ its use both as a filter at the hiring end as well as internally as part of the performance review.

They have been some of the most remarkable places to work ever. High productivity, rapid turn around, numerous unscheduled episodes of team building, and some of the most rapid bug fix repair cycles I have ever seen, along with team support outside the workplace, have been great. I highly reccomend this text

Places I have worked that do not do this tend to have reality problems and consequently endure turnover in the workplace plus bad morale. In light of this text, I can see why.
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