Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Towards An Asshole-Free Work Environment

Here is more commentary on Stanford B-school professor Bob Sutton's book, The No A-Hole Rule. Although the article at the link below coyly refers to it by the bowdlerized bogus title, The No (Blankety-Blank) Rule, it cheerfully agrees with the book's thesis. Professor Sutton uses A-hole as a catch-all term for all "bullies, creeps, jerks, tyrants, tormentors, despots, backstabbers and egomaniacs who do their best to destroy you at work." He believes the solution is for personnel departments simply not to hire such individuals. One problem is how to identify A-holes, as many sub-species excel at pretending to be nice. This is all deja vu for me, as it recalls a post I made last year about the issue of "emotional intelligence", and how various writers believe employers should select for it among their recruits. Discriminating against A-holes is essentially the flip-side of the same process. I have ambivalence about any such policies. Some of the worst A-holes on the planet have the sociopathic guile to ace both psychological testing and face-to-face interviews purportedly designed to screen out people just like them. Conversely, many fundamentally nice and considerate individuals may be rejected on the basis of subjective judgments, "bad days", cultural distance or outright misinterpretations.

The ultimate problem is that any corporate strategy to identify A-holes would need to be engineered and ratified by senior executives who themselves may include a goodly quota of A-holes. As the article says, "In the real world, it’s the boss who gets to define what’s derogatory [or who is an asshole in some other way]."

"Swearing by no-jerks-at-work rule" from Boston Herald

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