The ‘No Asshole Rule’

It’s been a long time since I’ve worked with a certified toss pot. Or in the words of Robert Sutton, a flaming asshole.

In fact, I haven’t worked with one for nearly ten years, dating all the way back to the oh-so-pretentious kitchenhands and wannabe ‘gourmet’ chefs of the Eco Cafe in Mittagong. You know, the kind of pretentious middle class wankers who call their kids names like ‘Clementine’ and ‘Woodroffe’ (I wish I was making this up, but I’m not). At the time, these twats had the gall to tell me (I was a 30 year old, third-year undergrad) and I quote: …you’re the shit-kicker today, Amanda, so you’re doing drinks and dishes. I subsequently had to serve about 50 identical and equally pretentious snotty women with blonde bob-hairdos and outrageous fake Oxbridge accents, who only ever drank weak-decaf-skinny-soy lattes (said laah-tayy) and who always sent them back because they were never weak enough.

Well, if you wanted a cup of warm milk, love, why the bloody hell didn’t you just ask for it? You latte-fatte twat! As for the people working in the Eco café… hah!!You earn HOW much an hour? $14?? Yeah, make me strong cappuccino, make sure it’s HOT, and that’s Dr Amanda to you.

Imbeciles. What kind of sad tosser would give their child a name like Clementine just to try and prove they were upwardly mobile? Sad, sad, sad.

When I worked in banking, there were a number of flaming assholes around: pathetic social rejects who’d made it as far as branch accountant via a process of osmosis and longevity. Their sole purpose in life was to make their colleagues as unhappy and fearful as possible. Thankfully, I didn’t work with too many of these – and as their reputations always preceded them, I would try to avoid working at the branches where these incompetents worked.

In both agencies of the NT government I’ve worked for, I’ve been fortunate to never work with a certified flaming asshole (although I do know of them). Public servants in the NT … well, anthropologists and the kinds of people attracted to conservation agencies, tend to be decent human beings who attempt to enjoy their work and count their workmates as friends. The people I work with have their moments, but I would never describe any of them as flaming assholes. They are mostly caring, humane people who I actually like and socialize with outside of work.

So where is all this talk of workplace tosspots leading?

I’ve just read an entertaining book called: ‘The No Asshole Rule’ by Robert Sutton. And you guessed it, it’s all about those subhuman lifeforms we all know and despise: the workplace jerk, biatch or arsehole (in proper English). The book’s subtitle is: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t. That should give you a clue where this blog post is headed…

Robert’s most pressing piece of advice for those who work in places tyrannized by assholes is: get out.

Don’t try to survive these jerks, the research shows that in order to survive, you have to become a jerk yourself. Even better, Robert says choose your workplaces very carefully – try and find out as much about them before you accept a job offer and end up in the slammer with a bunch of certified bumwipes.

If you needed evidence that tossers like this actually damage the not only your productivity and mental health, but also the performance of your workplace itself, the No Asshole Rule is full of well-researched proof:

  • people leave these workplaces in droves (costs the workplace $$ to re-hire)
  • a negative encounter ‘packs five times the punch’ of a positive encounter (affecting morale and productivity)
  • bad people can sink a corporation’s shareprice

Alright you say, I have a family, a mortgage and bills to pay. I need my job, even if I work with Sargeant Major Barkface. I can’t just leave my job!Robert Sutton has advice for you, too.
If you’re stuck there:

  • try to change your own perspective (i.e. view it as a ‘lesson’ from which you can grow)
  • learn emotional detachment and indifference
  • buddy up with your work colleagues for safety & sanity
  • go for small wins over the jerks rather than winning major battles
  • limit your exposure to the person (or people) as much as you can

However, Robert really does ask you to consider whether it really is impossible to get out and find somewhere else to work…
There’s also tips for instituting the No Asshole Rule at your workplace and tips to stop you from letting your inner jerk run free (we’re all guilty of this from time to time).

Anyway, the book is an insightful and entertaining read. I’m not sure if it’s available in Australia yet – I actually ordered mine from Amazon.
If you’d like to learn more about Robert Sutton and his books, please visit his website:


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