A Rule Worth Following
At some point in your career, you've no doubt encountered a jerk at work. Or, as Robert Sutton, PhD, refers to them (since this is how many people refer to them): assholes. Their bad behavior makes the workplace less productive by increasing stress for other workers. So shouldn't there be a rule that keeps them out? Sutton thinks so.
In his book, The No Asshole Rule, Sutton defines a certified asshole as someone who consistently makes others feel "oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled." The other qualifying characteristic is that this type of person targets those who are less powerful. A prime example is a manager who believes fearful employees are more effective than cheerful ones. (Spoiler alert: they're not.)
Sutton documents just how destructive assholes can be. He notes that "negative interactions have a fivefold stronger effect on mood" than positive ones.
For example, victims—and also witnesses—suffer from decreased energy and increased stress, which lead to more absenteeism and higher turnover. Management must spend time dealing with such problems. Legal and HR costs are likely to rise. The dysfunction can spread throughout the organization and eventually impair the "ability to attract the best and brightest." Even the asshole may be negatively affected by decreased cooperation or retaliation.
As Sutton points out, those and other harmful factors must all be considered when calculating your company's "TCA (Total Cost of Assholes)."
While not hiring assholes is the best approach, Sutton also provides excellent advice for dealing with ones already on the payroll. Best of all, he nicely sums up how anyone can keep from being an asshole: "Treat the person right in front of you, right now, in the right way."
The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't
Robert I. Sutton, PhD