I once heard a company commander in the Marines criticize a then-common means of dealing with individuals who were chronic discipline problems: arrange for their reassignment to a non-deploying unit. “I don’t transfer problems,” he said with a resolute determination that brooked no argument. “I fix them.”
I was impressed by that, and inclined to follow his highly responsible sounding no-excuses attitude. But I later learned that he was mostly wrong. On the one hand, personalities of this sort won’t reform easily if at all. On the other, you aren’t in the business of reforming their personalities.
As a result, with this self-delusive “the buck stops here” attitude, all you do is set yourself up for an interminable losing struggle that saps your energy, the resources of your unit, and the morale of your staff. Jerks that require this sort of attention are more than individual problems to be solved; they are black holes of negativity, sucking all the productivity, solidarity, and initiative from ever-growing segments of your organization. They are a poison injecting damaging dynamics into the body of the business, infecting some with the same disease, and suppressing the ability and inclination of others to resist its spread.
So what do you do? Buy Professor Bob Sutton’s “The No Asshole Rule.” Look at the cover. Read the highly engaging and illuminatingly concise (yet still authoritatively comprehensive) book to learn the nature and scope of the problem. Then consider the cover again and fix its lesson firmly in your mind. The rule is the title, and the method of implementing it is the graphic depicted next: a delete button.
This is easily among the most productive generalist management books I’ve read in a long while. Like most superior books of this sort, it offers actionable insight well beyond the immediate range of its topic, insights that will inform other of your efforts to manage effectively than those it specifically addresses.
But that’s surely not to say that the topic at hand isn’t valuable enough. You will begin with an organizationally-effective definition of what workplace jerks are, move on to a revealing explanation of how damaging they can be and why, and then learn how to establish practical methods for deleting them (as well as several solid rationales for why you should, without hesitation, do just that). What’s more, you will discover how to honestly examine the possibility that you are being infected by – or even are the source of – the malignancy yourself, and how to remedy that.
But if you are unavoidably the victim, and if neither a delete button nor an ejection seat are practical options, you will also be given strong, effective tips on how to survive jerk bosses – and even workplaces thoroughly infested with jerks – without succumbing to that disease yourself, or to other very real, and extraordinarily debilitating, stress-related maladies the struggle can cause.
As mentioned, this book is compact while still very effectively and satisfyingly covering all the ground; it is entertaining, but in a way that is germane, contributing greater meaning to the text rather than distracting filler to the pages.
Professor Sutton’s “The No Asshole Rule” is deservedly a best-seller. It deserves a place on your reading list as well – the next place. Make it your first New Year’s resolution to read this terrific book. Make it your next to implement the rule. You will undoubtedly enjoy a productive, and certainly a more rewarding, year for having done so.
Happy New Year!
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