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The Asshole Survival Guide

How to Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt

By Robert I. Sutton
12-minute read
Audio available
The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt by Robert I. Sutton

The Asshole Survival Guide (2017) is a guide to how you can identify and deal with the assholes of the world. People who treat others badly come in all shapes, sizes and levels of awfulness, and the author provides the tools we need to recognize them, fight back and avoid becoming assholes ourselves.

  • Workers with a hostile boss or colleague
  • Readers interested in social or cognitive psychology
  • Managers who want to create a happier work environment

Robert I. Sutton is a professor of management science at Stanford University, where he has contributed several articles to publications such as Harvard Business Review, the Financial Times and the McKinsey Quarterly. He is also the best-selling author of The No Asshole Rule and Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best and Learn from the Worst.

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The Asshole Survival Guide

How to Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt

By Robert I. Sutton
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt by Robert I. Sutton
Synopsis

The Asshole Survival Guide (2017) is a guide to how you can identify and deal with the assholes of the world. People who treat others badly come in all shapes, sizes and levels of awfulness, and the author provides the tools we need to recognize them, fight back and avoid becoming assholes ourselves.

Key idea 1 of 7

Assholes are people who cause emotional unease, and some are worse than others.

What makes someone an asshole? The author asked people to share their experiences with assholes in the workplace, and some pretty repellent behaviors emerged: a boss who only invites his favorite employees to the office Christmas party; someone who constantly interrupts others; and a coworker who, after flashing a warm smile, leans in and whispers, “I’m going to take you down.”

Of course, some assholes are worse than others, and knowing how to separate the annoying ones from the more serious cases can be very useful.

So the first question you can ask yourself is this: Do encounters leave you feeling oppressed or demeaned?

As the poet laureate Maya Angelou once put it, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” And when we mentally categorize someone as an asshole, it’s usually after that person has made us feel hurt, discouraged or unsettled.

Understanding how someone makes you feel is the first step toward gaining some control of the situation and learning to lessen the impact they have on your life, especially when it’s someone you work with. You can then prepare yourself, anticipate certain responses and even consider how your reaction may be linked to past events in your life.

If you find yourself facing these oppressive or demeaning encounters, the next question to ask is whether this person is a temporary or a continual asshole.

If your boss is usually a gentle, kind person but transforms into a raging asshole every once in awhile, he may be using a leadership strategy since such behavior is shown to be effective.

In a study of coaching in college basketball, researchers found that when mild-mannered coaches turned aggressive during a halftime pep talk, it regularly sparked a boost in performance. On the other hand, coaches who were always unpleasant didn’t have the same effect during their angry halftime speeches.

So there are excuses for your boss being a temporary asshole, but there’s no excuse for being a permanent one.

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