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The Asshole Test: How to pick out the 2 types of asshole that might be in your midst

How to spot assholes and how to deal with them
by Caitlin Schiller | Oct 15 2014


Robert I. Sutton’s The No Asshole Rule postulates that assholes – those grown-up playground bullies – should never be tolerated in a workplace. They drain everyone’s energy, lead to more job fluctuation, and lower productivity, organisation-wide.

But not all assholes are created equal. In his book, Sutton distinguishes between these two particular breeds of jerk:

The Temporary Asshole: We all have bad days and behave poorly every now and then. The temporary asshole might just be having a rough morning. The temporary asshole might, on occasion, even be you.

The Certified Asshole: The certified sort is consistently badly behaved, whether or not his or her day was terrible.

So how do you tell who’s having a tantrummy moment and who’s the real danger to you and your organization? Here’s how to pick out the Certified Assholes from a crowd – everybody else is just disgruntled.

Test 1: Do other people feel sad, less worthy, or demotivated after talking with the alleged asshole?

Keep in mind that not all assholes are identifiable because they’re yelling at others; there are far more subtle ways to put someone down. Use this list, known as Sutton’s “Dirty Dozen” to pick out some of the less obvious asshole behavior:

  • Insults
  • Violation of personal space
  • Unsolicited touching
  • Threats
  • Sarcasm
  • Flames
  • Humiliation
  • Shaming
  • Interruption
  • Backbiting
  • Glaring
  • Snubbing

Test 2: Does the alleged asshole mistreat those who are less powerful?

Certified assholes often treat their bosses and business partners nicely, but anybody else poorly. According to Sutton, the best test of character is to see how someone behaves toward people that have no power over themselves.

Use these two simple tests to identify the people in your workplace who deserve the title of Certified Asshole. Hopefully you’ll count no more than one among your colleagues, and if not, it may be time to consider a job change.

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