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No Assholes Allowed

Why a Zero Tolerance Asshole Policy is critical to organizational health
by Caitlin Schiller | Oct 3 2014

The last time many of us saw a bully in action was grade school. As we age and learn how to resolve conflict without the aid of swirlies and taunts, the bullies seem to phase out. Is bullying, then, the exclusive provenance of the “K-12 set”, no. There’s an older analog to the playground bully, and you probably know at least a few choice examples.

Meet The Office Asshole.

In The No Asshole Rule, Robert I. Sutton explains how fostering an asshole in the workplace is infinitely toxic for your team and your business.

Studies show that people who suffer from workplace bullying have lower overall job satisfaction and are more likely to quit. If you’re in a leadership position, it should particularly alarm you that the best employees are first to go. In a similar vein, assholes also up absenteeism in their fellow employees. Harboring an office asshole can wreak broader damage to a business, too. Another study showed that people with low job satisfaction are more likely to steal from their employers.

One of the trickiest aspects of dealing with assholes is that, frequently, they’re imbued with some sort of magic that got them hired in the first place, be it remarkable intelligence, experience, or creativity.

Sutton contends that whatever the asshole’s magical qualities, they’re not enough to offset the “total cost of asshole ownership” to an organisation. Here’s an itemised rundown of expenses:

  • Employees suffer lower productivity, higher anxiety, and low job satisfaction
  • Management pays in time and effort spent on soothing the asshole’s victims and recruiting and training replacements
  • The organization at large amasses a terrifying tab: stifled creativity, a high turnover rate, and an inability to retain high caliber employees

It seems pretty simple: if you want to have a business that succeeds, the asshole has to go. Your team – and possibly even your shareholders – will thank you for it.

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