Tuesday, October 02, 2007

One Certification You Don't Want

I’m reading “The No Asshole Rule” for my graduate leadership class, and I must tell you it is quite a fun read. In his book, Robert Sutton explains his theory on how companies need to avoid bullies/jerks/etc. He argues that these kinds of people really drain a company’s morale and productivity and that no matter how accomplished they are at getting results, they ultimately wreak havoc on an organization

Without giving too much of the book away (because I do recommend that you read it for yourself), I can tell you that the main points Sutton touches on are:
- How bullies drain the workplace (hence, why workplaces should install the No Asshole Rule)
- How to implement and enforce the rule
- How to stop your “inner jerk” from getting out (because everyone has it in them)
- How to survive the workplace that is run by these jerks
What I’d like to do instead of giving everyone a book review, is to pull out a couple concepts/quotes that really hit home with me. Beyond these concepts, you will have to read the book yourself

1) “The Temporary A-Hole vs. The Certified A-Hole”
Sutton distinguishes between the temporary A-Hole and the certified A-Hole. I think this is a big concept to remember when dealing with people in general. There are very decent and good people out there that have their moments. They may get worked up or say the wrong thing at a specific moment, but in all, they are a decent person (the temporary A-hole). Others demean and belittle people constantly and therefore are certified a-holes.

One needs to be careful in how they label a person. I know that for me personally, there have been times when my initial reaction to a person has been “Man, this guys a real jerk.” However, I have later come to find out that the person is very good guy, but I happen to catch him at a bad time.

I am assuming that this distinction really hits home for many people. As I read Sutton’s section on temporary and certified bullies, I immediately started thinking of people I know that meet both descriptions.

2) “Teach People How to Fight”
As Sutton argues that companies need to enforce a No A-Hole Rule, he also recognizes that companies cannot create an environment for “conflict averse wimps.” He argues that companies need good and productive arguing. He explains that companies should teach people how to fight. He shows how Intel teaches their employees how to fight through lectures, role playing, and manager role modeling. Essentially, Intel has a training program for this.

I think this is a great concept. Teaching employees how to fight shows them how to attack problems and not people, and how to use evidence and logic to frame their arguments. Instead of personal attacks, Intel teaches their people to question the ideas. This could definitely be used by many companies. Effective conflict resolution can really help improve the culture of a company. Also, effective “fighting” helps stimulate ideas and keeps a company constantly moving forward.

Have any of you read the book? I have barely touched the surface (and most likely have failed to do the book justice). What are your thoughts? Do you have any interesting stories about certified A-holes?


Timothy Johnson said...

Eric - as always, great post. It will be interesting to see how people take the principles in this book and use it... it's certainly the type of book you feel compelled to give to others.

Eric Peterson said...

I have already thought of a couple people who could benefit from this book. The question remaining is will I have the moxy to give it to them?

It really is a good read, with some very important principles for leading people!