Monday, January 5, 2009

The No Asshole Rule Fraka6 review

During Christmas time off, I finished "The No Asshole Book" from Robert I. Sutton. I fall on this book by the time is was looking for the "Art Of War" for a gift. At first, I taught it was a mistake and that it will end up been a light or low content reading but it was extremely interesting. The book treats:
  • How to identify a real asshole
  • The damage of keeping Assholes
  • How to implement the No Asshole Rule
  • How to stop inner jerk from getting out (yes it get out sometimes)
  • How to survive when assholes reign
  • Yes I am a powerful Asshole (I was checking if you were really reading;)
Having spend 5 years in startups environment, I should have read this book before because high stress environment leads people to act as asshole and applying some of this ideas can help you surviving this jungle. Out of 4 startups, I had to deal with 3 places where asshole behavior was destroying my productivity. Only one place had a certified asshole (not a temporary one; no it isn't Eric). What I like about high educated environment is that people are more likely to stand up and make changes happening. I saw one of my supervisor been fired after I stand up and another been fired on the side after I left which is overall very encouraging. What I learned from this book is that once, I have waited way too much time before changing jobs because I didn't realized soon enough that I was simply wasting my time. There is times where fighting is useless and it simply drains you down and lead you to act sometimes as an asshole yourself to keep you breathing (don't forget small wins first). Good faith is sometime useless, as Robert enforce: Hope for the Best; Expect the Worst and Change the way you seen things (Reframing). Reframing refer to developing indifference and emotional detachment. As highlighted, people tend to recruit high passioned people but it isn't a so good idea because it leads them to irrational decisions that can have critical impacts.

The book doesn't treat one point that high technical people forget. For most company, market drives the show, not the technology, so you have less power then you think. This market lead to more politics and assholes are good at this game. Politics is often use to shadow increasing incompetency because they don't focus on what they should be doing. You have to better understand politics games but according to me, the more politics the more incompetency by square foot is expected.

This make me remember Joel On Sotware book, most years top companies don't last, only a few survive in the top n after many years. I am pretty sure those company apply the No Asshole Rule because if they don't do so, long term they get back what they desire because they are infected by reproduced assholes that blame each other by the time all top people leave.

People forget that power pass by empowering others. This power isn't a sum but can't be exponential with teams that have a great synergy. Open source is a great example.

This book is highly recommended. I will suggest it to my manager, one of the few manager that understands what a manager should be doing.

But what is an Asshole, the standard definition is something like that: insulting terms of address for people who are stupid or irritating or ridiculous. According to the book Asshole follow 2 rules:
  1. After spending time with them you feel de-energize, humiliated etc.
  2. Asshole are more polite with more powerful people and are worst with lower level people.
Don't forget, be slow to brand certified asshole. To get the certified brand, you simply have to be constant.


  1. It would be interesting if you could help your readers by defining what an asshole actually is.

  2. On a modern GNU/Linux distribution, you can type "dict 'asshole'" at the command prompt. It should print something like the following in your terminal:

    2 definitions found for asshole

    From WordNet (r) 2.0 :

    n 1: insulting terms of address for people who are stupid or
    irritating or ridiculous [syn: bastard, cocksucker,
    dickhead, shit, mother fucker, motherfucker, prick,
    whoreson, son of a bitch, SOB]
    2: excretory opening at the end of the alimentary canal [syn: anus,
    arse, arsehole]

    From Moby Thesaurus II by Grady Ward, 1.0 :

    20 Moby Thesaurus words for "asshole":
    anus, boob, booby, bung, bunghole, chump, ding-a-ling, dingbat,
    dingdong, galoot, goof, jerk, jerk-off, klutz, mutt, prize sap,
    sap, saphead, sawney, schlemiel

  3. Nice one David. :-)