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Does Your Office Manual Have A "No Asshole" Rule?

In 2007, Stanford professor Robert I. Sutton published a book entitled, "The No Asshole Rule" that was a runaway bestseller in the business world. Sutton published a sequel, and then another follow-up book entitled, "The Asshole Survival Guide: How To Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt". Professor Sutton was later quoted as noting an unfortunate truth: "There's an emotional reaction to a dirty title. You have a choice between being offensive and being ignored".

Thank you to Professor Sutton for recognizing the importance of engendering an emotional response in order to garner attention, and another thank you for using that attention to shine a light on the question of whether one needs to be offensive ("dirty"), in order to have an impact on others-- perhaps advocates of workplace wellbeing and mental health should take a lesson from the good professor, because those two concerns relate back directly to the need for a "no asshole" rule, in the first place.

Aside from attempting to legislate toxicity out of the workplace through the enactment of a rule that is rarely (if ever) enforced in a meaningful way, current business leaders might consider an alternative approach, since the prior approach has obviously not worked-- maybe business leaders should consider the implementation of a balanced, meaningful workplace wellbeing initiative.

Predictably, the assholes in the office would object to the commencement of such an initiative but while they're available (and, hopefully, willing to speak), current leaders could talk to the women and men who debated and voted for the enactment of a "no asshole" rule to gauge their thinking and assessment of the need for such a rule, and it's obvious lack of effectiveness.

Telling people that toxic behavior will no longer be tolerated, is Step One toward making an effective change. Step Two entails actually doing something about it, and the action I would propose is the implementation of a workplace wellbeing initiative that might actually help assholes better understand the impact that their toxic behavior has on the men and women around them.

Self-regulation of difficult thoughts, feelings or emotions is something that is most effective when the individual himself/herself decides to do something about it-- not when they are told by someone else, that their behavior must change.

The implementation of a "no asshole" rule was a great way to start the process, but the way to finish is to follow up with a workplace wellbeing initiative that encourages a more refined and sensitive response to toxic behavior-- and the mental health of others.


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