How To Deal with Bosses and Colleagues Who Are Assholes

  Asshole survival
How do you deal with people who treat you like dirt? That’s a question you can read in social media, hear in the coffee shop or around the water cooler and just about any place two or more people gather. Bob Sutton’s first book, The No Asshole Rule, began to clarify this issue. But since its publication in 2007, it has brought him more than 8,000 emails and hundreds of interactions asking for more help. Thankfully, in this latest book, he answers all these questions in spades.

Upfront, let me bias you. This book is a masterpiece that nearly everyone will want to devour, share and keep as a reference. If you don’t need it today, you will eventually be racking your brain for insights that Sutton already has available. So why reinvent the wheel?

The book is unique among business books. It’s not merely for senior managers and executives—like too many business books–it will be useful for professionals at all levels. Furthermore, it’s immensely concrete and readable. And Bob’s delightful wit rolls on as if on casters. If you’ve read his blogs and previous books, you know he’s Yoda-like and you’re going to learn a lot of very practical human stuff and have fun doing it. In addition to the constant flow of how-to and anecdotes which illuminate his ideas, you’re going to get a load of research and relevant studies that you can readily understand and put to use. . .

You’ll find numerous approaches for taking care of yourself when you have to work with assholes. Uniquely, Sutton is very upfront about asshole blindness and it’s conscious–and sometimes unconscious–impact upon us. He understands that there’s a vast difference in people who deserve this label—and that we respond differently to them. So, he’ll also point out the limitations of various personal strategies, revealing when one will work and when it won’t. You’re going to find “mind tricks to protect your soul,” discussions of when it’s time to “make a getaway,” and how to be “part of the solution and not the problem.” I found his insights on the difference between “what you do and how you do it” in the chapter on making a clean getaway especially enlightening. The chapter on coping skills and mind tricks can apply to a lot more than assholes. In addition, Sutton even suggests when you’re at risk for becoming an asshole—as well as when it’s appropriate for you to be an asshole. In fact, he lists a dozen situations where your own Achilles Heel is liable to show up, such as not getting enough sleep, working around a lot of assholes, too much to do and think about, always in a hurry, or being a man with a woman for a boss (yep, research shows that men tend to be more threatened by a boss lady than a boss man).

But, by no stretch of the imagination is the book merely about dealing with yourself. It lays out in vivid detail how to fight back and deal with assholes. You’ll learn how to be civilized in your confrontations and also how to be aggressive. He reinforces my belief that revenge can be sweet, but that the “Kamikaze Method” is risky and often suicidal. “Love bombing and ass-kissing” are two well-thought out strategies with both minuses and pluses you won’t want to miss. Furthermore, Sutton shows you how to band together to “expel” an asshole from your group–and your organization. Ever thought you’d like to get rid of a jerk? Well, he’ll tell you how to do it.

The summary on the back of my advance reading copy details what you’ll find: “field-tested, evidence-based, and sometimes surprising strategies for dealing with assholes—avoiding them, outwitting them, disarming them, sending them packing, and developing protective psychological armor.”  In sum, you don’t always need a shiv to mete out justice, but with Sutton you’ll know how to use one when necessary.

There’s one more very important thing that still needs to be said. After going through The Asshole Survival Guide with a fine-toothed comb, it’s clear that our author has the mental furniture of a really smart manager who understands the world we live in better than just about anyone. If you begin to imbibe all his ways of looking at life, of viewing the world in which we live, of taking care of yourself and dealing successfully with others, you’ve got a complete, nearly flawless reality structure for this century. Sure, the book will show you how to deal successfully with assholes and when to cut and run, but it does a lot more than that: it tells you how to live your life. I’ll say it again: this book is a masterpiece.


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