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The very difficult people who are more trouble than they are worth

Bob Sutton, a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University, first saw the no asshole rule in action at Stanford in the 1980s. He wrote about it for Harvard Business Review’s breakthrough ideas in 2004. His book ‘The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t’ was published in February 2007.

The rule is simply to not hire or if they are in your workplace drive them out or reform those who infuriate, demean and damage their peers, superiors, underlings and at times, clients and customers. Sutton calculates toxic people cost more than they are worth.

At places that are the most vehement and effective at enforcing the rule, “employee performance” and “treatment of others” aren’t separate things. Even if people do other things well (even extraordinarily well) but routinely demean others, they are classified as incompetent. A business or organization should respond immediately if any individual degrades another, regardless of position.

The effect of one toxic person is incredible
Toxic people tend to breed by hiring people like themselves and by turning perfectly nice people into, at least at times, toxic people.

“Passion is an overrated virtue in organizational life, and indifference is an underrated virtue.” Sutton explains: If you work in a good environment where you are treated with respect, you can be passionate, committed and identify with the organization. But if you are oppressed and humiliated, it is folly to be engaged at work. To survive with your health and self esteem, you need to feel and practice indifference and emotional detachment. Caring and passion are out. If you work around toxic people, you may have to disengage to survive or get out.

This is a huge cost to a workplace…to have people who are not engaged and often fear the next tirade. Ordinary people who are passionate and committed will produce more than one brilliant toxic person surrounded by paralyzed coworkers.

Bob Sutton The Working Life blog at Harvard Business Online, http://discussionleader.hbsp.com/sutton/2007/05/arse_test_83644_people_so_far_1.html
Guy Kawaski posts the employee rules of engagement one company requires, http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2007/02/arse_the_asshho.html

“The greatest honor of a man is in doing good to his fellow men, not in destroying them.”
Thomas Jefferson, U.S. President, author of the Declaration of Independence (1743-1826)