Review of “No Asshole Rule” Essay
“The No Asshole Rule” by Robert Sutton effectively illustrates the multitude of detrimental effects abusive staff members can have on fellow employees. Sutton discusses in detail how to identify both certified and temporary assholes, how to deal with and reform these assholes, and how to keep from becoming an asshole oneself, supplemented with anecdotal examples and studies that reinforce his opinion that the removal of these types of destructive people will maximize workplace productivity and relieve the workplace of asshole poisoning.
For employees that cannot leave their current job situation, he offers advice on how to survive these kind of people and how to negate their damaging influence. By primarily focusing on how to build a civilized workplace through rules and guidelines that successful companies have implemented in the past, he provides valuable information that management should heed regarding the negative influence these people have both on direct and indirect interactions with fellow employees.
Closer examination of the three theories of motivation, job satisfaction and organizational commitment from an organizational behaviour perspective will provide a deeper insight and understanding into the aforementioned problem of workplace incivility. Topic 1: Motivation Motivation is based on three schools of thoughts: Expectancy, Goal-Setting, and Equity Theory. In this book, Equity theory and Expectancy theory are most applicable to the concept of asshole employees in an organization.
Equity theory acknowledges that motivation does not just depend on your own beliefs and circumstances but also on what happens to other people, while Expectancy theory states that an employee expects to gain compensation directly related to his or her efforts. For equity theory, assholes decrease equities by making others feel worthless and incompetent, and if such feelings translate into depression and lowered productivity while the asshole maintains his work efficacy, employees may experience underreward inequity. For expectancy theory, if an asshole gets the same or more benefits than other employees (e. g. natching sales clients aggressively), other employees will either start to lose motivation for work by shirking since their efforts would not lead to an adequate amount of compensation, or see that it’s effective to be an asshole, and become an asshole. Expectancy theory is more apparent when the boss is an asshole (Tepper, 2007). The employees believe that no matter how hard they work, their reward will not correlate with efforts because the asshole boss belittles their value and tries to take advantage of them. They may give up trying to work in the company’s best interest if the company tolerates such an asshole coworker/boss.
This forms a cascade effect where everyone decreases their productivity because no one is motivated. The consequence is that either productivity goes down, or employees would have low cohesiveness due to unwillingness to collaborate. Sutton attempted to quantify the loss in productivity by employing the concept of Total Cost of Asshole (TCA) which lists the costs of tolerating an asshole employee on productivity (Sutton, 2007). Some examples include damages to other coworkers (e. g. psychologist visits due to depression, increased vacation days, etc. ).
Sutton made many anecdotal cases of how assholes can decrease motivation in the workplace (Sutton, 2007). However, there is a possibility that the decreased motivation levels of employees are due to the effects of organizational policies, and that the employees deflect their problems by attributing them to an asshole employee. One of the ways that companies encourage assholes to thrive, as Sutton alluded to, is the company’s indifference and tolerance to assholes (Sutton, 2007). Another way would be for assholes to hire more assholes, as like begets like.
This raises the question: can employees be motivated despite the existence of assholes? Rather than addressing the effects of assholes on motivation as Sutton has demonstrated, we should address the factors that allow workers to be motivated with assholes around. For example, the concept of psychological contract breach can provide a more elaborate way to quantify the process of how assholes can affect motivation levels of employees by examining the interactions among employees based on personality variables, rather than using the results (e. . low productivity) to justify the effects of assholes (i. e. TCA). Psychological contract breach is defined as the failure of an individual to fulfill tacit obligations with another party (e. g employees or boss) (Chiu and Peng, 2008).
Psychological contract breach may have more effect on employee organizational deviance than employee interpersonal deviance (Chiu and Peng, 2008). To illustrate, if an organization has a policy that only the top salesman gets a bonus salary, and the person who came second, no matter how lose his sales records are to the top salesman’s, will not obtain any benefits, then employees will either lose incentive to work harder or try to drive out the competition by belittling others or aggressively taking customers for themselves. In other words, one must also consider the possibility that the company’s environment may encourage assholes to thrive rather than attribute the blame of low productivity on assholes as an intrinsic concept. Furthermore, rather than attributing various bad attributes to define an asshole, these attributes should be separated and analyzed systematically.
Companies may be able to detect assholes during the interview process by using an attitudes checklist to predict future behaviours (Bolin and Heatherly, 2001). Sutton already alluded to the fact that assholes are sometimes useful in motivating people in the workplace (e. g. using fear as motivation for perfection, keeping lazy people in check). However, the attributes that assholes use to intimidate responsible coworkers and lazy coworkers are the same but in a different context (Sutton, 2007).
This provides further evidence that a systematic study of different traits and environments that lead to low employee motivations may be more effective. Topic 2: Job Satisfaction Job satisfaction can be defined as the set of emotions one feels when reflecting upon their current job situation. The definition encompasses both emotional and cognitive feelings about one’s job, and is often evaluated on the basis of one’s values and priorities, as well as by measuring parameters of satisfaction with one’s pay, promotion, supervision, co-workers, or the work itself.
Research studies have concluded that supervision and co-worker satisfaction are strongly correlated to overall job satisfaction. In the workplace, individuals spend a significant amount of time with colleagues and supervisors. Employees that have negative feelings about their supervisor and colleagues will have lower levels of job satisfaction. According to a Conference Board survey of American households in 2004, close to 67% of employees are not satisfied with aspects of their job, and satisfaction has been rapidly declining over time since the 1950’s (Pfeffer, 2008).
There is a strong correlation between job satisfaction and affective and normative commitment, as well as a moderate correlation between job satisfaction and job performance, demonstrating the importance of maintaining employee’s feelings of strong job satisfaction in order to produce favourable outcomes for the organization as a whole as well as the individual. The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton is a prime example of how job satisfaction can be affected by supervisors and coworkers.
Numerous studies have shown that a nasty boss or coworker who purposefully demeans and belittles colleagues or individuals of lower status in the organizational structure than themselves affects both the person being bullied, the witnesses of the bullying, and the actual bully themselves. This type of bullying behaviour causes increases in absenteeism, workplace theft, psychological damage, and increased employee turnover and active disengagement, all of which management would deem undesirable. According to Pearson and Porath (2005, p. ) “one study of 800 employees in the United States reported that 10 percent said they witnessed incivility daily within their workplaces, and 20 percent said that they personally were targets of incivility in the workplace at least once a week . ” While Sutton constantly refers to an example in his book of how nurses are treated and their related satisfaction and job performance, his theories are reinforced by findings by the Kaiser-Permanente medical group in Colorado, which has enforced a zero tolerance policy for verbal abuse of its’ nurses.
This policy was adopted after research on the nursing shortage revealed information that the constant verbal criticisms and abuse of doctors and supervisors had led to nurses voluntarily leaving their occupations in pursuit of a more satisfactory career choice or environment. Once this policy was adopted, nurse retention and attraction of new nursing talent increased dramatically, reinforcing Sutton’s view that one of the major determinants of job satisfaction is the way supervisors and coworkers treat those in positions of power lower than themselves (Pfeffer, 2008).
Another study that is consistent with Sutton’s position on asshole supervisors and their effect on job satisfaction is one conducted by Bennet J. Tepper. In his study, Tepper surveyed 2,415 individuals over a six month period that analyzed 15 factors, 2 of which are job satisfaction and life satisfaction. He used a job and life satisfaction scale to which 362 individuals responded. His results suggest that individuals who see their supervisors as abusive have lower levels of job and life satisfaction (Tepper, 2000).
In other words, asshole supervisors can affect their employees in both their work and personal lives. Sandy Hershcovis and Julian Barling conducted a study that incorporated meta-analysis, consisting of a variety of researchers and 66 samples to determine a number of outcomes, one of which was the correlation between supervisor aggression and job satisfaction. They uncovered that aggressive supervisors have a negative relationship with job satisfaction (Hershcovis & Barling, 2009). A common theme in The No Asshole Rule is employee’s tolerance of workplace incivility.
While the author gives approaches detailing how to survive a workplace that is plagued by assholes, the phenomenon of people simply tolerating the daily abuse of coworkers or supervisors is commonly observed in Organizational Behaviour literature. While more severe forms of harassment such as sexual harassment have an overt damaging effect, studies are emerging which hint that daily incivility by coworkers or supervisors can wear more on an employee than outright abuse, which reinforces Suttons’s agenda to eliminate all potential problem people as soon as possible.
Where incivility is allowed, job satisfaction eventually declines dramatically and organizational loyalty declines as well. This subtle form of deviance has a bigger potential to cause the undesirable consequence of employees eventually cutting their ties with a company (Pearson, 2005). The main factors that can create this unhappiness and negative feelings associated with your position are the duration and the power of the instigator (Sidle, 2009).
Sutton’s notion that the power distance between the instigator and the one being threatened is reinforced by these studies as well as his assertion that public embarrassment in front of colleagues is a huge deterrent from fighting back or taking steps to decrease the bullying or threatening behaviour. Studies demonstrate that when a boss demonstrates this type of behaviour, an employee will often react in a detached manner and try to avoid the individual for as long as possible, but when the power dynamics are more equal the employee is more likely to retaliate.
In order to stop this type of behaviour from weakening employee loyalty and commitment, Sidle recommends that programs be put in place that inform employees that this type of behaviour is not to be tolerated, essentially Robert Sutton’s “The No Asshole Rule”, in order to proactively curtail the damaging and costly effects workplace bullying and incivility can have on an organization. (Sidle, 2009) Topic 3: Organizational Commitment Organizational commitment is defined in general terms as an employee’s desire to remain a member of an organization.
Organizational commitment can take three forms: affective commitment, continuance commitment, and normative commitment. In affective commitment, employees share an emotional bond with the organization that is the driving force behind their decision to stay with the organization. As a result of continuance commitment, employees have the urge to stay due to monetary reasons and lack of suitable employment alternatives. In Normative commitment, employees stay with an organization because they feel morally obligated to.
In the opinion of employees, their organization had vested resources in them in the past and they ought to pay back by staying with the organization. In The No Asshole Rule, Robert Sutton has not discussed three forms of organization commitment. He has used the word “commitment” which presumably is referring to affective commitment in light of the fact that the book addresses the negative impact of assholes on coworkers’ emotional well-being and organization interpersonal dynamics which are important determinants of affective commitment.
In The No Asshole Rule, Robert Sutton has stated that one of the many damages that the assholes do to their organization is to reduce the commitment of their victims and bystanders alike to the organization. This is evident through distraction from tasks, absenteeism, and increased turnover reflecting withdrawal behaviour resulting from decreased commitment. (Knippenberg & Sleebos, 2006). Robert Sutton has given numerous examples throughout the book that highlight the severity of withdrawal behaviour induced by bullying.
People who have affective commitment to their workplace enjoy coming to work each day and are more willing to put extra effort (Knippenberg & Sleebos, 2006). The No asshole rule cites one study which demonstrates that when people feel mistreated, they are unwilling to go the extra mile to support their organization. When Chicago was hit by a massive snowstorm, the employees who had the highest level of commitment made the tough commute to work whereas employees with low levels of commitment utilized this perfect excuse and did not go to work.
The effects of supervisor bullying that The No Asshole Rule describes on underlings are also supported by literature. Laschinger et al. , (2009) found in her research study in a sample of 612 Canadian staff nurses that supervisor incivility and cynicism resulted in low commitment. Interestingly, Laschinger et al, (2009) also found that co-worker incivility was equally important as supervisor incivility. It makes sense in light of the definition of organizational commitment which entails feelings that one is part of family and a desire to remain in the organization until retirement (Meyer & Delen, 1997).
Thus, positive relationships with collegues are as important as with the supervisors. In his book, Robert Sutton also provided empirical data on the prevelance of abuse among coworkers. Sutton also factored in reduced commitment in calculating TCA, total cost of assholes. Bullying employees leads to neglect of work, higher turnover and absenteeism, and results in a huge cost to organizations (Lewis, 2003). Sutton also gave an interesting example of a manager at Southwest Airlines who was not necessarily nasty but cold and impatient.
The manager honestly admitted that he wanted to work only and not make friends at his workplace. The commitment of this person could at best be described as continuance but could affect the affective commitment of satisfied employees in light of the definition of three forms of commitments. He was instantly encouraged to find another job so not to negatively impact the interpersonal dynamics at Southwest Airlines. According to Sutton, with such hiring practices, Southwest Airlines has been able to maintian a supportive work environment.
The employees’ perception of the extent to which the organization values their contributions and cares about their well-being is reflected in the concept of perceived organizational support. Knippenberg & Sleebos (2006) found in a cross-sectional survey of a university faculty that organizational commitment was positivley related to perceived organizational support. In The No Asshole Rule, this relationship is captured in the example of fewer drug-treatment errors reported by nurses in the units that lacked leadership support and higher reporting of errors in units with supportive managers.
Hence, when employees perceive their organizations to be supportive and committed to them, employees will reciprocate by helping the organization achieve its goals (Parzefall & Salin, 2010). Without perceived organizational support and with abusive supervisors, as seen in the nurses’ example, even when human life is at stake, employees are more likely to focus on protecting themselves rather than helping their organization improve. Sutton introduced the idea of constructive confrontation which if enforced effectively, aligns with the idea of organizational empowerment.
Organizational empowerment entails access to information, support, and opportunities to grow (Laschinger et al. , 2009). Access to information means having knowledge of organizational decisions, policies, and goals. Access to support includes getting feedback and emotional support from superiors and peers. Access to opportunity entails access to professional development to increase knowledge and skills through participation in committees and task forces (Laschinger et al. , 2009).
Numerous studies have established links between structural empowerment and important work parameters including job job satisfaction and commitment (Laschinger et al. , 2004 & Cho et al. , 2006). Thus, correct inforcement of constructive confrontation enables employees to get feedback on their ideas, be a part of corporate decision-making process, and identify with corporate goals, thereby, positively enhancing commitment. Evaluative Summary: The No Asshole Rule by Sutton is a brilliantly written book that not only offers beneficial advice, but provides companies with a guide on how to effectively deal with assholes.
In choosing the word asshole for the title, the author created a powerful and shocking impact on its readers. He used an idea many think of but never deign to write about. An entertaining and easy read, the book is structured in a way that keeps the reader engaged from start to finish. Throughout the book, Sutton provides real-world examples to aid and reinforce his points. He implements these examples to determine the impact and consequences of assholes.
The author displays his expertise in the field of management science through the use of sound psychological and sociological research. The book does contain a number of topics relating to theories in organizational behaviour, however, our focus was on motivation, job satisfaction and organizational commitment. The detrimental effect one asshole can have on an organization is substantial. Sutton conveys this point throughout his book as well as the influence an asshole can have on an individual’s level of motivation, satisfaction and commitment to an organization.