The No Asshole Rule – Robert I. Sutton [Book Summary]

by Nick

Pests Regularly Bully or Humiliate Others

Everyone has a bad mood, and we act like temporary pests. But notorious pests are people whose behavior is not a temporary surge of emotions, but a character trait. Their misconduct is repeated and prolonged.

Hostile behavior has both physical and mental expression. It can be verbal or non-verbal. Pests anger, intimidate and humiliate their victims. At work, this is expressed differently: pests interrupt, invade personal space, insult, suppress others, look aggressively or completely ignore.

Pests often go unpunished, respectfully addressing their superiors or customers, but badly to everyone else. Since they deserve a good reputation with their superiors, complaints from other employees are often ignored.

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Pests Are a Problem for Business

In “The No Asshole Rule” you can see that many companies tolerate bad behavior without realizing the damage it causes. When pests are not repulsed, the morale of employees becomes worse than in a friendly, respectful and professional atmosphere.

This has a huge impact on productivity. Employees with low morale are more likely to quit, take sick leave and are usually less productive. They can take revenge on pests by skipping work, poorly performing it, or even by stealing.

Pests exhaust their colleagues – both witnesses working in an aggressive environment and their immediate victims. Pests in leadership positions are especially dangerous – in this case, employees are under constant threat of humiliation. They spend their energy not on work, but on avoiding insults. This leads to an unproductive working atmosphere full of fear.

The author also writes that pests are expensive for a business. The quality of work decreases, as the best employees leave for more friendly teams of other companies.

There is No Room for Pests in a Good Working Environment

Too often, pests are tolerated. Their attacks of rage and hostility justify and forgive because they consider them talented, smart or irreplaceable. But this is how businesses harm themselves. All pests must be disposed of immediately.

Regardless of good qualities or abilities, it makes sense to fire an employee who does not get along with colleagues: puts them in an awkward position or humiliates them. Such a rule must be applied to everyone, regardless of their professionalism.

The founders and leaders of organizations should make clear that all employees deserve respect. This helps to increase loyalty and morale in the team.

Life is too short to tolerate pests. For this rule to work, it must be well known to all employees.

Example. Google employees support the motto “Don’t be evil.”

The rule should also apply to customers and buyers because their behavior also affects the work and morale of employees.

Example. Some airlines blacklist passengers as they mistreated their employees — shouting at them or threatening them.

More Equality – Less Pests

People with high status are more likely to behave like pests. They speak most of all and do what they want, not taking into account the opinions of others. They tend to see in others only a means to an end, and take credit for the success of the entire team.

Example. A study was conducted in which groups of three students discussed various issues. One person in each group was randomly selected to evaluate other people’s arguments. As a result, students with this right often violated communication standards. This was assessed using a plate of cookies: students with a higher status were more likely to take the last cookie, chew with an open mouth and crumble more.

A similar effect is seen in the business world. The greater the difference in status between managers and employees, the more often the latter are treated with disrespect.

To reduce the likelihood of sabotage, you need to reduce the social distance between employees. Relations will become more respectful, especially between managers and subordinates.

Make the difference in wages as low as possible. Earning is the most important sign of status. A less noticeable difference in wages will reduce the difference in status, leading to aggressive behavior.

Wrecking Can Be Beneficial, but Motivating Employees With an Incentive System is More Effective

Typically, management groups are very similar to baboons. They have a fierce rivalry between competing individuals, and the most aggressive often win. And while managers who act in an aggressive and reckless manner are often considered unpleasant, they are also perceived as literate and resourceful.

Hardness and ruthlessness are a huge advantage in the business world. This can be explained by evolution: the leader of the tribe became the most aggressive and strong. Therefore, our brain automatically associates aggression with high status. But this does not mean that it is necessary to raise pests to leaders or to tolerate aggression on their part.

Methods effective in crowding out rivals do not determine the right management style. Instead of motivating subordinates, they often have the opposite effect.

Two things motivate people best: incentives and recognition. These techniques bring better results than aggression and punishment and increase the morale of the team.

The best employees who can easily find work in another company are unlikely to remain in a negative atmosphere. Pests disperse all the “cream” of the team. On the contrary, their dismissal will help attract and retain talented workers.

Collaboration is the Key to a Civilized, Productive Work Environment

The competition between companies is fierce and endless. Such behavior is too often carried over into the internal culture of the company. Healthy competition is useful: ambition motivates employees to make more efforts, take risks and come up with new ideas. Competition also helps to choose the best candidates for promotion. But in the pursuit of increased employee confrontation can harm organizations.

Excessive internal competition weakens the company, creating an unproductive atmosphere. Therefore, in most successful companies, internal competition is constrained, and the culture of cooperation is strengthened. It is necessary to notice and reward cooperation.

A surprising impact on the culture of the company has a choice of words. Replace aggressive, warlike phrases (“enemy”, “battlefield”, etc.) with more positive ones, emphasizing the spirit of cooperation (“help”, “justice”, “community”).

Even simple substitutions like “me” – “we”, “mine” – “ours”, “them” – “us”, subconsciously remind employees that they are a team and encourage cooperation, rather than rivalry, which takes time and energy.

Avoid the Pest, or Become Yourself

The proverb says: “With whom you will lead, from that, you will be typed.” Surrounded by angry and aggressive people, you risk adopting their behavior. Working in a rude and disrespectful atmosphere, you get so used to it that you begin to behave the same. This behavior extends to privacy.

Example. The author notes that he began to feel worse about his wife, spending too much time among pests.

In order not to become a pest both at work and in your personal life, avoid this society. But it is not always possible to choose colleagues. If avoiding the pest does not work, try minimally contacting it. Think of it as a virus – avoid close contact as if it had the flu.

If you have already spent a lot of time and energy on a relationship with a pest, it is more difficult to distance yourself. Therefore, each time encountering a pest, do not get close to it! Keep your emotional distance.

In many companies, it is impossible to completely avoid contact with the pest. Working with him or under him can demoralize you. It is necessary to develop a strategy that will help to remain unscathed.

The main thing – do not let the pest pull you to your level. Try to stay calm, do not respond to aggression and do not take insulting words to heart. Remember that the person you are dealing with is just a pest, regardless of his position.

Take positively the interaction with the pest.


  • The problem is temporary;
  • You are not the cause of the problem;
  • It will not spoil your whole life;
  • If a person is a pest, this is his problem, not yours.

Always hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Happiness (and sadness) is on the border between what you expect and what you experience. Therefore, when dealing with a pest, be prepared for the worst, but remember that you are not to blame for anything.

Fight Pests!

To spoil the conversation, whether in the office, at a party or in everyday life, one pest is enough. Even if the rest behave normally, one person can ruin the mood for everyone.

Negativity affects our mood five times more than positive. That is five nice people who praise you and share good news can neutralize one pest. Therefore, follow one rule in professional and personal life: fight against pests!

It is also important not to become one yourself. If it’s too late, try changing your behavior. Look honestly at yourself in the mirror and ask when was the last time you acted like a pest.

Not to be a pest is very simple: be friendly and respectful towards people and expect the same in return.

Life is too short to tolerate pests.


Develop a company policy of intolerance towards pests and bad behavior. This will raise the morale of the team, the productivity of each employee and loyalty to the company.

How to calculate the pest, and what harm does it bring?

  • Pests regularly bully or humiliate others;
  • Pests are a problem for business.

What should be done with pests?

  • In a good working atmosphere there is no room for pests;
  • More equality – less pests;
  • Wrecking can be beneficial, but it is more effective to motivate employees using a system of incentives;
  • Collaboration is the key to a civilized, productive work environment.

How to communicate with pests?

  • Avoid the pest, or become yourself;
  • Keep an emotional distance;
  • Fight pests!

Why You Should Read “The No Asshole Rule”

  • To be able to deal with asshole colleagues
  • To maintain a healthy working environment
  • To eliminate the “pests” from your company

This book is available as:

AudiobookeBook | Print