What is the “No Asshole Rule”?

by Rafizah Amran

The No Asshole Rule

One of the books that made an impression on me was “The No Asshole Rule” by Robert Sutton. I read this in 2007 after I chanced upon a particular study that shows people behave differently when they think that they are in charge, sort of a reverse Milgram experiment. This study has been replicated elsewhere e.g University of California, Berkeley: Psychology suggests that power doesn’t make people bad—it just reveals their true natures.

Sadly, bullies are often allowed, celebrated even, because they are “performing” or “bringing in the numbers”. Truth is, bullies weaken the team and create a hostile environment of distrust and fear. In short, bullies are not good for the organisation!

Think about it. This unhealthy system will eventually collapse – either your team will be demotivated or frozen to the point of being robotic; or they become bullies themselves and pass down this awful behaviour to their successors, continuing a vicious tradition of bad behaviour. Most importantly and more damaging to the organisation, the good ones will eventually have enough, pack up their bags and leave. History shows this will repeat til change takes place. Look at UBER for a recent example.


Innovation is crucial to every team and organization. So my job is to encourage my people to generate and test all kinds of new ideas. But it is also my job to help them kill off all the bad ideas we generate, and most of the good ideas, too.

-Bob Sutton “12 Things that Good Bosses Believe In”

This book changed the way I engage and disengage with the people that I work with. As much as possible, I remind myself of the 12 Things that Good Bosses Believe In and repeat them to myself when I am facing an especially trying time at work.

What’s your life-changing book?

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