No More Jerks at Work: Preventing Desk Rage

It’s a sign of the times when a well-known Stanford professor and best-selling author publishes a book titled The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t (Warner Business Books, 2007). Robert I. Sutton argues that variations of terms like creep, jerk and bully don’t carry the same authenticity or emotional appeal.

Certainly, everyone knows what he’s talking about. We’ve all experienced the nastiness of a tormentor or unconstrained egomaniac who abuses power and intimidates others.

Jerks do not go undetected for long. Raging maniacs are easy to catch and discipline. More often, however, real damage occurs after covert backstabbing and hypocrisy. Comments are subtly demeaning. Some people couch their insults in humor and hide behind sarcasm.

Everyone’s a Jerk

The truth is, each of us has engaged in some of these behaviors. But a real jerk is defined by the frequency with which he is demeaning and destructive.

To qualify as a true jerk, one must display a persistent pattern and a history of episodes that lead others to feel humiliated and disrespected. And a boss who’s a jerk often causes anger, frustration, high turnover, absenteeism and, in extreme cases, violence.


This is a brief synopsis of a 2000 word article suitable for consultants’ newsletters for executives and leaders in organizations. It is available for purchase with full reprint rights, which means you may put your name on it and use it in your newsletters, blogs or other marketing materials. You may also modify it and add your personal experiences.

There are two versions of this article: 2000 words and 1000 words (approximate word counts). The full article covers the following sub-topics:

Jerk Behaviors
Everyone’s a Jerk
The Rise of Boss-icide
Secondhand Jerk Effects
The Costs of Harboring a Jerk
Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely
Top 10 Rules for Enforcing a “No Jerks at Work” Rule
Rules of Engagement for Non-Jerks


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