Is anyone else surprised at all the attention given to the concept of the jerk-free workplace? Stanford professor Bob Sutton’s book, The No Asshole Rule, has been on the best-seller list for more than five months and was awarded the Quill Award yesterday for business. At least 13 states are considering laws that would allow workers to sue workplace bullies.
The performance management software company SuccessFactors has gotten serious press mileage out of its “no jerks” policy. The Academy of Management is publishing not one, but two jerk-related articles in its October edition about “how rudeness affects task performance and helpfulness” and “abusive supervision.” And, lo and behold, yesterday I was flipping through former Gillette CEO Jim Kilts’ new book, “Doing What Matters,” and read about the “never hire jerks” policy he and his team had at Kraft. I could go on.
Don’t get me wrong: I completely agree with the notion that there’s no place for jerks at work, and I realize that there are far too many such brutes populating the places where we spend so much time. I’m also in no position to criticize the “No Asshole” book by Sutton, who I’ve had delightful conversations with in the past, as I haven’t yet read it.
But I’m still amazed at the recent swell of talk around the topic. Is the management world really suddenly so bereft of new ideas that a concept so basic can generate so much attention? I understand the power of simple ideas, but is the business world that far removed from basic civilities? I suppose I’ve been spoiled by some pretty cooperative workplaces and supportive bosses. But haven’t there always been jerks at work? Why the sudden spotlight on the schmuck?
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