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Author: Robert I. Sutton

Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t

First of all, if you weren’t thinking it already, let me say, I think the title of this book drastically limits sales. I for one, was very reluctant to pick up this book simply because of that first impression from the title.  I’m not a fan or user of harsh language and so I was a bit skeptical of the book because of the title.  Even still, I try to accept people and what they want to express in their own way and I can say that Sutton definitely does this in his book.  Not only does he express his book in his own style and language about aromatherapie öle , he does it very well with a strong message and point portrayed, despite some of the harsh expression.  If anything, the language Sutton used actually made me laugh out loud a number of times throughout the book.  This is partly due to what he has to say, but also in the humorous (and harsh) language to express it.  I think I’ll translate in this article to “Jerk” despite Sutton’s claim that it just doesn’t have the same ring of authenticity or emotional appeal.  Perhaps he’s right, but too bad, its my article!

Identifying One

Sutton first defines what a jerk is, the kinds of things they do in the workplace and how you can easily identify them.  He lists and explains several methods with some things that stand out as such an obvious sign right down to the everyday things like interruptions, personal insult and flaming emails.  These things done consistently are sure signs of that jerk mentality.

Avoid Being One

Sutton explores many ways that a jerk can surface and the types of situations that make this behavior reinforced and dangerous to you if caught up in it.  It can literally be contagious so avoiding these situations in the first place a sure method to deal with it.  Here are a few more covered in the book:

  • Walk away from gossip and other bad situations
  • Focus on similarities to others, not differences
  • Recognize when you are being a jerk yourself
  • Don’t ever play power cards over others to get your way
  • Focus on win-win negotiations with others

Dealing With One

Again, various techniques and behaviors are explored for dealing with a total jerk at work.  Lower your expectations of the person but still hope for the best, you don’t want to get sucked into their vortex of despair.  Another technique explored is to avoid dealing with them or even working to expose them for their poor choice of actions.   He touches on the advantages of looking for tiny bits of progress or wins when dealing with such a person and he even goes so far to mention some of the advantages a total jerk has, or you might have in being one yourself.  Personally, I think he spent too much time on the book and the toxin of thinking for months about total jerks spilled over, I didn’t agree with that area much as I believe there are better ways to handle his suggestions.

Ruling Them Out

The book is really about keeping these types of people out.  Out of your organization that is.  Sutten looks at how this can be done with existing jerks and then how to stick to that plan and ensure no new jerks get in.  It applies across all areas of the organization as well, employees, vendors, contractors, everyone.  Since they can so easily spread, this rule must be applied swiftly and across the board.  It’s like exterminating a bad insect or clearing out some toxin.  Best to do it suddenly and all at once.


So, the book does explain the problem of these total jerks well and it answered all of my questions around finding them, dealing with them and also then in keeping them out of your life and organization.  The advice here is very helpful, and you don’t have to be a total jerk in the process, it’s quite the opposite!  I always enjoy books with humor and many personal stories, and this one is no exception to that once again.  Stories shed example on what impact some of these jerks have in organizations and on the people as well.  In addition, there are positive stories where corporations have turned around their business by implementing the title of this book.  It’s great to see a business book that is entirely written about relationships and the people factor and I’m thrilled to see the interest it’s generated and I respect Sutton for the guts it took to be so bold to put out a frontal attack against the type of people that consistently belittle others and cause pain in the organization simply for their own pleasure and gain.

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