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TOP OF THE WARNING TO YOU: Many companies have formal and unwritten rules about abuse and bullying in the workplace.
TOP OF THE WARNING TO YOU: Many companies have formal and unwritten rules about abuse and bullying in the workplace.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007; 10:21 AM

John in accounting who constantly vetoes your expense reports for no good reason. The woman one cubicle over who you suspect of stealing your tape dispenser. The boss who belittles your clothing along with your job performance.

Toiling in an office often means working with jerks. So how do you deal with them without calling in sick every day or going on a murderous rampage? Writer and professor of management science Robert I. Sutton tells how in his new book, "The No A--hole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't" ($23, Warner Business Books). In it, he bluntly lays out how to handle (and if you're lucky, maybe even fire) workplace bullies and take on 9-to-5 tyrants. Express' Jess Milcetich chatted with Sutton about the secrets of increasing productivity and improving the overall atmosphere in the workplace.

What is the "No A--hole Rule"?

To me, it's kind of a point of view, or really a rule, that some organizations have and most don't. They won't let people who are demeaning in the door if they possibly can, and if people start acting like that, they won't let them get away with it. And if they keep it up, they'll kick them out. It's that simple.

Why is it so important?

When I started reading academic literature from organizational psychologists on bullying, [I saw] the way it hurts people and costs organizations money. People are less committed to their jobs. To me, it ends up wasting people's careers.

The other part that's more sort of the capitalistic cost is the TCA, or Total Cost of A--holes. The most surprising thing: A Silicon Valley executive calculated the total costs of an employee who was burning through secretaries and needed anger-management counseling. It cost $160,000.

You can make a case that sometimes it's worth the trouble, but from my experience if it's causing so much damage and it's so unpleasant to be around, it's not worth it.


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