Have you read Bob Sutton’s book The No Asshole Rule? It’s a great book because it is the harbinger of two trends that I care a lot about.
First, this book is the first business book we can definitively say that the bloggers made a bestseller. Offline bookstores wouldn’t carry it because of the A word. And print publications wouldn’t write about the book either. My column in the Boston Globe is a good example. I wrote about the book, and my editor refused to run the title. But Bob got great press online, and eventually, brick-and-mortar stores had to carry the book because it was a bestseller.
This book also definitively marks the moment when it stopped being okay to be a jerk at work. People used to think it was okay to be the eccentric, difficult genius. When the Harvard professor Tiziana Casciaro conducted research about how people would rather work with someone incompetent than unlikable, I jumped all over it, but to be honest, the data went mostly unnoticed outside of the corner offices and the academics who visit them.
Bob Sutton ushered in the broad understanding that the total cost of working with an asshole is so high that it’s not worth it. He started naming names (Steve Jobs, anyone?). And he gave a self-exam that more than 100,000 people have taken. The book is so full of research that it has become impossible to justify being a jerk. Even to yourself.
There are some other books about workplace etiquette that have the good fortune of coming out right as Sutton’s book has paved the way for us to start talking about the nuts and bolts of being nice at work.
30 Reasons Employees Hate their Managers, by Bruce Katcher
Yes, I know it says thirty, but most of the reasons can be boiled down to one reason: Gratitude. If you manage someone, they are trying to please you. They are trying to do what you want. How can you not thank them? This is something we teach to five-year-olds.
The idea that you don’t have to verbally acknowledge people comes from the old-fashioned idea that managers can motivate people with money. That used to work well, but it doesn’t anymore. Today it is insulting to suggest that your employees are just there for the money. They want way more than that. They want to stretch themselves to do their best work and then get acknowledgement for it. And before you get all snippy about this being unreasonable, take a look at this article in the Harvard Business Review that says reaching goals and receiving praise for it makes for the most productive and happy workplace. Managers: People do not want your money as much as your acknowledgement.
Work 101: Learning the Ropes of the Workplace Without Hanging Yourself, by Elizabeth Freedman
This book is an offbeat etiquette book for people who will never need to know how to use a fingerbowl. (Side note: Yes, I did have finger bowls at my sixteenth birthday, and yes, it was insane because none of my friends knew what they were.) If you are just entering the workforce, this book will be a good introduction the unspoken rules at work, like “Your boss holds the keys to the kingdom.”
If you have been in the workforce a while, this book is a great introduction to how to use a book to propel one’s consulting business. Freedman goes to companies and teaches young people how to be more professional. And this book is a great calling card for consulting gigs, which pay way better than book publishing. Another side note: When I was younger, my boss hired a consultant to help me with these issues. She told me not to show so much cleavage. I never knew I had any. In this way she boosted my confidence and changed how I saw myself.
45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy, And How to Avoid Them, by Anita Bruzzese
This book, too, is basically 45 things that come down to one: If you are a jerk, your boss won’t like you. The thing is that there are so many ways to be a jerk, and it’s a pleasure to see them organized into essential categories like “Stupid, sloppy and sleepy” and “Snippy, snotty and socially stunted.”
Maybe I’m partial because we’re both newspaper columnists, but I have to say that Bruzzese writes very well. But side note: What’s up with her name? Who has any idea how to pronounce it? If you want people to talk about the stuff you do, you need a name people can say. Of course, this is easy for me to say since I’m already on my fourth name now. But remember how blogs did wonders for the book with the unprintable title? Maybe blogs can also do wonders for an author with the unpronounceable last name.