The office without a**holes

Discussion Guide

1. Have you ever worked with someone who rationalized aggression? What did you learn about how to deal with them effectively—or at least protect yourself against them?

2. When you have a difficult conversation with someone who’s been acting disrespectfully, Sheila Heen highlights the value of separating intentions and impact. Who do you know that does that especially well—and how do they do it?

3. In your experience, how often is the office asshole acting that way deliberately versus accidentally?

4. Have you ever seen an asshole turn over a new leaf? What caused it?

5. Bob Sutton points out that whereas certified assholes have a consistent pattern of treating others like dirt, we’re all prone to moments of being temporary assholes. Reflecting on a time when you’ve acted that way, what brought out the worst in you—and how can you prevent it moving forward?

6. If you were going to create a no-asshole rule in your team, what disrespectful and demeaning behaviors would you outlaw?

7. What are your favorite questions for screening out assholes in job interviews or reference checks?

8. How can you make sure to reward and promote people who elevate others, not just superstars?

9. Could you ever implement a system like Fenwick & West’s, where junior people get to choose which senior leaders they work with?

10. If you had the chance to try and convince Steve Jobs to treat people differently, what one point do you think would be most persuasive?