Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Does your nonprofit organization employ a**holes?

Warner Business Books will shortly be releasing a new book that will is destined to be a business classic, if only for its title: The No Asshole Rule - Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't, by Stanford Professor Robert I. Sutton.

Beyond the catchy title (that I'm sure just about everybody who's ever had a job can relate to), Sutton actually does have something to say about the toxic effect of a**holes on the workplace:
Assholes have devastating cumulative effects partly because nasty interactions have a far bigger impact on our moods than positive interactions - five times the punch, according to recent research. ... These findings help explain why demeaning acts are so devastating. It takes numerous encounters with positive people to offset the energy and happiness sapped by a single episode with one asshole.
There are also, according to Sutton, degrees of a**hole activity. We all may be guilty of occasional bad moods leading to "temporary a**hole" status. And then, there are those who qualify as "certified a**holes."

While the book is written about the for-profit business world, it can almost certainly be applied to the nonprofit world as well. Some of you may be thinking, "No, not in the nonprofit world! We're all good and pure!"

Well, unfortunately, my experience tells me that while that may be true than in other sectors of the economy, the nonprofit sector is not immune from the destructive nature of a**holes in the workplace.

The difference may be that in the "heartless business world" managers may be quicker to deal with potential a**holes in the making, while we nonprofit folks may be more forgiving, and not have the heart to fire somebody who really needs it.

So, remember, it's not just because you don't like the a**hole in question. You have to fire this person because they are toxic to your organization, they diminish productivity, and that is hazardous to your mission.

Read more about the book, and Don Griesmann's full review, at

1 comment:

  1. Pardon me for sounding like a sap, but I worked for corporate America about 6 years ago, and was routinely bullied by my manager and her two favorite assistants. It was BAD! In the end, I was fired, and all three of them were promoted. I am not sure where they are today, but is it "non-profitty" of me to dream they are all eating lunch at a soup kitchen?

    I freelance now. The money isn't great, but after my previous experience, I feel like I have hit the jackpot.