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Ivory Tower Survival: A Sense of Detachment

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionThe response to “Can Being a Lowly Grad Student Kill You?” was intense and informative. One of the comments led me to Bob Sutton’s book “The No Asshole Rule,” and this book needs to be shared with anyone who is about to enter the work force. Sutton argues that a) Assholery results in lost profits and b) Assholery is contagious, so unless you know how to handle a workplace asshole, you might turn into one yourself.

One of the best tips Sutton offers involves how to cope when you can’t escape an asshole. The Hamster World offers many more avenues of escape, but the Ivory Tower is difficult to navigate, and you may find yourself trapped with an asshole. You can’t fight back because assholes can wreck your career, but you can thwart the asshole by employing strategic detachment:

If you face constant abuse, then (until you can get out) going through the motions and “not letting it touch your soul” is one tactic that can help you survive with your self-esteem intact. In my view, when organizations and bosses treat their people badly, they get what they deserve when their people respond by becoming emotionally detached and doing as little as possible without getting fired. In this imperfect world, there are times when learning “not to give a shit” is the best short-term solution available.

A seasoned asshole wants a reaction from you in order to validate his or her own power. Encouraging the asshole only makes matters worse. It is tough to resist punching someone in the face, even if it is richly deserved, but doing so means you’ve just been infected with asshole syndrome. The best survival strategy is to look for a new advisor, a new field or flat-out a new career. At the very least, the asshole will lose interest in you and move on to more interesting prey.

Image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

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One Response to 'Ivory Tower Survival: A Sense of Detachment'

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  1. I do love Sutton’s book, and not giving a shit works pretty well. Of course the bare minimum still involves a hundreds of hours of work, which is what’s awful about it.


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