Fridays with St. Benedict: Chapter 70, The No Asshole Rule

Chapter 70 of The Rule of St. Benedict deals with the presumption of authority, that it is our job--when it's not really our job--to correct others and mete out punishment.
1In the monastery every occasion for presumption is to be avoided, 2and so we decree that no one has any authority to excommunicate or strike any of the brothers unless he has been given this power by the abbot...6If a brother, without the abbot's command, assumes any power over those older or, even, in regard to boys, flares up and treats them unreasonably, he is to be subject to the discipline of the rule.
I think it's interesting here that the focus is on "presumption," feeling like it's up to you to take matters into your own hands to set everyone straight. I think we've all seen this happen, where someone thinks it's their right to boss everyone around and to discipline others.

I think it's also interesting how two vulnerable groups--the older and the younger--are protected from people assuming power over them. This may be Benedict's version of The No Asshole Rule.

As I've written about before, this rule refers to the book written by Dr. Robert Sutton The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't.

In 2004 Sutton proposed and wrote up the No Asshole Rule as a "Breakthrough Idea" in the annual edition on that topic for The Harvard Business Review. Basically, the No Asshole Rule states that a company would do well to take a stand against mean, nasty, selfish, egomanical, and rude persons in the workplace. After publishing his idea Sutton received tons of feedback from people around the globe telling him stories of the toll these sorts of people exact in the workplace. He also received confirmation that companies who had implemented a version of the No Asshole Rule had experienced a boost both in their corporate culture and to their bottom line. Kindness in the workplace was good for business. Bullying was not. All this inspired Sutton to write The No Asshole Rule.

There is a great deal in Sutton's book that deals with issues similar to the ones Benedict is speaking to in this chapter, the issue of assuming power over others, especially over those who are weaker.

For example, how do you identify an asshole? Sutton proposes two tests:
Test One: After talking to the alleged asshole, does the "target" feel oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled by the person? In particular, does the target feel worse about him or herself?

Test Two: Does the alleged asshole aim his or her venom at people who are less powerful rather than at those people who are more powerful?
Test Two I find really important. As does Sutton. Later in the book he says this: "the difference between how a person treats the powerless versus the powerful is as good a measure of human character as I know."

I think Benedict would agree

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3 thoughts on “Fridays with St. Benedict: Chapter 70, The No Asshole Rule”

  1. More confirmation from the one of the most successful sports franchises in the world

  2. I think this aptly applies to the world of academia as well! I have know a few (thankful for the small amount) instructors in Grad school who have met both of the criteria. When you have an professor who is an a-hole, it really takes away from the learning experience!

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