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Assholes Under Control – Book Review by Jodie Foster


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Jodie Foster and Michelle Joy’s book “Assholes Under Control” is about learning how to build effective communication with difficult people. By difficult people, the authors mean everyone who, in one way or another, introduces dissonance to the work of the team, causes psychological, financial or even physical damage.

A few words about the authors of the book. Jodie Foster is Professor of Psychiatry, M.D. Michelle Joy is a writer, editor, and M.D. studying forensic psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.

The authors of the book introduce us to 10 types of people who, to one degree or another, violate accepted norms of behavior. In our review, we will detail two of them – the narcissist and the pedant, and also briefly describe each of the other types.

Asshole No. 1. Narcissus

Narcissists are a type that is ubiquitous and quite common. The main feature of the narcissist is his hypertrophied self-esteem. According to research, approximately 6.2% of the population suffers from narcissistic disorder, with 50–75% of them being men.

The author of the book highlights healthy narcissism, which is the normal pursuit of success and one that goes beyond reasonable. When narcissism within a person begins to dominate, such negative personality traits as arrogance, arrogance and egocentrism appear.

How to identify a narcissist at work?

It is enough to communicate with such a person and you will immediately understand everything. He will only talk about himself, his merits and numerous acquaintances. In a conversation with him, you will not be able to insert a word about yourself. Narcissists absolutely dislike criticism. If you want to talk to them about their mistakes or mistakes during the execution of a task, then be prepared for the fact that the narcissist will either try to change the subject or react very aggressively. Anger and an inability to accept adequate criticism are some of the striking traits of a narcissist.

Why are daffodils like this?

The author explains that the origins of the problem lie in childhood. In the family of the future narcissist, status and success are valued, while the parents pay little attention to the child. Very often there are cases when one of the parents constantly shows his superiority over the child. As a result, a person grows up who will try with all his might to become better than his parent. And to achieve this, the narcissist will stop at nothing.

There is also a reverse situation, when parents pay too much attention to future narcissists in childhood: they indulge all the child’s weaknesses, never criticize and praise for the slightest achievements. From childhood, the narcissist begins to get used to the fact that everyone owes him. He literally feeds on praise and rave reviews.

Beware, daffodils in the office

Narcissists should be feared simply because they don’t value other people. For the narcissist, people are just a means to an end. They can flatter, enter into trust, but only as long as the person is useful to them.

People with pronounced narcissistic traits very often become leaders. For bosses, a narcissist is a motivated and ambitious person who, despite everything, achieves its goals. Without deeply understanding the personal qualities of such people, they are appointed to leadership positions.

How to work with daffodils?

If you want to work effectively with a narcissist, especially if this is your boss, then you need to learn to indulge his pride: give compliments, praise how great he is doing his job, give assent to everything, etc. Pay more attention to the narcissist. Because if you don’t show it enough, the narcissist can take it as a personal grudge. Supposedly you do not value him and neglect him for the sake of other people. If the narcissist boss asks you for something, no matter in what form: verbally, by email, or by phone, try to finish all the current affairs as soon as possible and start the narcissist’s assignment. This will show him that he comes first for you, and the narcissist’s ego will calm down for a short time.

If your boss is a narcissist, but this approach is unacceptable to you and you cannot communicate with people through flattery and praise, then the best option for you is to leave this place of work. Narcissists do not like rivals and people who “do not dance to their tune.” They will do everything possible to ruin the career of the employee they dislike.

If the narcissist is your subordinate, then it is very important not to give him reasons for self-admiration and superiority over colleagues. Don’t feed his ego, don’t make him stand out from the team; Pay more attention not to the individual qualities of the narcissist, but to the successful completion of tasks as part of a team.

Where do daffodils best show their natural qualities?

Sales, marketing, consulting services are the ideal environment for narcissists. It is best for such people to work where there is a large flow of clients and short contacts are expected. Narcissists outwardly seem very confident in themselves, they easily gain trust in people, and this helps to attract a large number of potential customers and conclude profitable deals.

Can a narcissist be cured?

It all depends on how much the narcissist himself wants to change. The main problem is that it is difficult for such people to independently assess themselves and their actions from the outside. Therefore, colleagues need to invite the narcissist to take the other person’s place. Recreate a situation in which the narcissist could experience all the emotions of the offended employee.

If the narcissist is very annoying to colleagues, then structural changes can be made in the company. Encourage more teamwork, less individual action, maintain transparency in relationships, and avoid special treatment of the narcissist. In special cases, it is worth resorting to dismissal.

It is important to remember that all measures to improve the narcissist’s behavior should be presented as measures for achieving success and self-realization, and not as methods to eradicate the negative traits of this employee. This kind of explanation will make it easier for the narcissist to accept change and learn to work in a team.

Asshole No. 2. Pedant

Have you met people who are never late and constantly want to be in control of everything? Have you met people who work with documents with special zeal, check and double-check them down to the last comma, constantly make some corrections and suggestions?

If so, then you definitely have dealt with pedants. These are people who, due to their strong inner anxiety, are literally obsessed with a tendency to order and control over all aspects of their lives.

The main difficulty in communicating with pedants is that they very often get bogged down in business, small details are most important to them. They want everything to be done strictly according to the rules and regulations. However, pedants do not always agree with the generally accepted concept of the norm.

Pedants are a very common type, there are such people in almost any company. According to recent studies, 1 to 8% of people in the world are pedants. That’s a lot!

The goals of the pedant

The main task of such people is to control all aspects of life. They are constantly planning something, coming up with new rules and laws.

The advantage of pedants as employees is that they are fully subordinate to the management, comply with all standards and do not violate the law.

Pedants fanatically strive to achieve the ideal in everything. However, such an attitude very often hinders the achievement of goals. Pedants are more and more buried in work, which undermines not only their psychological and physical health (these people are ready to work day and night), but also bring some confusion to the team.

Why do people become pedants?

As with narcissists, the reason lies in poor parenting during childhood. Very often, the parents of such children set them unbearable tasks. The child is exhausted, reaches the goal, and the parents, instead of praise, set him an even higher bar. These families have a very tense and overwhelming atmosphere. Parents of future pedants very often require conscious behavior from their children; they cannot understand how important it is for a child to show emotions and learn about the world without any restrictions.

What kind of pedants are there?

The author divides pedants into two types: hostile and hermit. Hostile – angry, grumpy, very strict with his colleagues. He is genuinely outraged when his colleagues fail to understand such obvious things as Amendment 1 to 2.4. Agreement. The hostile pedant does not accept control over himself and is constantly ready to prove that his methods of work are the best. The hermit is the exact opposite of the hostile. He sits quietly in his office, does not touch anyone and does his job. Very often, out of kindness and also because of their great love for order, hermits take on the tasks of colleagues. Hermits leave work later than everyone else, check and double-check whether everything has been done correctly and whether their leadership will not punish them. Their biggest fear is the loss of their job and the respect of their colleagues.

A pedant in the office: pros and cons

On the one hand, it is good if there is a pedant in your team. Such a person will be able to easily take over the work with the documents, and will also make sure that everything is as it should be. Pedants are very prudent, so with them you may not be afraid of any checks by regulatory authorities.

However, the disadvantage is that at a certain point in time, the pedant can simply bury himself in work and stop coping with his duties. This is due to the fact that they are more willing to take on new responsibilities and tasks. They are often willing to work overtime. Which may soon affect their physical condition not for the best, as well as lead to unintentional mistakes in work.

Because of their anxiety, pedants are very prone to stress and burnout. And this, in turn, leads to a decrease in performance and quick dismissal.

What are the best positions for pedants?

This is often a job that requires high concentration, discipline, and attention to detail. Pedants are excellent bankers, lawyers, accountants, and more.

Is it possible to work effectively with pedants?

As we have already seen above, the main qualities of pedants are their increased anxiety and a desire to control everything. To work productively with a pedant in the same team, you need to try to reduce his anxiety.

In contrast to narcissists, when dealing with a pedant, try to exaggerate your contribution to the work. This will let them know that you are very passionate about the work and will allow them to relax their control.

Try not to argue with the pedant over trifles, this will only increase their anxiety. Never promise what you can’t do. Do not make excuses and do not defend yourself if you have committed some kind of offense.

If the pedant is your subordinate, then try to explain all your orders as clearly as possible. It is difficult for pedants to think creatively or think out what you wanted, but forgot to say. Write detailed instructions to such people and supply any business with strict deadlines. Make sure that the pedant does not take on an excessive number of tasks, and also does not get carried away with overwork.

If the pedant is the boss, then be attentive to details, make plans and follow the recommendations he gives, keep your workplace in order. All this will allow you to establish an effective working relationship with him.

Brief description of other types

Venus flytrap – this person sows chaos around him. Gossip, hysterical, intriguer, gray cardinal, traitor and destroyer of other people’s destinies. These people easily gain confidence and gain favor in the initial stages of communication. Further, the relationship with the Venus flytrap may resemble dances with death. For a person whom the Venus flytrap has chosen as its victim, it is almost impossible to break the chain of destructive relationships. At work, such people can easily disorganize the morale of the team, as well as cause serious psychological damage to individual members.

The villain is a real sociopath, does not accept the rules and does not respect other people. The author identifies several types of “villains”: from harmless who can steal stationery and tea bags from the office, to very dangerous who can neglect the fate of people in order to achieve their goals.

Absent-minded – these can be incredibly talented people, but their bright negative trait is that they often do not finish what they started. These are procrastinators in the superlative degree. Absent-minded people can seriously harm the company if they depend on communication with key customers (especially when there are many such customers), as well as work with documents of particular importance.

Fading away – an employee suffering from various dementia, i.e., impairment of memory and thought processes. This can be due to various diseases or aging. Dangerous primarily for yourself, because due to memory impairment, he can easily be injured, forget where his house is, etc.

A robot is an employee who suffers from inert thinking, inability to communicate and does not understand the colleagues around him. Robots can be incredibly talented at what they do, but their main drawback is that they are not trained to communicate with people.

Weirdo – If you have a colleague in your office who often comes to work with a disheveled hairdo, wearing clothes several sizes larger or smaller, then this is most likely an eccentric. Freaks do not pose any danger, they are often well versed in their business, but they can scare off colleagues with their strange appearance or outlook on the world.

A suspicious person is a person who sees a catch in everything. He’s incredibly suspicious. He sees conspiracies everywhere. Very often he escalates the situation and sees everything in a negative light. These people are real conspiracy theorists. The author recommends staying away from them so as not to fall into the trap of their destructive ideas.

If you find yourself in any of these types

Do not be discouraged, there is nothing wrong with that. It is important to recognize your negative character traits in time and start working on yourself and your behavior. In his book, the author gives many examples when, with the help of will, awareness and self-control, a person overcame his destructive behavior and organically fit into the team, returning the trust and respect of colleagues.


The Assholes Under Control is a roadmap for identifying people with destructive behavior. The authors’ position on this issue is that the management should not immediately get rid of such people, employees should not give up on them. It is important to understand the cause of unpleasant behavior and learn how to make decisions that will benefit not only the whole team, but also people who have disabilities.

In addition, various violations can be observed in ourselves at one time or another in our life. It is important to pay attention to them in time, understand why this is happening and do everything so that this behavior does not become chronic. If the situation cannot be corrected on your own, it is worth asking for help from the management, colleagues and loved ones. The authors are sure that everyone who realizes their weaknesses sooner or later begins to change for the better.

The book is well structured, easy to understand, easy to read, and contains many helpful tips for dealing with difficult people.

Whom do we recommend reading the book to?

Everyone, without exception. Communicating with many people every day, we must learn to find the right approach to each person.

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