33 Magnificent Robert I. Sutton Quotes

Robert I. Sutton is a Professor of Management science at the Stanford Engineering School. As a bestselling author and speaker, Sutton has successfully published a half dozen books. Here is a look at some of the most memorable Robert I. Sutton quotes to know.

“A huge body of research—hundreds of studies—shows that when people are put in positions of power, they start talking more, taking what they want for themselves.”

“A series of controlled experiments and field studies in organizations shows that when teams engage in conflict over ideas in an atmosphere of mutual respect, they develop better ideas and perform better.”

“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?”

“All bosses can be more effective when they work with, rather than against, the peer culture. Bosses who are known as fair and consistent will get more support from the peer culture when they do their dirty work.”

“And the most talented people in every occupation have huge advantages over their ordinary peers.”

“As much as I believe in tolerance and fairness, I have never lost a wink of sleep about being unapologetically intolerant of anyone who refuses to show respect for those around them.”


“Assholes tend to stick together, and once stuck are not easily separated.”

“At the places where I want to work, even if people do other things well (even extraordinary well) but routinely demean others, they are seen as incompetent.”

“Bosses shape how people spend their days and whether they experience joy or despair, perform well or badly, or are healthy or sick.”

“Connective talents are useless, of course, if people can’t perform the work. And the most talented people in every occupation have huge advantages over their ordinary peers.”

“Development efforts for over a decade, believed a big part of his job was to leave his people alone and protect them from other curious executives.”

“Everyone deserves to be treated fairly. If leaders are the problem, we ask those being served by leaders to let them know or go up the chain of command—without the threat of retaliation.”

“Fight as if you are right, listen as if you are wrong.”

“If you are a boss, ask yourself: When you look back at how you’ve treated followers, peers, and superiors, in their eyes, will you have earned the right to be proud of yourself?”

“If you can’t bring yourself to encourage employees to lie down on the job, at least give them plenty of breaks. The ordinary fatigue most of us feel during the workday makes us grouchier—and dumber—as the hours go by.”

“If you want a creative organization, inaction is the worst kind of failure.”

“Inaction is bad for any company. But it is especially devastating when innovation is the goal, because so many ideas need to be tried to find a few that might work.”

“It means constantly seeking and implementing better ways of thinking and acting across old and new corners of the system.”

“Listen to those under your supervision. Really listen. Don’t act as if you’re listening and let it go in one ear and out the other. Faking it is worse than not doing it at all.”

“Negative interactions (and the bad apples who provoke them) pack such a wallop in close relationships because they are so distracting, emotionally draining, and deflating.”

“Numerous lawyers, consultants, and accountants have told me that when a client has treated them badly, they avoid working for them again unless they are desperate.”

“Organizations that learn from their failures forgive and remember, they don’t forgive and forget.”

“People also have a greater capacity when they aren’t worn down by work and worry. When people get enough sleep, they are more adept at difficult tasks, are more interpersonally sensitive, make better decisions, and are less likely to turn nasty.”

“Talented employees who put their needs ahead of their colleagues and the company are dangerous.”

“The best bosses find the sweet spot between acting like spineless wimps who always do just as they are told (no matter how absurd) versus insubordinate rabble-rousers who challenge and ignore every order and standard operating procedure.”

“The best management is sometimes less management or no management at all.”

“The difference between how a person treats the powerless versus the powerful is as good a measure of human character as I know.”

“The worst bosses condemn their people to live in constant fear as they wait for the next wave of bad news, which always seems to hit without warning and at random intervals.”

“We wondered if there was research on stand-up meetings, and to our delight, we found an experiment comparing decisions made by fifty-six groups where people stood up during meetings to fifty-five groups where people sat down.”

“We’ve therefore abandoned the old pricing altogether and simply have a list of difficult customers who get charged more.”

“Weird ideas spark innovation because each helps companies do at least one of three things: (1) increase variance in available knowledge, (2) see old things in new ways, and (3) break from the past.”

“When people are emotionally depleted, they stop focusing on their jobs and instead work on improving their moods.”

“Winning is a wonderful thing if you can help and respect others along the way.”

Here is a Google Talk with Robert Sutton as he discusses psychological and management research. As the author of the bestselling book, ‘The No Asshole Rule,’ Sutton talks about the skills and commitment required to be successful in the workplace.