Professor Robert Sutton’s latest book is short and easily readable in a few evenings. It’s provocative title is *The No Asshole Rule (Random House, 2007). It’s content is relevant to your business.

The book focuses on the disfunctions of teams and organizations caused by bullies, jerks, and “assholes”. The book is commendable in its cases, descriptions, and prescriptions for alleviating some of the damage caused by these toxic people.

In essence, the Rule is:

Avoid hiring them, even if they have other desirable skills. If need be include this formally in your job search requirements.

Failing this –

Find them. That is, diagnose and distinguish between the aberration and the occasional bad behavior, most of us occasionally commit, from the true chronic, certified jerk.

Fix them. This is problematic but sometimes possible. If an outright cure is not feasible, perhaps these bozos can be assigned a role, which best uses his strengths while insulating the rest of group from him.

Fire them. This can be tough to do. Very tough in some organizations. The result justifies the effort.

Sutton’s specialty is management not marketing, but his ideas are directly relevant. As marketers, we occasionally have these types as customers. The Rule should apply here as well. We’re not talking about simply difficult or demanding customers. We get paid to satisfy them. Their complaints and criticisms may improve our business.

What we don’t get paid for is dealing with tainted customers and prospects. Even if they’re “profitable”, and often they are not, they are not worth it. Even customer sovereign organizations, such Nordstrom and LL Bean, have come to recognize this. Ideally a CRM system would flag such individuals. In the real world, we shouldn’t be afraid to apply TNAR to our customers and if necessary fire them.