How to Do Great Work Without Being an Asshole, a new book by designer Paul Woods, is a practical, illustrated guide that does exactly what the title suggests: It shows you how to be both creative and act like a grown-up at work. Simple enough.
Except that many in the creative industries fancy themselves temperamental–a convenient euphemism for “asshole egomaniac.” And these types of designers are not just annoying to be around–they are also bad for business.
Woods created a handy chart to help readers figure out whether they are in fact an asshole–and if so, which type they are. In his estimation, there are three distinct levels: Level one is an unintentional asshole, likely the result of working in a lousy organization. Level two is the self-centered variety. Woods’s advice? Back off, and let your team shine. Then there are level-three assholes who are so toxic, they cannot be redeemed. Woods advises returning his book immediately. “You are beyond help,” he writes.
Woods believes that “a lot of asshole behavior in the industry is entirely unintentional and comes down to the relentless nature of the creative personality wanting to make great work.” It’s true. As he points out, the quest for perfection is filled with sweat, blood, and tears. But that nature is not an excuse to develop bad behavior in the workplace and let it run rampant through studios everywhere. There are other ways.