14 Books That Inspired “Mean People Suck”

14 Books That Inspired “Mean People Suck”

October 11, 2019
4 min read

With the launch of Mean People Suck, I thought I would share 14 of the books that inspired Mean People Suck the most.

But first, what is Mean People Suck all about?

The fact is that most people are unhappy in their careers. And they point their finger at a negative work culture, a mean boss… co-worker… or customer. Mean people suck.

Some leaders believe that they need to be mean in order to be effective. Their lack of compassion creates negative relationships that lower performance and profits!

Mean People Suck is my attempt to break the wheel of disengagement that causes mean people to really suck. The book uses real-life experience and proven research to show why instead of blaming others, we can look inside ourselves, and learn how to use empathy to defeat “mean” in every situation.

My goal is to show leaders, and employees how more emotional communication increases profits and enhances lives.

Here are just some of the books that inspired and informed Mean People Suck

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

The Power of Myth is a wide-ranging read that covers everything from Jesus to John Lennon. Written with intelligence and wit, the book discusses how themes and symbols from ancient stories continue to bring meaning to life and all its complications. The book looks at the universality of the human experience and how modern times and culture are deeply influenced by the past.

Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull

Written by Pixar co-founder Catmull, Creativity, Inc. gives an inside look into the company. This book is focused on the topic of creativity and how ideas can transform any situation. The book looks at the leadership and management philosophies used at Pixar and how they shaped a generation of inspiration.

The Culture Code by Dan Coyle

The Culture Code provides a glimpse into the most successful organizations from the US Navy SEAL Team Six to the San Antonio Spurs. He unlocks the secrets of what makes them tick and delves into how diverse groups can learn to prosper together. Full of anecdotes and stories from many different types of organizations, what he finds is that culture is not something you are, it’s something you do.

Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer

While a large percentage of companies say they offer exceptional customer service, very few customers agree. So, how do you close the gap? Jay Baer has ideas. It’s about taking a new approach to customer service or rather the customer experience.

“Haters” are now everywhere with the proliferation of social media. Complaints are up as a result, with many brands fearful of addressing them. The author explains why this is wrong and uses research and studies to explain why we complain, offering brands a new perspective on those very haters.

Radical Candor by Kim Scott

It’s ingrained at an early age to keep your criticisms to yourself. However, as a boss, it’s your job to point out others’ faults and weaknesses.

Kim Scott, a veteran of Google and Apple, created a new approach to management with this book. Her philosophies are simple but true. She says to be a good boss you must care personally as well as challenge directly. She sets up a framework that can empower managers to do both.

No More Feedback by Carol Sanford

In this book, business consultant Carol Sanford disrupts some often-believed convictions about management. With lots of interesting stories to share, she shares how feedback can ruin employee development. She breaks down these misconceived notions to provide a better approach for sustainable growth and success.

Good to Great Jim Collins

The author asks an age-old question of “Can a good company become great? And if so, how?” To answer it, the author and researchers looked at over 1,400 companies to find ones that had substantially improved over time, including Wells Fargo, Walgreens, and Fannie Mae. He uncovers common traits in the trajectory of these organizations—the biggest of all being a company culture that seeks out and rewards disciplined employees. It even has a road map for excellence that any brand would find useful.

The Service-Profit Chain by James L. Heskett, W. Earl Sasser, and Leonard A. Schlesinger

Authored by three Harvard Business School service firm experts, this book looks at why certain service firms are more successful than others. What is that they do differently? The link to better performance is with customer loyalty. And they found there are strong relationships between employee loyalty and customer loyalty, as well as employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.

They present a powerful strategic service vision; which managers can use to be more efficient and effective.

Grow by Jim Stengel

This insightful book dissects a 10-year growth strategy that included 50,000 brands. The top 50 are highlighted with a clear focus on the cause and effect relationship between financial performance and connecting with human emotions and values. It looks at the connection between profits and engagement, loyalty, and advocacy of customers.

The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner

If you want to learn the best practices, you go to the source. That’s what Buettner does in this read about longevity. He researched the most long-lived communities, which he calls Blue Zones, to look at how these people live, including diet, lifestyle, stress, and outlook. He shares the secrets to living longer from those that actually have.

Smarter Better Faster by Charles Duhigg

This book delves into the science of productivity. It includes numerous real-world stories that show how important it is to manage productivity. The brook breaks down eight productivity concepts—motivation, goal setting, decision-making—finding out why some people and companies seem to get more done. The author takes data points from neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics to weave a compelling read.

The Empathy Effect by Dr. Helen Reiss

This guide offers a revolutionary way to think about empathy. The author talks about being able to connect with those outside your “tribe.” She also addresses that empathy isn’t purely nature; it can be learned and expanded. There is a science behind empathy, and she explains it well. Her E.M.P.A.T.H.Y.® method is explored in the book and offers seven steps to understand and enhance empathy.

Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath

Why do some ideas take off while others fall flat? The Heath brothers attempt to determine what makes ideas contagious. They lay out the anatomy of ideas that stick, explaining how you can better position your ideas to be stickier. With examples and practical lessons, it’s become an instant classic for anyone who believes in the power of ideas.

The Startup Way by Eric Reis

Entrepreneurial principles aren’t reserved for startups. They are just as applicable to established companies. They can drive innovation and revenue. The author looks at companies with strong brand recognition, such as Amazon and Facebook, and how they still embrace a startup mentality to stay competitive and profitable.

Any book on this list is a great read. They all gave me a great foundation when I was developing Mean People Suck. Pick one up today.

And don’t forget to head on over to and get my 2 previous books and the audiobook companion guide free with your purchase.

2 thoughts on “14 Books That Inspired “Mean People Suck”

  1. Roger C. Parker

    Thank you for sharing some of the origins of Mean People Suck.

    Unfortunately, many CEOs confuse “leadership” with ego and preoccupation with formulas that worked before.

    I’m especially impressed with business owners who hire people to “change everything,” and then resist new ideas. (Not that I’ve ever encountered them.)

  2. Michael Brenner

    Thanks Roger. One of the concepts I’ve always despised is “culture fit” and really appreciate that some of these authors have been leading the effort on “culture add” as a way to bring new voices, and diversity of thought and background in to some companies.

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Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.

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