How Can A Manager Deal With A Jerk In The Office?

Jerks are everywhere. How should we deal with them in the office?
Jerks are everywhere. How should we deal with them in the office?

Image Credit: Rob Glover

They say that you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family members. Well, it turns out that you also can’t necessarily pick your coworkers either. What this means for all of us is that every so often we’re going to find out that no matter what manager skills we have, we are working with a jerk. This can cause us all sorts of problems. What is a manager to do when we find ourselves working with a jerk?

The Jerk Problem

Having to work with somebody who is rude, disrespectful, and demeaning can be tough on you physically. The list of what can happen to you is quite lengthy: anxiety, depression, sleepless nights, and perhaps even heart problems. If that was it, then the jerk problem would be an internal problem. However, that’s not all there is to this problem. It turns out that people who are working for a jerk or with a jerk have external problems also. If you find yourself in this situation for which there is no manager training then you are going to be less productive, you will be less creative, and you are probably going to be making poorer decisions. None of this is good news.

You may look in the mirror in the morning and think to yourself “I’m not a jerk!” You would probably be correct at that moment in time. However, the people who study jerk behavior have discovered that bad behavior is contagious. What can happen is if you have a single encounter with a person who is a jerk to you (“I’m busy, come back later and maybe I’ll help you then”) then this can turn you into a so-called “jerk carrier”. Once this happens, you will then go on to infect others. Sadly what this means is that being a jerk spreads like the common cold in the workplace.

When you decide to stand up to the jerk in your workplace, you are taking a big chance. Trying to do this will undoubtedly upset you and if you want to have any hope of being successful it’s going to end up taking up a lot of your time. One of the big problems that you may be facing is that the jerk, despite being a jerk, may be stronger in the workplace than you think. If you can’t battle the jerk, then you may try to escape the toxic workplace. However, you may feel fulfilled by your manager job and don’t want to leave it. Alternatively, right now there might be no other place for you to go. Or perhaps leaving the firm right now would just end up harming your career.

Solving The Jerk In The Workplace Problem

So what’s a manager to do about a jerk in the workplace? One of the first things that you need to realize is that the last thing in the world that you want to do is to run into a jerk when they are in a bad mood. That will make their jerk qualities even worse than they normally are. This means that if at all possible, you’d like to be able to avoid making contact with a jerk when they are in a bad mood. In order to help make this happen, you are going to need some help from your friends. They can provide you with an early-warning network that will let you know when a powerful jerk is coming and is in a bad mood. This should provide you with enough time to vanish.

Another approach to dealing with a workplace jerk is to simply change the way that you are looking at things. The fancy term for doing this is called “reframing” the jerk’s behavior. When you do this you attempt to look at what they are doing in a positive or less threating way. There are several different ways to go about doing this. The first is to tell yourself that you are not to blame for the jerk’s behavior. Another is to downplay the threat that the jerk represents to you and your career. Additionally you can search for some type of silver lining in your relationship with the person who is being a jerk.

Your final option when it comes to dealing with a person who is being a jerk in the workplace is to try to win them over to your side. Your goal is to turn this jerk into a friend. You can accomplish this by showering them with flattery, smiles, including them in team building, and other signs of appreciation. Using these techniques, you can often win over strangers to your side. Learning how to do this is important. A recent survey showed that roughly half of all workers reported that they had either been bullied in the workplace or had seen someone else being bullied in the workplace.

What All Of This Means For You

We don’t get to choose who we work with and that’s why it’s possible that we can end up working in a workplace that has a jerk in it. The jerk can take on many different forms: coworker, person in a different department, or even our boss. When this happens, we can’t just live with it, we’re going to have to take action.

We need to realize that working with a jerk is not only difficult to do, but that it can also affect us physically. It turns out that dealing with a jerk can be contagious. Just interacting with them once can cause us to turn into a jerk and can end up affecting our entire team. When dealing with a jerk, we have a number of options including standing up to them. We need to be careful because they may be more powerful than we are. We may also need our job too much to leave it. In order to deal with a jerk, we need to create an early warning system that will let us know to avoid a powerful jerk when they are in a bad mood. We can also reframe how we view their actions and make them appear to us to be less threatening. Finally, when all else fails we can try to win them over to our side and make them a friend.

Having a jerk in your workplace is going to make your life more difficult for you. You are not going to be able to make them magically vanish and so you are going to have to come up with a plan for how you want to deal with them. Changing how you choose to perceive them is a great way to turn them from a jerk into either a minor annoyance or even a friend. Create a plan to change the jerks in your life into someone that you can live with.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: If someone is being a jerk in your workplace, do you think that there is anyone that you can go talk to about this problem?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As a manager, one of the things that you want to do is to use your manager skills to get the members of your team to talk with each other. When an issue comes up, you’d like as many people as possible to be able to take a look at it and offer their inputs as to how best to solve it. In the past, we’d call a meeting, get everyone to stop doing what they were doing, and come together for a couple of hours to go over the thing that we were currently dealing with. That always took up a lot of time and was quite disruptive. These days we have new group chat tools that we can use for the same purpose. However, there are some issues with group chat that a manager needs to be aware of.

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