So you’ve heard about the newest jerk in the office. What do you do? Do you recall what you learned in the “What To Do About the Jerk in the Office” workshop? Do you gossip with your neighbor and find out just how disliked this jerk is? Do you avoid him (or her) at all costs? It’s not easy to reach into your bag of coping tricks when faced with a colleague (as much as that might hurt) who misbehaves, is inappropriate in all sorts of situations, and for some reason gets to stick around. But unless you know how to manage this most obnoxious kind of person you might go mad.
The frustrating thing, of course, is that jerks at the office do not fall into any particular category. They are male, female, low men/women on the totem pole, VIPs and everyone in between. Sometimes we believe that an individual’s position within a company, one that is fairly public, will almost guarantee against jerk-like behavior. But it doesn’t matter what positions they’re in or where they work or who they know. A jerk is a jerk is a jerk. Right?
Right, but what to do? One of the first things to do is admit defeat in one particular area: trying to change the jerk’s behavior (by the way, I don’t love the word “jerk,” and even though I’m using it quite frequently in this post, well, it’s not a very nice word, which makes it even worse if you are one. . . ). Like small children (or adults who act like small children), people who act out in the office on a regular basis (that would be: the jerks) want attention and the more you give them what they want the more they’ll continue their bad behavior. It’s a little bit like any public relations being a good thing (even it’s it bad publicity). Just because the attention is the result of bad behavior doesn’t make it bad if you ask a jerk. But of course we don’t ask, because we really don’t want to know.
So try to restrain yourself from responding and giving the jerk the reaction he or she is looking for. If all goes well, he or she will eventually slink away. Whatever you do, though, don’t stoop to the jerk’s level. If you’re not a jerk yourself, you are setting yourself up for the worst kind of failure.
Now, think back to elementary school and the class bully. I know, not a very pleasant thought, but this will be instructive. What was the advice given that actually worked thirty percent of the time? Walk away, just walk away. Remember that? Sure, it does work, but not always. But when it does, wow, what power. Naturally, this strategy isn’t as effective (or quite smart) if the jerk is your boss. Still, while you’re looking for a job to get out from under the jerk you can incorporate some coping strategies that will, hopefully, keep you from going completely insane. For instance, if the jerk boss demands results with inadequate direction, don’t walk away in frustration, calmly ask more questions, repeat what is said, and ask for more specific instructions if necessary.