Topic of the Week The Jerk: Surviving a Jerk at Work
- DO keep your cool.
- DO look for the best.
- DO document.
- DON'T be too smug.
I have some bad news for you, not only are jerks everywhere, they seem to be multiplying faster than the rest of the population. But there are plenty of things that you can do to reduce the damage from a jerk where you work. Even if the jerk in question is your boss. Which reminds me of the recent national recall of Lululemon black yoga pants because you could see right through them. According to the News of the Weird, a company product manager told customers "the only way you can actually test" the pants would be for a customer to bend over before a store associate. I guess holding them up to the light never crossed his mind. The policy was eventually changed and the product manager resigned.
You just can't make this stuff up. Jerks are everywhere, but you can come up with a strategy to reduce their impact on you. I've included three Do's and one Don't below.
DO keep your cool. My personal attitude about dealing with a jerk totally changed when I realized that a jerk's goal in life is precisely to get under your skin. That's why I work so hard to keep my cool, if for no other reason than to deny the jerk any satisfaction. Another reason is the "second punch rule." This happens a lot in sports, when the officials miss the first punch that's thrown, but see the second. Keep your cool because the last thing you want is for someone to see you acting like a jerk in response to being provoked and for others to think that you started the problem.
DO look for the best. It can be dangerous to avoid a jerk at work, because they might have things to offer you, good ideas, creative solutions or some other insight that could help you to do a better job. That's why it's a good idea before you write them off, to look for the good in them. I've found that you can often find something good in most people, only when you take the time to look beneath the surface.
DO document. Jerks can cause trouble for you. That's why its important to keep track of their difficult behavior or to talk about it with a supervisor or HR. You'd be surprised at how valuable a notebook with times, dates and examples of inappropriate behavior can be. If the key phrase in retail is "location, location, location" with jerks it would be "document, document, document."
DON'T be too smug. This is the horrible reality of jerks, other people may feel that you are the jerk. So before you go off on other's aberrant behaviors, take a long look in the mirror and talk to people who will confide in you.
The stress level at work is bad and getting worse. That's why it's so important for us to come up with our own strategies for seeing through a jerk's behavior. Just don't overlook your own behavior in the process.
Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winningworkplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.