After 20+ years in the corporate world, I’ve dealt with my fair share of jerks. I’ll even admit to thinking that jerks must have just been drawn to my field – they appeared too frequently not to be. But after a few years working as a success coach alongside those in industries as diverse as software development, media production, materials manufacturing, engineering, product sales, and professional services, I can assure you that jerks find work pretty much everywhere.
Sometimes these jerks are customers and sometimes they’re “important” clients. Sometimes they’re trainees, sometimes they’re coworkers, and sometimes they’re learned veterans. Perhaps worst of all, sometimes the boss is a jerk. If there is any pattern that I’ve been able to discern it’s this: the more critical a person is to our business or our careers, the more we’ll allow them to be a jerk.
Now we might be painting with too broad a brush here, so before we simply agree that all jerks be eliminated, let’s make a few distinctions.
#1: Non-jerks can become jerks (sometimes without even realizing it). Life events have an affect on our behavior. So when a non-jerk starts acting like a jerk, perhaps the best place to begin is with some difficult-to-muster compassion. Look for an opportunity to provide help – get others who seek beneficial outcomes (like a manager or HR representative) involved or simply offer to listen.
#2: Some jerks can occasionally be affable (or even downright enjoyable). They’re jerks – no doubt about it – but like every bad relationship, they redeem themselves just frequently enough to be tolerated or isolated enough to be avoided, so nothing gets said or done. Of course ignoring the behavior does nothing to change it. Sure, looking the other way feels safe – no reason to risk loosing a customer, client, relationship, or advancement having to address the jerk – but doing nothing is a course that relies on someone else taking action, or some future conflict or meltdown, for resolution (and likely places others at risk).
#3: Some people are just jerks. There’s no avoiding it. Jerks.
If someone’s face came to mind as you’re reading this, then it’s time to take action (or at the very least forward this blog as a link to someone else!) because all three of these exact a toll on your business and your life.