Is Your Workplace a Jerk Place?

All of us at one time or another have had the opportunity to work with or for someone that we would label as a jerk, idiot, or moron.  And we have all probably been a jerk at some point to those with whom we associate.

Do you know people that display the characteristics listed below? Are you guilty of any of these behaviors yourself? If so, what do you think is the payoff for behaving in such a manner?  After all, we behave the way we do if we perceive that there is something we can get for doing so.  I hope thinking about these behaviors will provide a degree of mental preparation and readiness that will assist you with your next difficult encounter.

The Interrogator

These individuals ask questions for the sake of asking questions, not because they want to learn anything.  They are often trying to challenge people’s intelligence or make them look unprepared or inept in front of others.  Sometimes their questions feel like a frontal assault. They may ask a number of questions and never give the person an opportunity to answer.

What to Do

Be prepared with facts and data.  Sometimes these individuals don’t want to accept what they are hearing or are trying to elevate themselves in some way.  If you can support or substantiate your statements with evidence, they will find it more difficult to discredit you.

If you are dealing with a barrage of questions, you can slow this interaction down by turning the tables and asking them questions.  For example, you might try some of these:

               “What specifically do you want to know?”

               “Could you give me an example of what you meant by ‘unprepared?’”

               “What do you want to know by asking these questions?”


Sometimes answering a question with a question will force the other person to think about what is most important rather than using questions as a means of making a point.

The Intimidator

These folks often have a very abrasive style.  They are rough around the edges and are often accused of being too direct, cold, and blunt.  They also don’t hesitate to “dress down” or confront an individual in front of others.  They may also just blurt out “unfiltered” thinking or criticism without concern for others. People who use this style of communication become angry if they don’t get what they want, or if people don’t keep their commitments.

What to Do

Don’t take these people personally if they confront you about something.  Remember, behind the emotion is a value they feel has been violated.  Ask questions to help them move from a place of irrational reaction to discover the issue behind their emotional outburst.  Remain calm and don’t be drawn in by reacting to their attack. If it’s not possible to excuse yourself from the situation, let them vent and make plans to talk at a later time when they have calmed down and are more rational.  If there is a high level of trust between you and this person, and the timing is right, you may be able to talk with this person about their behavior. 

The Micromanager

We’ve all known people who have a hard time delegating tasks to other people.  Because they want to guarantee success, they constantly check up on people or may even do the work for them.  Those working with these types of managers are often frustrated and feel that the manager doesn’t trust them to do their job.

What to Do

Formulate a specific plan for completing the task with checklists and timelines.  Identify your goals and the options you have chosen to achieve the goals.  Seek their approval and take action.  Check in frequently and regularly to report results.  Ask for clarification and specifics of anything they are asking you to do. 

As a river guide, I found that I could increase my credibility and the amount of tips offered at the end of the trip by telling my clients what I would do, doing it, and then telling them what I did. These tactics will increase their confidence in you while reassuring them that you can deliver great results and follow through on your commitments.

The Blamer

One of my first managers in business was a blamer.  She blamed me when I did what she asked and things didn’t turn out as she had hoped.  She blamed me when things went well because she thought I could have achieved more. 

Unfortunately, some managers often blame others to avoid responsibility and to escape the spotlight being shined on their poor performance.

What to Do

Make a plan that your boss agrees to.  Document it and get it in writing.  When customer demands change the priorities and the plan, get that in writing.  Don’t assume anything and ask questions to clarify.  Be sure and document any changes that are made.  This can help interrupt the blame cycle when things don’t go as planned.

The Sycophant

This individual goes out of their way to praise powerful people to get their support and approval.  Their relationships with higher-ups afford them a high degree of protection from the consequences of their poor performance or bad behavior.  They usually offer false praise to those who work for them as a strategy for manipulating others to achieve their goals.

What to Do

You need to document the consequences and outcomes of their behavior if you expect to be believed.  Often the reason these people offer praise is because they seek praise themselves.  Look for opportunities to express sincere praise that adds value for the good things they do.  Don’t believe everything they tell you.  These individuals are often highly negative or critical of others while seemingly praising you.  Because such behavior is self-serving, you don’t want to get caught up in speaking negatively about others, ever.

There are numerous behaviors that you might find offensive as you work with others. Taking a moment to notice what is happening in your dealings with them and then carefully planning a strategy to handle such difficult people will improve the quality of your interactions as you work to build a career and deliver optimal results.