Time again for the unique perspectives of the Five Friends, as we each contribute our individual insights to a specific question about business and professional development.
Today’s question is:
How do you work with a jerk?
FROM JOE CALLOWAY:
OK – here’s my answer. It’s the answer for me and not necessarily for you. The answer is that you don’t work with a jerk. My vendors and colleagues aren’t jerks. My customers aren’t jerks because we have a finely tuned “jerk filter” on the front end to weed them out. I’ve worked too hard and life is too short to put up with jerks so I won’t. If you don’t have that luxury or option, my friends here will probably have good advice. There are also lots of books you can read about how to work with difficult people. But my advice is to move on. Either have the jerk removed or remove yourself. Don’t work with a jerk.
I know. I know. Some will say, “But it’s not that easy.” or “I can’t remove them or me.” Fine.
Then listen to my four friends here. Three of them are almost certainly more patient with difficult people than I am. Winget’s not.
Joe Calloway helps great companies get even better. www.JoeCalloway.com
FROM LARRY WINGET:
I am surrounded by more jerks than most folks so I have learned to work with them more than most would ever have to. Why is that the case? Because I am more opinionated than most folks – at least I am more vocal with my opinions than most people. When you are an opinionated person who rarely hesitates to voice your opinion, people will react to you in jerky ways. Which means they aren’t necessarily jerks, but are only reacting to you in jerky ways.
Of course, being an opinionated person also makes you a jerk in the eyes of many people. So begin with asking yourself the question, “Am I the jerk?” About half the time, when I ask myself this question, the answer is either a resounding “probably” or a very definite “yes.” Knowing that will help you deal with most jerks. Jerks are usually defined as someone you strongly disagree with or who strongly disagree with you. After all, how can anyone who agrees with you be a jerk? The solution? Confront, engage or ignore. Those are your choices. I almost always choose to confront while most choose to ignore and gripe.
Larry Winget, the Pitbull of Personal Development®, is a six-time NYT/WSJ bestselling author, social commentator and appears regularly on many national television news shows. To find out more, go to www.LarryWinget.com.
FROM MARK SANBORN:
Assuming (as Larry points out) that you’re not the one being the jerk, try this:
Start by making sure you’re dealing with bona fide jerk behavior. Be honest about your own interpretation. I’ve heard employees say their boss was a jerk because he or she required them to be on time or live up to other performance standards. Requiring compliance to a job description doesn’t make your boss a jerk unless he or she does so in a petty or demeaning way.
Next, “feed the trolls” as the internet saying goes. Your response to a jerk can be fuel for his or her fire. While it is natural to respond negatively it doesn’t help your cause. Be assertive to protect yourself, but don’t resort to bad behavior.
Finally, have a tough conversation. Call the jerk on her or his behavior. Define the jerk’s behavior, how it makes you feel and—importantly—how it impacts your work. Get the problem out in the open and ask that it be addressed.
Mark Sanborn is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio for leadership development. He is an award-winning speaker bestselling author of books including, The Fred Factor. For more information and free resources, visit www.marksanborn.com.
FROM RANDY PENNINGTON:
I agree with virtually all of my colleagues’ comments. My only minor disagreement is with Larry’s assertion that people who agree with us are seldom jerks.
Larry, Joe, Mark, and Scott are four of my best friends in the entire world. We agree 98 percent of the time, and … you see where this is headed. I’m sure they would say the same thing about me.
Even your best friends will occasionally be jerks. If they are, call them on it. And if they won’t do the same to you, they aren’t your friend.
If you decide to talk to someone about their jerkiness:
- Focus on the behavior. Don’t assume their motivation. It takes a strong relationship to actually call someone a jerk and not have them react negatively.
- Own your feelings and emotion. You can’t control others’ actions and behavior. You can control your reaction.
- Know the difference between a jerk and a bully. We all deal with jerks. None of us should tolerate a bully. Report it or remove yourself. Just don’t accept it.
- If you supervise the work of others, being or allowing others to be a jerk will be detrimental to your and their success.
Randy Pennington helps leaders deliver positive results in a world of accelerating change. To find out more, go to www.penningtongroup.com.
FROM SCOTT MCKAIN:
The fundamental problem with jerks is often that THEY don’t realize they are one.
They believe that they’re “driven,” or “results-oriented,” or “a decisive leader,” instead of understanding themselves to be the total ass that we perceive they are.
I suppose that down deep we would all like to be a bit of a jerk. We’d enjoy saying what we really think without repercussions – however, as you and I know, the real world doesn’t work that way.
And, perhaps the truth may be a bit deeper than you first recognize.
When Van Halen demanded in their contract there could be no brown M&Ms in the dishes of the candy required backstage, it wasn’t the band being a bunch of jerks…or rock star excess…that was behind it. Van Halen knew that if a promoter skipped that detail, there would probably be other, more important ones that they would miss, too – meaning fans might not get the show the band wanted to deliver.
In other words, what was perceived as “jerkiness” was instead a commitment to excellent performance.
Before you deal with the jerk using the great insight from my friends – first, make certain the problem isn’t the jerk, but instead…your perception.
Scott McKain teaches how organizations and individual professionals can create distinction in their marketplace, and deliver the “Ultimate Customer Experience ®.” For more information: www.ScottMcKain.com