Published February 06, 2014
There’s one in every office. That person with a difficult personality that is hard to get along with and strains office morale.
Whether it’s the boss or a co-worker, that person makes the office environment less friendly.
Robert Sutton, author of The No Asshole Rule says negative and difficult people in the workforce tend to weigh on productivity and team cohesiveness, which can ultimately impact a company’s bottom line.
“They are so disruptive and the biggest challenge [for employers] is when they are productive and also jerks,” Sutton says. “In that situation, it might be worth coaching and transforming them. I wouldn’t recommend throwing out people who are otherwise talented.”
Sutton says there are different types of office jerks, and it’s not always easy to know if a person is a “certified” jerk or just a “temporary” jerk, Sutton says. Just about anyone is capable of being a temporary jerk, he says, but coaching and transforming can change a personality characteristic.
But for certified jerks, the future is less rosy.
“To me, the test is if it’s a person who consistently leaves people feeling demeaned and de-energized,” he says. “There’s a whole bunch of things they do: backstabbing, putting their needs ahead of their colleagues or their companies.”
If the jerk happens to be the boss, deciding how to handle the situation can be more complicated, he says. The first, and most obvious move, is to simply quit.
“There’s evidence that when people leave jerky bosses their mental health goes up, their productivity goes up, their physical health goes up and they get more creative,” he says. “So I would think about quitting.”
But of course, that isn’t an option for everyone, and Sutton says there are other ways to mitigate the behavior.
“If you fight back, you have to do a power analysis of your workplace and really think about it--especially if your boss is more powerful. Don’t go after them alone,” he says.
Sometimes it may be beneficial to form a “posse” and complain to management or human resources about bad behavior.
“It’s one thing when one person says you’re a jerk, but if you’ve got 20 people [saying] ‘you have to get rid of this person,’ ” that is more powerful.”
Sometimes, there’s nothing workers can do.
“A lot of times in life, you can’t escape, and if you are going to fight back you can get screwed,” he says. “My advice is, and people always talk about passion and caring, but sometimes the best thing is learning the fine art of emotional detachment to get on with your life.”