Struggling With A Jerk At Work?

Got any jerks in your life?  You know the type. The ones who think they know it all, the ones who don’t listen to a word you say, the ones who push and push until you can’t take it, or the ones who are the first to cry victim but the last to admit to a fault.  They are exhausting, relentless, aggressive, nitpicking, frustrating, and by the time you are done talking to them you want to run away screaming.

Worse yet, they can turn even the best of days upside-down with just a comment, message, text or email.  You have become so programmed to their belligerent behavior that just the mention of their name stirs you inside and the sound of their voice can bring a fight-or-flight response.  As with any jerk, there are those who agree with you about the behavior and then those who adamantly disagree believing him/her to be a wonderful person.  So what can you do?  What do you do with all of that frustration especially if you are unsure of whom to confine it?

Identify the abnormal behavior.  The natural tendency when confronted by a jerk is to do just that, label them as a jerk.  While this may bring about some comfort, he/she is the jerk and not you, in the end it leaves you with nothing to do except avoid them.  More than likely, if this person is bothering you he/she is not a person you can avoid indefinitely.  So instead of labeling and dismissing him/her, identify the behavior that is driving you nuts.  Is it a word, phrase, tone of voice, emotion such as anger, aggression, or the way you were attacked?  If it is several of these, break it down until you have one really irritating piece.

Identify what it reminds you of.  Ask “what does this behavior remind me of” or “who does this behavior remind me of”.  The first thing that pops into your head is usually the best as long as it is not the same person or incident.  For instance, you receive an email from a co-worker who created a larger than life problem but is now trying to shift the blame onto you.  You are stuck cleaning up the mess and have to deal with the co-worker but are angry at his/her continued unwillingness to take responsibility for his/her actions.  The email sends you over the top as now he/she has manipulated the circumstances to blame you for his/her mistake.  So ask the two questions.  Could it be that this person reminds you of the time when a bully beat you up and then said it was you who started the fight and the bully was only defend him/her?  You may need to ask the question again if there is more than one similar incident, keep going until you have a couple of irritating people on your list.

Identify how you wish you responded.  Now that you have the underlying incident mixed with the underlying person, examine how you responded.  Most likely you have already replayed the incident in your head over and over wishing for another opportunity to confront the person and given the same set of circumstances and now your response would have been much better.  In reality we don’t have opportunities to turn back the clock and confront but we do have current circumstances with similar characters which is exactly where you are with the jerky behavior today.  At some deep level, this current circumstance reminded you of a past circumstance in which you already had a strong desire to do something different.

So do something different.  What is the outcome you are trying to achieve?  Using the above story, if your desired outcome is to get noticed for doing quality work, then do excellent flawless work.  Don’t let the jerk at the office rattle you and cause you to be ineffective, that is his/her goal; rather, use their immature behavior as a way of highlighting your mature behavior.  And in the end not only will you feel better but you are one step closer to your desired outcome.

Don’t allow the jerks to get the best of you and distract you from doing your work, having fun, or just hanging with the family.  He/she lives to steal the best from others and use it to enhance himself/herself.  There is no need for you to fall victim again to another trap, identify it and do something different instead.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

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