MSNBC has offered an insightful article entitled "How to handle the office jerk". Of course, I like the article not because I have to deal with office jerks; no, I am the office jerk, and the article gives me intelligence I can use to effect countermeasures against the people who would attempt to thwart my boorishness. You, too, can learn from these counter-techniques to remain in control, jerkishly, of any situation even when others try to weasel out of your grasp.
The following list includes counter-strikes against you, jerk, that you should recognize and respond to appropriately:
- Assertiveness short of aggressiveness.
- First, be assertive — not aggressive — when dealing with a jerk. A jerk may have doubts about his ability and status, so the last thing you want to do is challenge him on those grounds. Being aggressive with a jerk will play into his hands and give him an excuse to become a turbo-charged twit.
Unfortunately, when you’re trying to bully and badger one of your weaker co-workers, some of them will undoubtedly attempt to show some spine and resist. In most cases, they’ll try to puff up through strong-sounding tones, hoping that merely by standing up to you, they will shock you into leaving them alone and not taking their Starbucks money. Don’t fall for it! By merely remaining firm in your jerkishness, you’ll show that you’re not going to fold with a simple show of brazen assertiveness. Instead, you should repeat your jerkish assertions slowly and more loudly, as though your target is a child or a retard. Also, you might choose to bridge the distance in your points of view by closing the distance between you and your target. Remember, touching is a felony, but you can come within micrometers of striking your target’s nose with your own proboscis without going to jail.
To mix things up, break down in front of the target. Yes, I said break down. Tell the target, through tears if possible, some anecdote of hardship or tragedy that has recently or in your childhood struck you to make you the way you are. You can sometimes make your target feel guilty for his or her own assertive behavior and make that person question whether it is, in fact, he or she that is the jerk for misunderstanding you or pressing you in this hour of your hardship. Assertiveness and self-confidence is a blade best blunted on guilt.
- Like Major, I will work harder.
- If so, don’t play the game and assume your assigned role of wanderer in the wilderness. Ask questions. Demand answers. Seek challenging assignments. Show the jerk what you can do.
When confronted with a productive and overachieving target, it’s best to feed the beast what it will eat. When answering questions, give out false information with just enough truth to be dangerous. Of course, you’ll want to avoid questions at all costs. Set up an e-mail rule so that the target’s e-mails go right to your Junk box. That way, when the target presses you on the e-mails, you won’t even risk the flicker of recognition or deception when you say you didn’t see it. Lie convincingly in person, but in meetings obfuscate, stall, and tell the target that you’ll “take it offline” to a more private forum where you can lie with more impunity.
As for charging harder into the breach, well, make that a breech. Make sure the over-achiever gets the failing projects and doomed customer relationships. Sure, there’s a chance the target is a real rockstar, but you can only juggle so many teacups before you spill some Earl Grey, or something. Challenging assignments will taint your target with the scent of failure; coupled with the assertive demanding of answers, and you can aikido your target right into the reputation if difficulty.
- Just take it.
- Slough off his bad behavior as best you can, since his actions say a lot about him and nothing about you.
The best offense is the fetal position. I mean, we know we’re jerks, and we’ve made our peace with it. So if when you see someone who doesn’t react to your jerk behavior, you have that person’s permission to be a jerk!
- The s-h-bomb.
- Jerk-like behavior between men and women can quickly become sexual harassment, opening the company to legal liability. A manager must stop it immediately. If you’re in the middle of it, make your situation known to your manager or the personnel office.
Beware this mindset, where normal jerkishness suddenly becomes about simple sexual innuendo. As such, it’s important to employ preventive measures in your boorishness; that is, to avoid any appearance of any impropriety of the sexual sort whatsoever. As such, it’s important that your conversations with the target avoid troublesome topics such as:
- The naughty bits.
- The not quite naughty, but the sometimes naughty in certain corners of the Internet bits.
- Furniture, as sex sometimes occurs on it.
- Edifices, as sex sometimes occurs in them.
- Cars, as sex sometimes occurs in them.
- Gender roles, especially traditional gender roles.
- Transgender roles, especially traditional transgender roles.
- Things that are cylindrical, rectangular, or are longer than they are tall, as these can be construed of as phallic in many college English papers.
- Things that fit into other things, such as keys, nuts and bolts, letters and envelopes.
- Things that sound like the words for or slang words in any language for naughty bits, genders, edifices, and so on.
- Things that rhyme with any slang in any language for naughty bits, genders, edifices, and so on.
- Calendars, days of which can include the menstral cycle.
- Food, since there’s a lot of inappropriate slang usage for a lot of the words, like BLT.
- Anything else an attorney anywhere might think of.
Granted, this list pretty much eliminates all conversations, but sometimes you can be a jerk non-verbally. Through body language. Wait, that involves the body, so undoubtedly it’s all prohibited. Never mind, carry on.
Final words of encouragement:
- “There is no single cause for a jerk’s behavior,” Lloyd says. “You’ve got to tailor your response to each case. Some organizations reward the abusive behavior of jerks. That’s not true in the best companies, but if it’s true at your company, ask yourself, Is this an environment where I can thrive?”
Even if your organization doesn’t reward jerkishness, jerkinosity is its own reward, and any practice you get now will pay dividends when you finally get to an organization that will appreciate and reward your talent.