OT: When You Work With A Jerk (Humor--Long)

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

BTW... for a chuckle... seems relevant... reminds me of the local trolls... Front Page...


(Thanks Old Git for pointing out a different article at this site).

When you work with a jerk...

Their names grace about every grade school attendance roll. Katie Know-It-All. Billy the Bully. Cynthia the Complainer. And their personalities carry the irritating screech of fingernails scratching a blackboard.



[Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]

When you work with a jerk

By SABRINA JONES, Staff Writer

Their names grace about every grade school attendance roll. Katie Know-It-All. Billy the Bully. Cynthia the Complainer. And their personalities carry the irritating screech of fingernails scratching a blackboard.

Now, fast forward to adulthood. The schoolyard has turned into the office -- yet you still can't seem to escape the turbulence of your youth. The annoying characters who provoked you to implore your Mom and Dad for advice or stomp away in disgust now rattle the otherwise smooth hum of your workplace.

Reggie Wilkinson, a 40-year-old technical consultant in Research Triangle Park, has a clear recollection of The Complainer at his last company. The man called the help line every day for a month to complain about his PC. The man, a newly hired project manager, was used to Macintosh computers and kept trying to make his computer function more like a Mac, only to cause its applications to shut down. Then he told his supervisor that the company's PC support was terrible, Wilkinson said.

The pestering was so bad that Wilkinson and his co-workers hated to answer the phone when The Complainer's name popped up. Some days, when he saw his nettlesome co-worker turn the corner, Wilkinson walked down another hall.

"He would call at least three times a week," Wilkinson said. "He was a very unusual person. I more or less had to pacify him. I would never sit there and say you can't do this, I said, 'let's go about it this route,' instead of saying no. He made some very interesting stories for when I went home to my wife."

Just as there are people who rub us the wrong way in everyday life, there are plenty of jerks and all-around nuisances at work, not to mention co-workers with distracting habits, experts say. There's The Bully who likes to blow off steam at your expense. The Conniver/Back Stabber loves to pit one employee against another and then watch them battle. The Star basks in attention. The Victim puts colleagues to sleep with "Why Me?" stories. The Yeasayer goes along with everything to get approval but never thinks about how the work will get done and ends up feeling overwhelmed and resentful.

The obnoxious habits that people pick up as children transfer into their adult years, sometimes leading to escalated stress and conflicts at work, said Dr. Renee Y. Magid, president of Initiatives, Inc., a worklife consulting company in Fort Washington, Pa. The key to dealing with difficult people is to respond in a calm manner that does not mirror any of the behaviors that drive you batty, Magid said.

"It's important to know that you want to control your responses to difficult people rather than being controlled," Magid said. "Their main goal is to control and they've learned these patterns of behavior over a long period of time. It's almost like a game to them, and if we don't meet their expectations, we spoil their fun."

One reader, who asked not to be identified, said that on her first day on a new job, a co-worker accused her of taking excessive breaks, openly ignored her in front of colleagues and questioned her skills to supervisors.

"Since Day 1, she refuses to speak to me coming and going from work, even to the extent of cold-shouldering me in front of both shifts of other co-workers by acting as if I don't exist," the reader wrote. "She has had to force me to complain to supervisors, which is something I don't like doing. Gossiping with her three cliquey co-workers that I have to work with, creating scenarios that pit them against me, and such childish behavior as sitting near me and whispering about me to them are all hallmarks of Ms. Southern Hospitality."

Many people avoid potentially explosive scenarios at all costs by never confronting their troublesome co-workers directly, but constructive one-on-one conversations are often the best remedy for personality clashes, Magid said. You shouldn't expect your co-worker to change, but you can alter the way you react to that person's quirks. Think before you fire back, Magid said.

"Be discreet but at the same time direct," Magid said. "I find that face-to-face conversations are the way to confront a person in a positive way. You wouldn't want to attack that person in front of a group of people. If you're really agitated, you may calmly want to say, 'Can we discuss this at another time, the two of us?' If you can maintain your control, that person is just going to continue to make a jackass out of herself or himself."

Sometimes, the source of discomfort for co-workers could be a person with an irksome eccentricity, like the person who borrows quarters every day for the vending machine to avoid breaking a dollar bill or the boss who playfully swings a plastic baseball bat at his subordinates.

Then there's the heavily perfumed co-worker and the gum-smacking associate.

Christi Grumelot, a Raleigh tax accountant, said her co-workers have racked their brains to come up with a polite way to tell one of their fellow accountants that his excessive throat-clearing has become the office annoyance. Not even turning up the strains of the new "Star Wars: Episode 1" soundtrack on her headphones can drown out the sound, Grumelot said.

"Once you hear it, then you hear it every single time," Grumelot, 27, said. "If a guy was outside with a jackhammer, it would be easier to ignore. The noise pops up 10 times in an hour. It disrupts what you're doing and makes you lose your train of thought. People try to joke with him about it, but I don't think he realizes that he does it."

In cases like the above, workers should evaluate the importance of their relationships with co-workers and whether or not they are able to confront their colleagues, said Val Arnold, senior vice president of Personnel Decisions International, a human resources consulting firm in Minneapolis, Minn. Someone with a good relationship with the throat-clearing co-worker could take him aside and tell him, 'I don't know if you're aware, but you clear your throat often enough that it's disruptive.'" It's important to keep such discussions from being personal and to focus on the impact of disruptive behavior on work, Arnold said.

That's particularly true when the person you're having trouble with is your boss.

"If you really have a bad boss, probably by definition, you can't go and talk to the person, unless you know they're going to be open to a conversation," Arnold said. "Go and put what you're saying into work terms, 'in order to for me do my job better, here's what ...'"

But if the boss is known for lying and backbiting, the best solution could be to get another job.

"It can be job-threatening to assert yourself with a boss, particularly when you think the boss is a sleazeball," Arnold said.

And talking to your boss's supervisor could make the situation worse.

In general -- and especially when dealing with colleagues -- Arnold said, it's always best to try to work things out yourself. Only go to a supervisor after you've approached the offensive employee and then only if the problem is out of control to the point where it hurts morale.

Employees who don't feel comfortable with confrontations can practice with someone until they feel they can deliver a message in a positive and neutral way.

"If you go and talk to the person and that doesn't work, you can either go and find a different place to work or you change yourself," Arnold said. "There are some things that irritate people that they don't have to let irritate them. Say to yourself, 'I gave this my best shot, so I just need to accept it and get on with life.' It's amazing what people can get used to and not hear if they're not focused on it."

Sometimes, humor is the best reply for dealing with weirdness at work. In her 40 years of work, Regina Snyder, a retired pharmacist in Chapel Hill, has come across a running list of character types, but most of them have been innocuous. Snyder, 73, still collapses into laughter when she remembers the extra-frugal man who worked with one of her friends at a New York hospital. The man had a peculiar routine of bringing a teabag to work every Monday and using it every single day of the week to make tea for lunch. He also spared himself a few dollars by using free condiments in the cafeteria to make mustard and ketchup sandwiches, Snyder said.

"How would you like a mustard sandwich and a cup of five-day-old tea for lunch?" Snyder asked. "This is the strangest character that I think I ever heard of. You can't nitpick everyone's strange little foibles. Unless they're doing something dangerous, you just ignore it. Let it go and laugh about it with somebody else."

Sabrina Jones can be reached at sjones@nando.com

If you go and talk to the person and that doesn't work, you can either go and find a different place to work or you change yourself  -- Val Arnold of Personnel Decisions International, a human resources consulting firm

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), June 21, 1999



Here is a cast of characters. See whether you recognize any at your job:

Wants to force his or her viewpoint on you, likes to blow off steam. Watch out for the verbal attack.

Stays in his or her cubicle, rarely comes out except at the end of the day. Seems to have nothing to contribute and is difficult to draw in.

Meets every new proposal with "We tried that before. It didn't work."

Lets you know just how much you have to learn. Drags out every conversation and staff meeting by showing off his or her knowledge.

Has nothing good to say about other people's ideas or company programs. Can produce a cloud out of every silver lining.

Goes along with anything just to gain approval. Agrees to handle any project or take on new responsibilities without really thinking through how such tasks are going to be accomplished.

Uses words as weapons, often destroying harmony in a group and causing resentment. Anything said is OK as long as it's funny to this person. Can be a poor team player.

Has dozens of excuses about why the job wasn't done on schedule and can't provide a concrete answer as to when it will be completed.

Seems nice enough, but then you find out he or she is trying to manipulate the entire staff. Loves to pit one employee against another and then watch them go at each other.

Reminds people where the spotlight should properly rest at all times. Not to be confused with The Rising Star, who is filled with ambition. The Star will settle for simply having all the attention.

Wants to be president of the company before his or her 30th birthday. Stand back and don't get in the way!

Whines that he or she is being taken advantage of or being treated unfairly. Bores everyone with "Why me?" stories.

Source: Initiatives Inc.

 The Bully:
 The Hermit:
 The Historian:
 The Know-it-all:
 The Naysayer:
 The Yeasayer:
 The Sarcastic Type:
 The Staller:
 The Conniver/ Back Stabber:
 The Star:
 The Rising Star:
 The Victim:

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), June 21, 1999.

I'm pretty sure I used to work at that company. We had at least 90% of those individuals in attendance.

And while the article IS funny woeking with those people wasn't.

-- Greybear (greybear@home.com), June 21, 1999.

Hi there Greybear!

Just remember... your local Y2k community (and even neighborhood) is filled with these people too.


Is that why town councils, et. al., are so... frustrating... to deal with?


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), June 21, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ