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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How to Work with a Jerk

Recently, our software company Likeable Local began partnering with large companies to help reach more small businesses. Our first company, Likeable Media, works with many large companies as clients. So even though I don't have a boss, from time to time I've had to work with people I don't love. In fact, recently I began working with someone that I can only (nicely) call a total jerk. We'll call him Al to protect the guilty in this article.
Al is the kind of person who hates babies and kittens and is never happy. Al demands a lot of everyone around him at work. Al is often if not always critical, and is never one to praise or compliment coworkers and employees. It's always "Al's way or the highway." When I talked to someone at his company about Al, I was told, "Get in line. Nobody can stand the guy. But he's here because he gets results."
Do you know anyone like "Al"?
I've had the good fortune of building my own companies over the last seven years, and have worked very hard to build a likeable, positive, fun corporate culture at both, so it's been awhile since I've worked with a jerk. I could complain endlessly about working with a jerk, but the truth is, complaining won't change anything, for me, or for any of you out there who currently work with or for a jerk.
So instead, let's look at three suggestions for making work with a jerk, easier, for you and for me:
1) Seek to Understand Where The Jerk is Coming From
I studied psychology in college, and love using what I learned to better understand people. I also truly believe in the inherent goodness of people. Maybe my jerk was constantly criticized as a child by his parents. Maybe nothing is ever good enough for his wife. Maybe someone else at the company is instilling these values and there's a lot of pressure on him to perform. Even if you can't understand exactly why your jerk acts how he/she does, by simply trying to understand, you'll humanize him more, which will help you deal with him.
2) Shower the Jerk with Positivity
It never hurts to be positive. Never. Begin and end your interactions with the jerk with a smile.Send handwritten thank you notes. I even sent Al a box of chocolates. Being super friendly and positive likely won't change the jerk at all, or make him appreciate you more, or be kinder to you. But it will put you in a better mindset to deal with him/her. It will make you happier — and in the end, that's what matters most.
3) Talk to Others and Consider Your Options
I often talk with people who are in difficult work situations, that don't see themselves as having options. You have a mortgage to pay. You don't have other skills. You've been working there forever, and it's all you know. The truth is, you always have options. If you're working with or for a jerk and the situation is making you miserable, seek out other options. Talk (carefully) to other people who work with or for the jerk and get their insights. Read What Color is Your Parachute. Know that today, thanks to social media, the world is smaller and more transparent than ever before. Eventually, the jerks will be out of business, and you will be able to rise above when you're dealing with now. But if you can't wait, seek out other non-jerks now.
You spend more of your waking life at work than you do anywhere else, so it's important that you work with and for people you like and respect. Ultimately, choose to work with those people, and you'll be happier. But in the meantime, if you're stuck with a jerk - seek to understand, be positive, talk to others, and consider all of your options.

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