Conquering Challenges: Dealing with The Jerk at Work

It was early in my human resources career and I was so excited to land a dream role. That dream came crashing down as soon as I set foot into my new office when I met someone in the team. Immediately I could see her aggression and bullish tactics. Then everyone started warning me about her and that she has been in the company for a very long time and everyone was scared to get rid of her. I couldn’t believe it. She was a jerk and I don’t like to say that lightly as she did everything she could to bully and undermine everyone around her. Eventually after 2 years she was performance managed out by our new Human Resources Director (there were 3 before her that didn’t manage it and it caused havoc).

How could someone in a senior role who behaved and “lead” like that not be performance managed, coached or let go sooner? I see this more often than not to be honest and it is dreadful and debilitating for people, teams and businesses. Leaders tolerating poor behaviour because they won’t have the courageous conversations. I always say the behaviour you walk past is the behaviour you accept. It takes kindness for yourself and courage to work them. Yes be kind as we have all been there – haven’t we?

The Jerk…They are real. They are out there. We have worked with them, for them and lead them. For whatever reason provenance has deemed necessary, there will often be that one person in a working environment that no amount of coaching, kindness or compassion will breach. These narcissistic jerks cause disruption, anxiety, pressure, and even hostile work environments no matter what others may do to try and alleviate their control issues.

If you have someone in your work arena that fits this description, don’t panic. Take a deep breathe. There are steps you can take to ensure a smoother, though not ideal, working relationship that gets the results you need. It simply is a matter of recognising that not all workmates are created equal, and this one just needs to be handled in a more demanding way. It ‘s not about YOU, it’s about them, remember this. And only you hold the power over your thoughts and actions. By the way we are also here to help you too so reach out!

Be aware of your confidence

One tactic workplace jerks take on to forward their own narcissism is to bully other employees into discrediting their own work. You are the expert in the field and recognise your work has great value and substance, so when the workplace jerk starts knocking it down, realise you have more fruitful avenues for peer review. Seek out those around you who you trust and garner their opinion. Often times you will discover the negative critiques were simply that – negative. Always stay courageous and use the experience as a learning experience too on NOT what to do.

Keep communications open

It is often uncomfortable to discuss just about anything with a demanding jerk in the workplace, but shutting down lines of communication is not the answer. When having to collaborate with such as personality, speak clearly and concisely about your topic. Be aware that a narcissist needs to feel in control, and that they may well try to drive the communication into a light that makes them look better. This is done by introducing red herrings into the conversation – don’t fall prey to dead end roads. Stick to the point at hand and move along.

In turn, the jerk might be dealing with something you are unaware of as well and 9 times out of 10 there behaviour might not be about you or work but something personal. Remember to check in, show empathy and ask if they are okay too. Always be kind no matter how they are behaving.

Don’t just take it

If the office jerk is offensive, bullying, or entering the realm of harassment, you don’t have to take one for the team and excuse the behaviour. Recognise that their actions affect not only your work environment, but also the business image and fluidity as a whole. Report negative behaviour immediately to a supervisor or the human resources leader for resolution, and understand that this has nothing to do with anything you have done. Negative personalities such as the workplace jerk reduce productivity and job satisfaction, and making others aware of the disruption to business will ensure actions are taken immediately to correct the situation.

It is something we get more and more requests for in our coaching and leadership work as well. It must be dealt with immediately as the longer you leave it, the more it can and will effect your business, people and bottom line. In turn, when you have a clear culture, it is vital you recruit people and leaders who are aligned to your culture and values. This is a must! This is why we are so passionate about partnering with companies around their leadership and cultural strategies.

We have more to come around how to deal with bosses and leaders who are not effective or even the ones you just don’t like – or they don’t like you!

Stay Kind. Stay Courageous.

Sonia x

About The Author Sonia McDonald And LeadershipHQ

Sonia McDonald is the CEO and founder of LeadershipHQ and McDonald Inc. Sonia is a in demand keynote speaker, leadership coach and advisor, author and facilitator.

She believes we should lead with kindness and courage, from the heart, doing rather than telling and is known for her mantra ‘just lead’. She leads by example in all these areas and through her one on one practical coaching, leadership training for teams and organisations encourages others to do the same. Sonia has helped hundreds of people on their leadership journey to become the best version of themselves and in turn, inspire and bring out the best in others. Also she and her team have worked and partnered with a number of businesses and companies for over a decade build great leadership teams and cultures.

For more than 25 years, Sonia has been on the front lines of Human Resources, Leadership and People and Culture. She has held leadership positions worldwide and through experience, research and study come to realise what it takes to be a truly great leader.

Sonia has an ability to speak bravely and authentically about her own development as a leader, personal and career challenges in a way which resonates with her audience. She is recognised as a LinkedIn influencer and has become an in-demand keynote speaker, starts important conversations.

She is an award-winning published author of Leadership Attitude and Just Rock It! and writes regularly for publications such as The Australian, HRD Magazine, Smart Healthy Women and Women’s Business Media. Sonia has become recognised for her commentary around the topic of leadership, championing the up and coming leaders of tomorrow, advocating for women in business as well as building leaders in small business.

Sonia will give you peace of mind when booking a speaker. She is a proven world-class professional speaker with the skills to “rock an audience”. Her energy, empathy, kindness, sensitivity, and humour will enhance any event she appears.

Phone 1300 719 665



About LeadershipHQ

Outstanding Leadership Starts With You.

The key to success today is Great Leadership. Your leaders lead your culture and it’s the culture which drives your strategy.

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