The Office Jerk

Why Don’t Difficult People Have Their Own Training?!?

A few weeks ago, I was leading a program on “Managing Difficult Behaviors in the Workplace” for a team of executives. At one point, one of the executives asked – “Why don’t difficult people have their own workshop?”  The room had a good laugh and then we continued on with the training.  Nevertheless, the question stuck with me.

How NOT to be a Jerk

It’s true “How NOT to be a Jerk” is a highly unpopular training.  While it may be (desperately) needed in many organizations, it’s unlikely it will happen, because signing up means that you are publicly admitting that you’re a jerk.

And there’s the problem – most jerks don’t realize that they’re jerks.  They believe everyone else is the problem – not them.  (Despite the fact that THEY are the consistent component of all of their unsatisfying relationships, workplaces, teams, etc.)

As a result, training is geared towards handling bad behaviors and the responsibility is put on the “normal” person.  Sounds unfair, right?  Maybe not….

The Secret

Here’s the REAL secret…. we’ve all been the jerk at some point.

You see, the jerk isn’t a person.  It’s a behavior.  As humans, ‘bad’ behaviors manifest under stress.  Maybe it’s aggressive or passive aggressive behaviors.  Perhaps, it’s a tendency to micromanage or procrastinate.  Those behaviors are like the little cartoon devil on your shoulder goading you into behaving badly.

Before we can manage difficult behaviors in others, we have to manage them in ourselves.  So, the first step to eradicating the jerks from your office is starts with the one in the mirror.  Sounds fun, right?!?  Leadership isn’t for wimps!

Being a Leader

The ‘difficult behavior’ programs are designed to help us recognize our own behaviors and then provide tools to modify them with a healthy behavior.  This then gives us the capability to effectively address problem behaviors in others.

Here’s how to build your leadership skills by kicking your inner jerk to the unemployment line:

  1. Identify your go-to ‘bad’ behavior.
  2. Pinpoint what triggers that behavior for you.
  3. When you are triggered, take a deep breath and count to 10 (or 20 or 50 or 100 or 1000).
  4. ONLY when you feel calm, respond.

The good news is once you do this for yourself, it’s much easier to coach your staff through it.


 How do you manage difficult behaviors in yourself and your staff?

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