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Jerks At Work

Published January 20, 2012 6:00 AM by Scott Warner

I’ve heard or witnessed a lot of stories in which some jerk at work argues, name-calls, accuses, yells, gets red-faced, or huffs off. I’ve known of jerks insulting, belittling, humiliating, and openly bullying a coworker and bragging about it later. As a manager I’ve dealt with physical threats, sexual harassment, blatant lies, and character assassination. And that’s just the men. I hear women are just as jerky, if not jerkier, than men.

Maybe it’s my testosterone blinders, but I honestly see women trying to work together more than men, even when they dislike each other. We men are too logical to fall for such ruses of civility. It’s probably why so many of us die in wars.

According to psychology professors Timothy Judge of Notre Dame and Charlice Hurst of University of Western Ontario, nice guys and gals finish last. While “agreeableness” -- those qualities that make a nice, happy person -- are what we seek in others we most want to spend time with, it’s poison in the workplace. Men are rewarded, indeed, for being disagreeable, while women aren’t.

“If you’re a disagreeable man, you’re considered a tough negotiator … if a woman is agreeable, she gets taken advantage of, and if she is disagreeable, she’s considered a control freak or ‘the B-word,’” Judge says.

We all just want to get along, I suppose, which might help explain why jerks -- what Dr. Mitchell Kusy at Antioch University calls “toxic” -- are oblivious of how others perceive them. Even better, we help enable jerks by avoiding confrontation. One workplace survey finds that everyone -- bosses included -- knows who the jerks are, but a whopping 94% admit to complaining or working around them.

That makes sense, I guess. (Oops, there I go again, being agreeable.)

Apparently, about the only way to get through to a jerk is to be one. I know I’m never pleased when forced to stoop to “disagreeable” behavior just to be acknowledged. At least, being nice and finishing last means I get to watch the show.

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About this Blog


    Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
    Occupation: Laboratory Manager
    Setting: Critical Access Hospital
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