Saturday, August 19, 2017

How to Survive an Office Jerk notes

Last Monday WSJ published an article "How to Survive an Office Jerk" by Dr. Robert Sutton, a professor of management science at Stanford University.

These are the suggestions Dr. Sutton offers:

Keeping the distance from those office jerks -he cited a study that showed "employees who sat within 25 feet of a toxic co-worker were twice as likely to leave the company as employees who sat further away.

Slowing down the interaction (delaying response to the solicitation of the toxic person) by days, weeks or months (?!)

Having early-warning systems ("the jerk is in a bad mood today" relay).

The aforementioned coping mechanisms are probably used everywhere, but they have serious drawbacks. How far can you get from someone in a cubicle environment ? Not very far I'd guess.

Slowing down the response is hard to do in real life if you have a deadline. If you can find a surrogate for your nemesis and work with them (work by proxy ?)  the third party will notice your unease. Will they be for, or against you ? Now you have a third party's loyalty to manage.

Dr. Sutton's further methods of coping:

Looking at this another way ("she's just a jerk doing what jerks do"). Another suggestion is imaginary time travel: "think about what you'll be feeling about it three months, three years from now. "This too shall pass." This sounds more doable because it relies upon you. It rests upon you to change your mind, change your mindset and reframe a negative narrative in your head.,

Turning them from enemy to friend through "flattery, smiles, and other signs of appreciation even if not entirely sincere". Up in smokes goes being yourself but this is, in my opinion, the most promising strategy of them all. In this case, you'll re-orient (change) your mindset as well as the mindset of your nemesis.

With the so-called "Benjamin Franklin effect",asking the jerk to do you favors turns them from foe into friend. "Can I borrow your files ?" say something of that nature to instill in them the reciprocity motive.

This approach, like all the others, has its limitations. If you have a "sworn" enemy working with you at the office, they're not going to change their mind on you because you treat them differently.  If you're in this more extreme situation "it's either you or him" you'll need to make a decisive case that it's him, not you, who's the goner.

Lastly mentioned in the article is looking at yourself to see if you're not the jerk yourself.

Just don't go as far as Joe Pesci did who got eye lifts and kicked and screamed at  his dog to look the part.


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