6 things to do so you’re not a jerk at work

photo Jerk1. Don’t be a jerk.
Whether they cop to it or not, the majority of people absolutely know when they’re being a jerk. They hurt someone’s feelings, make someone look stupid, argue for no real reason, throw someone under a bus. And when it’s not that obvious, there’s a visceral feeling in your gut that tells you I’m not being a very agreeable person right now. With the rare exception of a small group of oblivious humans who are completely unaware of other people’s feelings, most realize when they’re being a jerk, even if they pretend they don’t. You know. Look in the mirror, and don’t be one.

2. Keep your ego in check
I believe ego is the #1 producer of jerkdom in business, and the #1 thing that brings men down. Yes, some women, too, but I find overblown ego is a largely male flaw. Maybe it has something to do with testosterone or alpha-dog dynamics. Whatever the reason, it inspires epically wrong decisions. Just read the paper about the executive, or politician-du-jour whose career is ruined because of some horribly misguided, ego-driven choice.

Keeping your ego in check is easy to say, but very hard to do. Besides the inner workings of the male psyche, often times credit leads to raise, promotion or bonus, so people try to make it all about them, what they did. Point that spotlight right over here. What they don’t realize is everyone wants credit, to feel good about their efforts. Yes, it’s okay to take some of the credit if you actually deserve it, but taking all the credit only causes people to dislike you. So don’t be driven by ego. If you make it all about you, others will make it all about what a jerk you are.

3. Be all about the work
It’s amazing how much time people spend on everything but the work…the politics, the gossip, the griping, the frivolous, task-avoiding conversations. Just think how much the quality of the work itself would improve if they shifted all that wasted effort to making the job better. Don’t get me wrong, a small portion should be given to politics, so you don’t get naively blind-sided. And griping is your right as a worker in America. Just limit the time, please.

When you’re so deeply concerned about things other than the work, it taints your decision-making. If you care more about sticking it to someone else, protecting your job, or trying to look good in front of your boss, people don’t respect your decisions because they know they are wrongly motivated. If you care about the work, and nothing but the work, the people may not agree with your decisions, but they respect them. Pretty simple stuff.

4. Know where your job ends and someone else’s begins.
Some people focus so much on making sure colleagues are doing their jobs that they screw up their own jobs royally. How annoying. Worry about what you’re doing. Get that right, then if there’s any time left, which there really shouldn’t be, perhaps offer to help others with their jobs. Even then, you’re probably not qualified.

No task is completed in a vacuum by one person. It takes an assembly line of activity to get to the result. Do your part. Let others do theirs. Because when everyone performs his or her own particular expertise, the job almost always goes more smoothly, and turns out higher quality.

5. Respect that great ideas can come from anywhere.
I see this storyline all the time: Sally or Jimmy are labeled as “good workers” but not the ones who come up with big ideas. Don’t write people off like that. Now yes, big ideas are more readily available to some than others, but that doesn’t mean everyone can’t have them. You never know.
Rather than dismissing some outright, be opened-minded to ideas from all directions. And if you’re the boss, rather than pointing the finger at other’s lack of ability, perhaps look at yourself. Are you inspiring them enough? Giving clear, motivating direction? Recognizing their nuggets that can be turned into gems? Or are you just looking for the easy way out where people walk in with brilliant, finished ideas, neatly wrapped in a bow? Good luck with that one.

6. Listen, then decide.
If you’re the boss, you get paid to decide. That’s your job. But that doesn’t mean you must be an autocrat, and only consult your own head when making a decision. Listen to the people who work for you, if you hired properly, they should have lots of good ideas and valid points. Then, even if you don’t use their thinking, they will respect that you actually listened and considered it. Not that hard.

Remember, it’s easier than you think to not be a jerk. And don’t kid yourself that you didn’t realize you were being one. You choose to be a jerk. And you choose not to be.

rob@thebam.com
CCO, The Baiocco And Maldari Connection

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