5 Ways to Work With The Jerk in Your Office


This guest blog has been provided by Kevin Sheridan, best-selling author and innovator in the field of Employee Engagement.

Hundreds of millions of workers worldwide dread going to work every day.  But for those workers who have to work with a jerk or workplace bully, going to work is unbearable.  All of these office jerks are Actively Disengaged employees whose behaviors contribute to their coworkers’ depression, anxiety, health problems, despair, and insomnia.  The workplace negativity becomes even more palpable if the jerk is one’s manager or a member of Senior Management.

Furthermore, the jerk’s toxic behavior becomes contagious, infecting many others who may begin mistreating others as well.  In addition, the watercooler gossip mongering is equally infectious, resulting in incorrect and obnoxious rumors spreading like wildfire.

Sadly, workplace jerks and bullies are not uncommon.  Forty-eight percent of workers report either having been bullied themselves or having witnessed workplace bullying.Let’s just say that it is not an accident that a relatively recent New York Times Best Seller was called “The No Asshole Rule.”  See my related and very relevant blog on The 19 Traits Of A Horrible Boss.

So what does one do when faced with having to work with an office jerk?  Here are 5 proven solutions:

  1. Keep your distance. Taking on the workplace bully is a very risky business, as most of these jerks are highly manipulative, cunning, and crafty in the most negative possible sense.  Staying away from the intolerable jerk is the most simple and effective solution.
  1. Document and report the jerk’s behaviors and actions. First, tell your boss and ask for his or her help.  Second, report the toxic behavior to the Human Resources department, especially if the behaviors conflict with the organization’s policies, mission, and values.  Save all emails and voicemails so you have evidence in writing.  In short, ask for help.
  1. Re-frame the jerk’s behavior into a less threatening and more positive light. This solution is exactly how cognitive behavioral therapists in healthcare help patients interpret their diseases and illnesses as realities that are less upsetting, or natural challenges to “take on,” or beat.  A great example is cancer patients who are taught to adopt a mindset akin to: “I’m going to kick this cancer’s ass.”

Emotional detachment via protective reframing allows you to tune out and become emotionally distant from the jerks.  It has also been scientifically proven that when people reframe current difficulties into the distant future, they experience less depression, sadness, guilt, and anxiety.2

If you work with an office jerk, try any of the following examples of reframing their negativity:

  • Feel sorry for the jerk. “There must be something really horrible going on in their personal life.”
  • “He’s just being a jerk and this is what jerks do.”
  • “I know she can be a jerk, but I have learned quite a bit from her, particularly how not to treat others.”
  • Minimize the nastiness. “In the whole scheme of things, this is really a small matter.  I’ve climbed higher mountains.”
  • “This situation is not my fault and I’m not going to let it consume me.”
  • “This too shall pass.”
  1. Take a deep breath and go for a walk. Controlling your anger towards the jerk is critical to staying engaged and productive in your job.  Let the person play the role of being the office jerk, and keep that role separate from your work role.  To overcome the jerk’s nastiness, remember and embrace the aspects of your job and home life that make you happy.  Vent about the jerk at home if necessary, which will help you release your workplace tension.  One other obvious and viable alternative is to simply consider taking a different job somewhere else.
  1. Kill them with kindness. Turn your torturer into a friend.  (Sure, you are pretending, but being extra nice completely throws the jerk off guard).  When you take the high road and reflect niceness instead of nastiness, the jerk’s behavior only becomes more out of place.  If passing them in the hallway, show the jerk a great smile and let out a nice, positive, “Good morning!” or “Hey, how’s your day going?” 

Lastly, it is also important that you look in the mirror and be reflective—you might be the office schmuck!  If crass or judgmental comments have gone too far lately and you are indeed a jerk, it probably won’t be easy to admit it to others or yourself.  However, it’s important that you take actions to correct your behavior before it’s too late.  My friend, Ana Dutra, wrote a great book about this called Lessons in Leadershit: Detoxing the Workplace.  This book helps you not only improve your working relationships with jerks and bullies, but teaches you how to avoid becoming a jerk or bully yourself.


1Zogby Analytics/Workplace Bullying Institute Online Survey, 2014.  Note that “Bullying” was defined as these types of workplace mistreatment:  abusive conduct that is threatening, intimidating, humiliating, work sabotage, or verbal abuse.

2University of California – Berkley Psychology Study, 2014


Kevin Sheridan is an Internationally-recognized Key-Note Speaker, a New York Times Best Selling Author, and one of the most sought-after voices in the world on the topic of employee engagement.   He spent thirty years as a high-level Human Capital Management consultant, helping some of the world’s largest corporations rebuild a culture that fosters productive engagement, earning him several distinctive awards and honors. Kevin’s premier creation, PEER®, has been consistently recognized as a long- overdue, industry-changing innovation in the field of Employee Engagement.  His book, “Building a Magnetic Culture,” made six of the best seller lists including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.  He is also the author of The Virtual Manager, which explores how to most effectively manage remote workers. 

Kevin received a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School in 1988, concentrating his degree in Strategy, Human Resources Management, and Organizational Behavior.  He is also a serial entrepreneur, having founded and sold three different companies. Kevin can be reached via email at kevin@kevinsheridanllc.com, on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/kevinsheridan1 and on twitter @kevinsheridan12. His webpage is www.kevinsheridanllc.com.

Meet Your New Coworkers: Robots

This guest blog has been provided by Kevin Sheridan, best-selling author and innovator in the field of Employee Engagement.


Recent research has shown the dramatic degree to which robots are replacing people in the workplace.  In fact, it’s an alarming rate, especially considering that robots can be much more efficient than people.  With each additional robot, U.S. employment is reduced by 5.6 workers.  Furthermore, every robot added to the workforce per 1,000 workers reduces wages by as much as .25 to .5 percent.  And it is a trend that is likely to continue, with experts predicting that the number of employed robots (yes, employed), will quadruple by 2025.These fully autonomous machines do not require human supervision and can be programmed to perform myriad tasks, such as parts assembly, materials handling, painting, and welding.


The #1 Driver of Employee Engagement: Recognition

This guest blog has been provided by Kevin Sheridan, best-selling author and innovator in the field of Employee Engagement.

Scientifically proven through Key Driver Analyses done by multiple employee research organizations, nothing beats recognizing employees for their hard work.  In partnership with the ATD, this video reveals:

  • The single greatest mistake organizations make vis-à-vis Recognition.
  • The three-step recipe for making Recognition efforts most impactful.
  • The importance of establishing a peer-to-peer Recognition platform.


6 Easy Ways to Engage Salespeople

This guest blog has been provided by Kevin Sheridan, best-selling author and innovator in the field of Employee Engagement.

Last week I conducted a Leadership Development workshop for a large Fortune 500 company on the East Coast.  The workshop centered on the very hot topic of how to successfully engage a sales force and reap the benefits of that engagement.  The sales managers and salespeople attending the event left on a real high, fully ready to take their game to a whole new level.



Managing Generational Differences and Culture at Work

This guest blog has been provided by Kevin Sheridan, best-selling author and innovator in the field of Employee Engagement.

Ever sense generational friction in your workplace? You are not alone. This workplace tension is most common between Baby Boomers and Millennials. Luckily, there are a variety of things you can do to improve coworker comradery despite generational differences. Subtle changes can go a long way in improving your company culture and boosting employee retention. Here’s how.


8 Tips For Awesome Onboarding Of Millennials

This guest blog has been provided by Kevin Sheridan, best-selling author and innovator in the field of Employee Engagement.

Businesswomen shaking hands in meeting room at creative office

Let’s face it:  Millennials are different.  As such, their onboarding process should be different and very unlike the onboarding process experienced by Gen Xrs and Boomers.  In fact, the very first weeks of a Millennial’s employment will largely determine their career trajectory within your organization.

A 2014 Bentley University Study revealed that the majority of Millennial graduates gave themselves a C- when it came to their level of preparedness to enter the workforce.  Thus, when they arrive at your company’s door, the importance of your onboarding process takes on a whole new meaning.  This statistic really underscores the importance of onboarding for this all-important generation (as of last year, the largest single generation in the workforce).

Inspired by a recent keynote presentation I gave on the subject, here are the eight sure-fire ways to properly onboard Millennials such that they are not only retained, but also are fully engaged members of your team:


The Perils of Disengagement

This guest blog has been provided by Kevin Sheridan, best-selling author and innovator in the field of Employee Engagement.

In partnership with the Association for Training & Development, this video explores just how damaging it can be to tolerate Actively Disengaged employees on your team.  I should know.  My former account stole $110,000 from my company over the years.  But even worse, she sabotaged a deal I teed up to sell the company.  (The potential buyer was an auditing firm and she was scared the transaction would unearth her secret, so she stopped at nothing to avoid being caught.)  This shows how employees who don’t have the company’s best interest at heart cannot be tolerated.  You must learn to look for the core characteristics of these workplace arsonists and gossip mongers, and then transition them out of your organization.  All best-in-class employers actively migrate these worst workers out of their organizations.  Does yours?