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Dealing with Jerks at Work

In the just-released I HATE PEOPLE! Kick Loose from the Overbearing and Underhanded Jerks at Work and Get What You Want Out of Your Job (Little, Brown and Company) Jonathan Littman and Marc Hershon offer an irreverent guide to outfoxing underminers, micromanagers and backstabbers who prowl the corporate minefield. Women For Hire asked them Five Questions.

1) Generally speaking, how do overbearing and underhanded jerks treat women differently from men in the workplace?

If the jerks in question happen to be men, their behavior can tend to be more aggressive because they may typecast the female employee as a weaker opponent. The Bulldozers may be louder, the Spreadsheets may whip out a bigger rulebook and Smiley Face may bare more teeth.

2) Either by nature or nurture, what hurdles do women – as opposed to men — have in dealing with jerks at work?

In the case of many of our Ten Least Wanted, the behavior of the archetypes can often be seen as a dysfunction. Those women with a nurturing personality may fall into the trap of trying to fix the jerk. Don’t bother. It’s not your job. Focus on your projects and your career.

3) What works best for women when dealing with jerks? Anger, emotion, none or both?

None. An emotional response tends to intensify the conflict. The key to effectively dealing with the Ten Least Wanted is to never let them get under your skin. If a particular jerk proves especially problematic, a report filed with Human Resources can do wonders without ever having to confront said jerk directly.

4) My boss is a man and a jerk and after considerable thought I have decided to act. I need a few do’s and don’ts before I confront him.

Make sure you’ve got your ducks in a row. Depending on the jerk’s transgressions, is there an e-mail or paper trail? Are there dependable witnesses – other employees that can back up your story? It’s important to know what kind of jerk you’re dealing with up front.

If the boss is a Stop Sign, prone to shutting down your every idea, your confrontation may never get off the ground. Make sure you’ve got enough ammo going in. On the other hand if the boss is a Liar Liar he’ll try everything he can to attack your story. That’s why you need the witnesses or the smoking gun e-mail.

5) My boss is a woman and a jerk. Ditto some do’s and don’ts.

When it comes to jerks their sex isn’t as important as just knowing that they are simply jerks. The remedy for their behavior is frequently the same regardless of whether you are dealing with a man or a woman. If the female jerk is a Spreadsheet, for example, often it pays to embrace their love of the rules and The Way Things Must Be Done. By giving them minor tangents to Spreadsheet about, you often can find your way clear of their more distracting interferences.


  1. Letta

    Where did America go? and where is our land of the brave and home of the free these days? So many judgemental employers using credit reports as criteria for hiring these days is making an already depressed nation even more depressed and do not deserve to continue on in business. This is wrong- PERIOD! The inability to pay one’s bills is directly related to one’s inablity to find a JOB or other unexpected occurrances such as death of a spouse, serious illness or loss of a job. I know many persons in collections will say – well they should’ve made arrangements -or if they’d have just called us – or doctor’s offices that say if they’d have just sent us $5 a month – then we wouldn’t have turned them into collections. Sweetie – make arrangements with what moneies? Your logic is flawed and a way to relieve your concious. One’s ablity to do the job and personal reputation with former employers is the ONLY criteria that should be allowed for the hiring process. I will not knowingly deal with companies that use credit reports as hiring criteria. PERIOD. That includes hospitals, doctors, etc. Our government – of the people, for the people and by the people – needs to start helping THE PEOPLE soon or we will perish from the face of the earth.

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