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How to Deal with a Jerk at Work

Watching that jerk pull his moves with his co-workers on TV can be pretty funny. When it’s Michael Scott (of The Office) or Ron Swanson (of Parks and Recreation) who’s making his workmates miserable with his office antics, it’s something to laugh at -but when it’s happening in your own workplace, not so much. 

See Also: 5 Annoying Colleagues Everyone Has (and How to Deal with Them)

Being stuck with the office asshole might be amusing in the fictional world, but in real life, they can make you downright miserable. From snarky comments to a high-and-mighty attitude to downright sabotage of your work, having to work so closely to that jerk may make you turn to thoughts of violence. 

If you want to keep your job - and stay out of jail - you’re going to have to find ways to deal with that jerk at work.

1. Blame his Childhood

Whenever you’re having trouble relating to someone, it can help to think of how they must have been as a small, vulnerable child. Think of that jerk of a co-worker being brow-beaten by his mother, or ignored by his father, and then think of how you’d have turned out if that had happened to you. It won’t necessarily make that jerk stop what he’s doing and see the error of his ways, but hey, at least it will give you some sense of compassion.

2. Make Friends With his Bros

If that jerk is really making your life all that miserable, then there’s a good chance he has allies. They could be the type of people who can’t say no to a megalomaniac such as the one you’re dealing with, and therefore become his minions. They could also be almost equally jerky - but maybe you don’t have to work so directly with them. 

Take note of who your jerk of a co-worker hangs out with at lunch, or with whom he makes plans for happy hour. Then make a concerted effort to make friends with that person. You might have carried out a similar tactic when you were in junior high school. To get the bully off your back, you joined his posse in the spirit of “if you can’t beat em join em.” That’s the same thing you can try now. Ask his friends out for a beer, or share some of the treats you know they love. Jerks need alliances too -and if you’re slowly becoming allied with the jerk’s buddies, you might be surprised to find that the jerk slowly comes around too.

3. Get Real With Him

Sometimes you’re dealing with the type of jerk who’s simply oblivious to the fact that he’s being an asshole at all. You might wonder how he made it through life thus far with such a horrible attitude, but it is what it is. If you suspect that’s the type of jerk you’re dealing with, he may simply need a talking-to. In other words, it may be time for a confrontation. 

Don’t just go in with your guns blazing, however. Instead, try some of the same tactics that you tried when you made alliances with his friends. Ask him to join you for a beer. Bring him a treat, or do him a favor and do a part of his job for him. (Of course, that last one could backfire if you’re dealing with the jerk who’s more than happy to let you do his work for him with no thanks or recognition in return.) 

Butter him up and try to get on his good side. Then get real with him and ask him if there’s something you can do to help you both get along better. In the best-case scenario, he’ll have been clueless about the fact that you think he’s an ass, and he’ll make more of an effort from here on out. In the worst-case scenario, he’ll declare that he just can’t stand you, and you’ll at least know that you’re in an all-out war with this horrible person.

4. Do Better Work Than He Does

If the situation between you two is bad enough, your bosses might have noticed. And if and when the time comes that the boss has to work toward more workplace harmony and has to decide between you, you need to be the one the boss chooses. 

How to do that? You simply have to be better than that jerk. Show up earlier than he does. Stay later. Always ensure that the volume of work you’re doing is more than he’s doing -and that you’re doing better work than he does. If you really value your job and it’s one you want to keep for the long term, all the extra effort will be worth it if he’s one day out on the unemployment line and you’re the one safely employed.

5. Dish Out Some of His Own Medicine

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Then there are the times when workplace harmony is out the window, and you don’t care whether or not you stay or go. It’s never good to burn bridges, so consider this one carefully... but now may be the time to bring the big guns and to show that jerk exactly what it’s like to have to work with him. 

In other words, act just like he acts. If he gets in a huff anytime you ask him for anything, do the same when he asks things of you. If he openly demeans you or makes fun of you, get good at doing the same thing to him. Maybe -just maybe- he will take notice of your new, horrible behavior and will confront you about it. That’s the perfect time to let him know that you’re trying to show him how he acts toward everyone else. It might backfire and end up with you completely destroying any semblance of a working relationship the two of you had, but hey, at least you got to say your piece.

6. Make a Subtle Case With the Boss

No one likes a tattletale, and your boss is likely no exception. Still, you do have ways to tell your boss about the horrible way that co-worker treats you -and everyone- in a more subtle manner. If you’re involved in human resources or you have a say about workplace policies, talk to your boss in a generic way about creating a set of behavioral rules for the workplace, as well as guidelines about how people can report poor behaviors. That’s one way to help take jerks to task. 

You can try being the tattletale in more subtle ways too. Didn’t get a project done on time because of the jerk’s poor behavior? Let the boss know that you were waiting for the jerk’s portion of the project. Lost a client because of the jerk’s terrible customer service skills? Share the review the client wrote with the boss.

You don’t have to come right out and say “this guy’s a jerk, fire him,” but by showing the boss how the person’s behavior is affecting the business’ bottom line, your boss might be able to read between the lines.

See Also: 6 Worst Ways to Handle Annoying Colleagues

And finally, if the boss is the jerk - or the jerk is a family member or close friend of the boss- your only recourse may be to start looking for another job. Some “jerk problems” can be dealt with, while the solution for other ones may simply be to walk away.

How do you deal with the office jerk? Let us know in the comment section below.

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