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Dealing with the jerk at work

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  • Author: Companies should treat jerks as incompetent employees
  • Are YOU the jerk? A sign: You are quick to point out others' mistakes
  • Another sign: You secretly enjoy watching other people suffer and squirm
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By Mary Lorenz
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If you've never encountered a jerk or a bully at the office, you should consider yourself one of the lucky few.


According to Stanford University professor Robert I. Sutton in his book "The No A**hole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't," workplace jerks are everywhere, and most people will encounter one of these people over the course of their professional life. (Please note the actual title of the book does not have ** in it)

Based on an article he wrote for the Harvard Business Review, Sutton's book is a tell-it-like-it-is guide to dealing with the individuals who demean their fellow workers while undermining a company's performance.

Simply put, no office should put up with these employees.

The characters in question are typically the people often referred to as bullies, creeps, jerks, tormentors, despots, backstabbers, egomaniacs and the like.

For Sutton, their behavior in so many of today's workplaces can be damaging to not only fellow workers and the companies that employ them, but themselves as well.

"If you display contempt," he writes in chapter four, "others will respond in much the same way, igniting a vicious circle that can turn everyone around you into a mean-spirited monster just like you."

Unfortunately, many workplaces today ignore, forgive or even encourage nastiness.

So great was the outpouring of reader reactions to Sutton's article, he decided to turn it into a full-fledged book, which he hopes will serve to both comfort the many workers who must work with these jerks and help organizations eliminate these personalities.

Among the topics the book covers:

• How to differentiate one of these people from someone who simply annoys you: (One indication: After talking to the alleged offender, one feels oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled.);

• Ten steps for enforcing the rule (Step four: Treat certified jerks as incompetent employees);

• Everyday actions of workplace bullies, including rude interruptions and invading one's "personal territory";

• And a comprehensive self-test to see if you are the office jerk (Two signs: You are quick to point out others' mistakes, and you secretly enjoy watching other people suffer and squirm).

Sutton backs up his claims by offering statistics about the detrimental effects of psychological abuse and bullying. And the most impressive points? The hilarious anecdotes Sutton provides from his own experiences and those of others. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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