On Tuesday we talked about working with someone who had poor boundaries, but what can you do if someone you work with is simply a jerk?
Unfortunately, this is a much more difficult situation, in large part because the other person is quite possibly not even well-meaning. So the first thing to do is simply to acknowledge that some people are just straight-up horrible! In fact, in that situation, you can probably find some support among other people in the office, and if it’s appropriate, you can talk to your manager. Jerky behaviors often skate close to—or over—official workplace policies or employment laws, so it wouldn’t be a terrible thing to check in with your boss, provided your boss isn’t part of the jerk culture of the office.
Another thing you can do is to see your horrible coworker as a caricature of horrible coworkers, which will at least let you see humor in the situation. You can even make jokes with your colleagues, but a couple notes of caution there:
1)NEVER do this over email or anything else on your work computer, even if you’re both using personal email addresses. (The computer itself is company property, and thus subject to the whims of your employer.)
2) If you’re going to make jokes with others, be sure to do it when you’re away from the office. You don’t want any of your coping mechanisms to be overheard by people who are supportive of The Jerk, or for toxic little ears to overhear your discontent.
Your third option is the most challenging: you can call your coworker out. Not in public, obviously, and not in a confrontational way, but earnestly and with the true hope of working things out. Yeah, I know, I hate this too, but if you’ve tried the first two options without success, this may the best next step. If you’re going to do this, first see if you have some allies in the office. If you can get feedback from a few people, it can be a little more comfortable: “Several people have complained to me that your jokes feel racist sometimes, and I just wanted to let you know that. It makes you hard to work with, and I don’t think that’s something you want.” Of course, this isn’t always the case, which is harder. Often I find that the office a-hole only behaves that way in particular situations, or is friends with the Big Boss, which makes a confrontation a lot more difficult and a lot less likely to have a positive outcome. But I still encourage you to try because there are lots of jerks in the world, and dealing with one effectively (or putting your foot in it and learning what not to do) will equip you for things like this in the future. It will also let you consider your final option with the knowledge that you did all you could to remedy the situation.
And, of course, that final thing you can do when you have a coworker who’s just a horrible person is to begin looking at exit strategies. If you like the other aspects of what you do, I would encourage you to hold off on this most dramatic step as much as possible, because your previous attempts might still bear fruit. However, this is a very personal decision, and you will know when you simply can’t take it anymore. When that happens, you’re going to need to take some serious action steps so you can get out without biting someone (https://www.askamanager.org/2017/07/i-bit-my-coworker.html). If you’re unsure how to go about that, check out my free video series, https://www.subscribepage.com/QuirkyQuit.