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How to Deal with an Office Jerk

How to Deal with an Office Jerk

By Robert M. Detman, for Yahoo! HotJobs

Office life can have its ups and downs, but having to endure a jerk can make it miserable. Office jerks take on many forms, and thus require creative strategies for dealing with them.

Here's how to handle six common types:

The Loud Phone-Talker

"Obviously the first step is to pull them aside quietly and ask them to lower their voice when using the phone," says Julie Jansen, a career coach, consultant and trainer. "If this doesn't stop them, you could dish out the same treatment and stand near their cube on your cellphone and talk loudly. Or you can hold up a sign that says, 'Please turn volume down.'"

The Hang-Arounder

When confronting the coworker who chronically lingers to chat when you are trying to make a deadline -- a subtle jerk, but a jerk nonetheless -- try standing up when they enter your office or cube. "The unspoken message of your body language will clearly tell him or her to keep it brief and head for the door," says Ken Lloyd, author of Jerks at Work: How to Deal With People Problems and Problem People.

The Idea Stealer

There is a strong possibility that this jerk can't distinguish between a good idea and a bad one. "Somewhere along the way, slip in a really bad idea and let the jerk steal that," Lloyd says. However, beware that this might only encourage the jerk to become worse.

The Meeting Monopolizer

Get creative. "Try eliminating the chairs and making it a stand-up meeting," Lloyd suggests. The monopolizer will likely get thrown off and won't have time to settle into the usual routine of unproductive dominance.

The Bully

Remember, you're not in high school anymore. "Hold your ground and refuse to be bullied," says Steve Piazzale, a career and life coach who runs "They'll usually back off over time."

The Boss

Sometimes dealing with a jerk should not be your problem, particularly if you have a manager who is a jerk. In this case you might take a look around the company and notice several jerks. "This may be part of the company culture," Piazzale says. "In which case…get out!"

General Coping Strategies

  • Passive: Avoidance is the most obvious solution if you don't want a confrontation with any type of office jerk. "You can go to your boss and ask him to intervene," says Jansen. Or, if things are really unbearable, you could ask to be relocated to another part of the office. 
  • Active: Avoidance can backfire if the jerk continues the annoying behavior. Try talking to the person. "Difficult people don't always know they're being difficult," Jansen says. "People generally don't have a very high level of self-awareness, so specific and constructive feedback is important."

If you must confront a jerk, it is wise to take the high road. "Try to understand where the behavior is coming from, and tailor your response to that," Piazzale.

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