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Work With a Jerk? Here's How to Handle It

Work With a Jerk? Here's How to Handle It
Credit: Mr.Exen/Shutterstock

Have you ever felt like one of your colleagues was picking on you? You're not alone. According to a survey by managed and cloud-hosting solutions provider Connectria Hosting, 55 percent of workers have been bullied at work, and 65 percent have dreaded coming into the office because of a co-worker.

But bullies aren't the only bad personalities you have to watch out for: The Connectria study surveyed 250 U.S. IT professionals and found that 83 percent of respondents have worked with a "jerk" within the last five years, including know-it-alls (30 percent), bullies (26 percent), complainers (21 percent), brown-nosers (16 percent) and office gossips (4 percent).

The behavior of these types of employees affects more than just the person on the receiving end of it. Low employee morale, decreased product quality and the inability to get work done are just a few of the adverse effects of a workplace inhabited by office jerks.

"If you work in an environment with objectionable people, it causes stress on everyone who has to work with them," said Rich Waidmann, president and CEO of Connectria. "[In addition to] poor teamwork and lower productivity from the group, you're likely to see lower job satisfaction and higher absenteeism."

If leaders want to cultivate a more positive work environment — and consequently increase morale and job satisfaction — they need to take a stance against "office jerks" and encourage their teams to get along and respect one another, Waidmann said. However, Connectria's survey found that less than half of companies have an official zero-tolerance bullying policy, so bad behavior can often go unchecked if no one reports it. [Bullying in the Office: Why You Need a Policy]

While it's impossible to fully eliminate all negative interactions between colleagues, everyone can do their part to improve workplace relationships by addressing issues head-on. Waidmann noted that sometimes people who exhibit jerk behavior don't even realize that what they're doing bothers others, and other times, people know and just don't care. In either case, it is important to explain the problem in a direct and professional manner.

"Unacceptable behaviors have to be spelled out clearly and without emotion," Waidmann told Business News Daily. "[People need to know] how and why their jerk behavior affects others, how it is damaging the company, and why it can't continue. When they make improvements, they should be given positive reinforcement. If they hit a few speed bumps, they need to be reminded of the acceptable behavior. It definitely requires coaching, but no one ever said managing people was easy."

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. Nicole served as the site's managing editor until January 2018, and briefly ran Business.com's copy and production team. Follow her on Twitter.