When Your Workmate is a Jerkmate

It seems that almost every workplace has at least one.  That person who makes you inwardly cringe. The one that makes you take unplanned left turns to avoid having to deal with them.  It’s the workmate who you silently wish would get stuck in the elevator.  Forever.   Or maybe develop a a fatal illness.  Or at least find another job.

These little bandits of your peace of mind range from the petty annoyance to the sociopath-in-training. But there’s one thing they all have in common.  They disrupt your productivity.  Need some help dealing with them?  That help is here!

Dealing With The Odd Personality

There are three general ways you can manage your involuntary relationship with those annoying people at work.

  • Ignore them.  If they’re not directly involved with you on a regular basis, teach yourself to ignore them.  One of the best ways to do this is to re-frame them and their behavior.  For example, in your mind’s eye visualize them wearing a clown suit.  You’ll find yourself smiling at the occasional interaction, and they won’t even know why.
  • Take action.  Whether it’s an honest conversation with them to create a more tolerable situation, or taking it to the boss or HR, taking some kind of action shows respect for your own feelings.  Your boundaries need to be set and clear.
  • Divorce yourself from them.  Sometimes negative influences in our life need to be exercised.  If the offensive behavior is such that it’s affecting your performance and therefore your future, the best route might be for you to find a better work environment.

The Schmuck In My Office

If the general tips above don’t move you towards a solution, you may need to dig deeper.  Jody Foster (M.D., not the actress) has just authored a book that provides insights and ways to deal with the workmate who is your nightmare big and small. From her book, do any of these sound familiar?

  • Narcissus:  The condescending attention-seeker who carelessly steps on everyone’s toes.
  • The Flytrap:  The bringer of chaos whose emotional instability causes an office maelstrom.
  • Bean Counter: The orderly perfectionist who never gives up control, even when it’s full steam ahead to disaster.
  • The Robot:  The unreadable stone wall who just can’t connect.

She goes on to discuss The Swindler, The Eccentric, and a host of others.  And offers some useful observations and advice, such as:

“Avoiding a pattern of behavior will not cause it to magically disappear but will instead allow it to fester.”

“While most of us don’t have a friend killed by Narcissus’s extremes of self-loving, we all know that person who seems to stare [at their reflection] in the pool just a little too long.”

schmuck in the office

But make no mistake.  Foster’s book isn’t just a lighthearted reading.  It’s a well-documented reference source full of practical and proven ways of dealing with the difficult personality.   Unless you’re planning on becoming a digital nomad, working and traveling alone, this is a great addition to the “how to deal with people” section of your library.  Definitely worthy of a reading because, yes, the world does have an endless supply of schmucks.  There comes one now!


Linda Allen

I'm a serial entrepreneur, with a resume that makes me look like a Jane of all trades. Pretty sure we are all reluctant Messiahs, travelling through life planting seeds where ever we can. Hopefully, most of mine have been good ones! MA from Miami University (Ohio, not Florida), BA from Cal State.

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