Most of us approach January with excitement and anticipation to start the new year off right. We see it as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean from the previous year of ups and downs, and we set resolutions for a successful 2018.
While our visions of success may vary, they usually involve a combination of professional and personal success. Perhaps you’re looking forward to career advancement, making more money, or being happier and less stressed this year. But try as we might, some of us will have difficulty achieving that success. Especially if we work with jerks.
One Goal for the New Year: Learn to Work with Jerks
Why not start off your year by focusing on one goal that can give you a lot of bang for your buck? Strive to improve your relationships with the people you work with -- especially the jerks. In my work as a business consultant, I have learned that all employees and business leaders have one thing in common -- they struggle when it comes to working with jerks.
I am sure you have an idea of who a “work jerk” is: someone who is rude, sarcastic, bossy or even worse. They make our life at work incredibly stressful. At his or her core, a work jerk is someone who doesn’t have the social skills to be successful or even tolerable at work. These people fail to leverage workplace relationships to improve productivity, performance, or morale.
Work jerks are problematic because they can affect your company’s bottom line, as well as your health and wellbeing. Research shoes that we can spend up to three hours per week dealing with conflict from jerks rather than focusing on getting our own work done. This can be taxing on your mind as well as your body. Because it’s taxing on your mind and body, some people would rather not show up to work. In fact, 1 out of 4 people don’t show up to work due to being too stressed, too sick, or too tired of dealing with jerks.
Not addressing the “how to work with jerks” challenge in the workplace is costly to individuals and companies alike. Most individuals go to great lengths to avoid them jerks, missing out on key meetings or collaborations. Others get so fed up with dealing with jerks that they leave the company --- voluntarily or involuntarily. And for employers, it can cost nearly 200% more than that employee’s salary to find a replacement. Dealing with jerks also leads to poor relationships, and these poor relationships cause resentment, hostility and, sadly, workplace violence. In 2017, workplace violence accounted for nearly 13% of aggravated assaults and nearly 18 % of simple assaults in America.
Establishing Good Workplace Relationships
As someone who works with organizations that want to create workplace environments where employees feel valued, appreciated, and acknowledged, I understand that workplace relationships are in high demand in 2018 and are paramount to productivity. Establishing good workplace relationships with your colleagues and superiors leads to improved morale, which leads to improved employee engagement, improved performance, and productivity. It doesn’t matter how experienced, talented, and gifted you are, you simply can’t get your work done or be successful without relying on others. As such, you won’t get very far in your career and you will always be somewhat ineffective at what you do if you can’t establish healthy working relationships.
The best way we can start off a successful new year is by improving our relationships with the people we work with, especially work jerks.
How can we do this? Despite common practice, or what you may have experienced yourself, the answer is NOT:
These options only help you become a jerk yourself! And becoming a jerk only makes matters worse. Avoiding the situation sends a message that you condone their behavior. And it is only a matter of time until things come to a head and you blow up at that person. Trust me, you don’t want that to happen (that’s how I became a temporary jerk when I got my first job).
The AAA Method for Not Letting Your Emotions Get the Best of You
When dealing with conflict from jerks, we often have the tendency to let our emotions get the best of us. We react without considering the consequences of our actions. This not only makes a bad situation worse; it causes us to behave like jerks too! Instead of making an impulsive decision when engaged in a heated discussion, we need to take a more measured approach, demonstrate poise, and respond thoughtfully and professionally. This may sound easier said than done; however, this is possible.
Consider my 3-step process that helps you manage tough situations, improve relationships with others, and achieve better workplace results with the people you can’t stand (especially the jerks). I call it the AAA Method: Assess, Analyze, Act. Participants in my training workshops have found tremendous value when using the AAA Method to deal with conflict in the workplace. But the only way it works is through deliberate practice. It requires a conscious effort to employ these steps while in conflict.
Step 1: Assess the situation. When dealing with conflict at work or in your personal life, it’s important to assess the situation. This involves not only being aware of your emotions and how you are feeling, but how the other person is feeling. Reflect on a specific situation you have experienced to identify these emotions. What does your behavior or body language signal to the other person? What behavior or body language does that person signal to you? Sometimes when we are stressed or dealing with a difficult situation, we can exhibit at least one or more of the following reactions: our heart may beat faster, we can get shortness of breath, we may clinch up or experience sweaty palms. How do you respond when stressed at work?
Not only should you be aware of your body gestures and others’ body gestures, you should also be aware of the current situation or the circumstance. For example:
Step 2: Analyze the situation. Once you have assessed the situation and are aware of what your emotions and behaviors are signaling to others, the next step is to analyze your emotions and behaviors. Determine why you are feeling stressed. What situation has occurred that has caused you to feel stressed? Additionally, seek to understand and reflect on the thoughts and feelings of the other person involved. For example:
Step 3: Act. Once you have a full understanding of the situation (meaning you are aware of what has caused you or the other person to be stressed and you understand what may be contributing to these feelings), you can respond and act most appropriately. This is one of the most important steps because it prevents you from allowing your emotions to get the best of you and keeps you from making an impulsive decision you will most likely regret.
Remember, in conflict, we cannot always be right. When you take the time to assess and analyze the situation, you may determine you are in the wrong, which may require you to apologize or adjust your response.
Practice Makes Perfect
The AAA Method must be practiced repeatedly if you want to work better with jerks. Many times, when we are caught up in the heat of the moment, we skip directly to step 3 and act based on how we are feeling at that moment. This causes more problems, including jeopardizing our careers and worsening relationships. Following this Assess/Analyze/Act process in order will help you communicate more effectively with all generations in the workforce, mitigate conflict before it comes to a head, and prevent you from making a rash decision that you may regret.
We do not always get to choose the people who we work with. We do, however, get to choose how we handle the relationships with the people we work with -- -especially jerks. Avoiding jerks, telling them off, or committing violent acts are not good solutions in the short term or the long term. When you deal with jerks by becoming a jerk, you make the situation worse.
Eric Williamson is a keynote speaker and author of the forthcoming book How to Work with Jerks. For more information about a keynote speech or training workshop for your organization, visit www.tailoredtrainingsolutions.com.