How to Have Compassion for the Office Jerk


There’s the micro-manager, the credit stealer, the work shirker, the back-handed complimenter, the underminer, the liar, the manipulator, the say one thing and do another person, the talks over you in meetings person, the goes around your back person, the stabs you in the back person, the throws you under the bus person, the shoots down all your ideas person, the kicks up a fuss over things that are none of their business person, the blows up at the tiniest infraction person, … you get the idea.


There’s a lot of jerks in a lot of offices.


And in my job as a leadership coach, I hear stories about them every day. Maddening, frustrating, sometimes jaw-dropping, gasp-inducing stories. And each time, my client has the same question – what is to be done about this terrible, awful, no-good person?


My answer is always, “Start with compassion”.


Even the most toxic, malignant, narcissistic sociopath deserves your compassion. Because they didn’t get that way by accident. Something bad happened to them. Something very bad that caused this dysfunctional, hurtful, counterproductive, harmful behavior. Usually that bad thing happened in childhood. For some reason, they didn’t get the love and care they deserved. And defense mechanisms were built.


If this isn’t enough to evoke your compassion, let me give you one more fact about the office jerk. Under all the bluster and poison and selfishness and boastfulness is a core of massive, unbearable self-loathing.


So, start with compassion.


But then know that compassion must be paired with accountability. Without accountability, compassion is just enablement. And we are definitely not trying to enable jerky behavior.


Develop a strategy for working with them. How can you get the most out of them without betraying yourself? Set your expectations. Set your boundaries. Hold the jerk to them.


Will it always work out? No. Sometimes you have to fire the jerk. Or if that’s not possible, you may be the one who has to move on (be it physically or emotionally or both).


And through it all, remember: No one wants to be the office jerk. It’s a terrible way to live.


Just start with compassion.


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