The Jerk Quotient for Leaders
Jerks expect respect but don’t extend it.
The gap between respect extended and respect expected is the jerk quotient for leaders. Peons earn respect. But, the power chair is enough for jerks.
Jerks throw their weight around. Rudeness, privileges, temper flairs, and special exceptions are normal. “Important” leaders – who are jerks – walk on others because they can.
Jerks think they’re better than others. Arrogant leaders – who possess authority – express power rudely. They resent it when you speak like an equal, for example.
Disagreements bring out the worst in jerks.
How to disagree nicely:
The term “nice” feels weak to me. But, learning to be nice when you disagree elevates you above jerkiness.
Learn to disagree without being disagreeable.
Nice doesn’t have to be weak.
- Say no kindly. Tone and facial expression matter.
- Start fresh often. Create new starting points by refusing to bring up the past. The need to bring up past failures or offenses suggests deeper issues.
- Express gratitude repeatedly. Jerks can’t say thanks when they disagree. Try saying, “I’m thankful you care enough to disagree on this issue.” Or, “Thank you for bringing your perspective.”
- Avoid saying no as punishment. “You were bad last week so I’m saying no.” Allow ideas to stand on their own whoever they come from.
- Say yes without tweaking. Jerks love to say, “Yes…BUT,” and then explain why their yes really is no.
Don’t let another’s bad behavior be your excuse to be a jerk. Respect is a matter of your heart not another’s behavior. Using another’s behavior as an excuse to act disrespectfully is a jerks excuse for lack of character.
See suggestions from Facebook followers on how to disagree without being disagreeable.
Bonus: “20 Ways to Gain the Respect You Deserve.”
How can leaders disagree without being disagreeable?
How can leaders extend respect?
The single best boost to morale is for their leaders to roll up theirs leave and do the worse job in the building when the need arises. If this means cleaning the toilet when the cleaning person calls off then so be it. Ordering someone else (whose job also doesn’t include cleaning toilets) because you don’t do such a “crappy” (pun intended) job makes you a jerk.
The point isn’t about the job, it is that you shouldn’t ask others to do what you can’t/won’t do. Others need to know that you both know and care about what they do. If you don’t know how to do a subordinates job either have them teach you or at least acknowledge their expertise. If you can’t/won’t do this you might be a jerk.
KaChing… man you said that powerfully.
Am guessing you might have meant ‘worst job’ in the building, however, you are also accurate that the bosses often do the ‘worse job’ when requires getting down and dirty because it has been too long since they did that work. We see that frequently on theundercover boss show.
I can disagree without being disagreeable by just sharing honestly how I feel about the topic being bantered about. Give other folks the honored space to state their truth like I hope they give me.
I can extend respect by really listening to others with an open mind and a willing heart.
Try being a real human being for a change not playing the role my ego tells me I am.
Shifterp back to now!!!
The “I” feel is essential. I can tell I’m getting off base when I start telling people how THEY feel.
Reblogged this on Movers, Shakers, Leadership Makers.
“Nice” post Dan – i agree with you. I particularly like your comment about not bringing up the past – what matters is NOW and what must be done (Michael’s toilets for example) – history only brings you to this moment, leadership takes you past it.
One other element is not having special unofficial privileges for yourself that don’t apply to the others you work with – that qualifies you as a super-Jerk.
You can’t pretend to be just like the others ( also a flaw) but you must show empathy patience and understanding – if you don’t lead with these qualities no-one else will create them for you – and part of that means you don’t make yourself ‘beyond’ the rules.
Thanks for you comment Richard.
“History brings you to this moment, leadership takes you past it.” — KaChing!
Your thoughts on pretending we are just like others are so useful as well. When leaders pretend to be like everyone else they diminish themselves. Everyone sees our fakery anyway.
Either we act like jerks or we don’t. Our choice. I’m glad you stated that. We often make excuses or model behaviors of others because that is easy. I don’t tolerate jerks, and maybe that is a little bit of the jerk in me coming out. But I’m comfortable with that.
I remember one incidence where one person was not respected by his own community but by lower community. The reason was simple- he belonged to the community that was in minority and he used to interact with lower level of employees like peon, watch-guards and subordinates. And group of his own community as workplace created distance. When I met with the person and had long interaction, discussion over a period of times, I was stunned to know the facts. Professional community group used to discriminate and differentiate with the person. They were not willing to accept that he deserve to be there even the person had remarkable achievement in his academic career. Such prejudiced behavior created such uncomfortable environment that infected almost everyone who where were in management ladder.
Whenever any director used to join, he used to get news from different sources and it influenced the perception.
I tried to understand why such situation takes place despite people being knowledgeable and matured. I also try to find out answer as how to deal in such situation.
In such situations, leaders can always be agreeable to many but disagreeably to one. And based on such practices, it is hard to define how leaders can either extend, deserve or command respect. I still do not have answer.
There are three parts to offering an Olive branch; Selecting the right one, offering it in the right way and thirdly how it is received. How well the first two are done determines the outcome of the third. As I know from my own at times unreasonable responses (Jerk supreme) knowledge and maturity never stops us from being complete Jerks – only (what you have spoken of before Ajay) – having a presence of mind and actions and acceptance of responsibility for what comes our way.
Great point Croadie about offering it the right way…that’s a big one along with right time (usually sooner, but not always)
The good news is that there is no ‘perfect’ jerk or 100% jerk 100% of the time…so we still have something to aspire to! Super-jerk…wasn’t that a Rick James song? 😉
“Respect is a matter of your heart not another’s behavior.”
– a great nugget.
The good news is that jerk-dom is fairly predictable like a snowstorm we usually know where it comes from, so we can be prepared.
..of course the inside job of repaying evil with evil still rages, which is why I like the takeaway nugget above.
Repaying evil with evil… now thats a jerk-boss. And a kick in the pants too.
Hi Dan, I’d love to hear your thoughts on Steve Jobs. According to most all accounts he was a “jerk” and yet he built one of the best companies in the world while being that jerk. You could respond that Apple could have been that much better had he not been the jerk he was. That said, he still built a darn good company dispite his jerkiness. Thoughts?
Great observation and question. I’ve talked with folks that worked closely with Steve. One of his close VP’s said his days ate Apple were the most exciting of his career. They were tough but great.
My only thought is don’t use an exception to make a rule. In other words, I question the assumption that goes:
Apple was built by a jerk boss therefore if I want to build a company like Apple, I should be a jerk.
Too often I’ve seen jerks who rose to high levels completely unchecked because no one ever told them they were jerks.
It is hard, maybe impossible, to point out to someone above you that they’re a jerk, but when you see a peer being a jerk, please do everyone in your workplace a favor, and point it out to them. It can be done kindly, and in a way that actually builds your relationship with them.
Example: I worked in a place where our VP was a world-class jerk. So lower level managers seemed to feel comfortable with exhibiting those same behaviors (talk about a toxic workplace!). I pointed out to one of those managers that she was exhibiting similar behaviors as our much-hated leader, and told her I knew she was a better person than that, and that in her heart, she wanted to be a manager who led by motivation and inspiration, not by fear and intimidation. Voila! This manager is now giving a lot more thought
to how she interacts with her peers and direct reports, and treating others more respect.
If we want a better culture in our workplaces, we can’t just sit back and wait for our leadership to work on changing it. It is up to all of us to find kind, non-jerky ways to motivate our peers to treat us as they would want to be treated.
I learned THE biggest object lesson of my life regarding respect about 15 years ago. A small insurance services company hired me to improve sales in their most underperforming area. In three years, revenue in this area nearly doubled. There was never one word of appreciation or hint of respect for this accomplishment. In year #4, the CEO (who I reported to directly) loaded me with non-sales responsibilities; then demonstrated his (lack of) respect by publicly berating me one day in front of the entire staff for not making fast enough progress on a negotiations project with a major vendor.
I gave him my two weeks notice that day, and promised myself to never stoop so low as to be publicly disrespectful to anyone.
love the part on gratitude, i once had a boss who would say “thank you for your provocation” I didn’t understand as well then but realize he was saying “thanks for presenting something that made me look at things in a different way”
I am dealing with such a jerk, or as I call him the schoolyard bully. He has managed to alienate the entire “rank and file” of the … we’ll call it organization, along with at least half of the “mid management” people who report to him. Unfortunately, he has the trust of the “CEO.” I lead a team whose job it is to get real work done in this environment. I have been relying heavily on your thoughts as well as those of your readers these past few months. The tips above will be extremely helpful (if not easy), and I will once again pass them along to the team. As always Dan, thank you for the insight.
And I agree, Ken. It is a great nugget. “Respect IS a matter of your heart, not another’s behavior.” To paraphrase someone else, “I am obligated to love and respect you as another human being on this planet. I am not obligated to like you. That is your job.”
Perhaps what I really like about your blog is that generally when I read it, I immediately go ”’ yeah, I know someone like that” … and then pause to take a moment and reflect on when I’ve been that person or when someone may have perceived me as that person. Way back when, very early on in my career, I know I was a bit of a jerk at times. It wasn’t that I knew I was right; it was that I was scared I might be wrong and so sometimes, I hid my fear through ‘jerkiness’ (pretty sure that’s not a word!). Maybe that didn’t make me a jerk, just young and insecure?
Leaders can extend respect by treating each person as a human being and not as a robot. A robot is man-made with one purpose, to work 24/7 without questions or complaints. The programming wired inside the robot is exactly what they do. Great leaders understand that people are not robots. Leaders show how much they care and respect their people. This respect can be done in simple ways: asking questions, active listening, being vulnerable, working hand in hand, having an open door policy, etc. Once people see how much you care they will go through mountains for you.
Am feelin a Foxworthy moment here… “you just might be a jerk/boss if…(fill in the blank) if…you frequently talk over someone else if…you talk more than you listen if…your talk is not walkin’…
Dang you are so creative!
Leadership is the charismatic quality we aspire to retain for so long as we uphold the role. I personally believe that your own actions will supersede any word said, especially one that compromises it; a promise.
I’m about to switch jobs – thanks to my management and colleagues for still reminding me that they still got grudges against me each time I slip up. Unfortunately their so called “justified” punishments are beginning to affect my health. You are so right, Dan – focusing more on employees past failures while holding grudges turns you into a jerk and a bully.
I too, have experienced a “jerk – boss”/bully, whose bullying did adversely effect my health, to the point that I was ultimately ‘fired’ for attendance issues (while on intermittent FMLA – I’m still fighting for unemployment)!
However, I have worked for other companies where REAL transparency was practiced and every single employee was treated as a valued member of the team, encouraged to participate in decision making; managers of all levels (up to and including the CEO) routinely ’rounded’ with employees. The company’s first priority was EMPLOYEE Satisfaction, then customer satisfaction. This caused employees’ perceptions to change from “I’m just doing a job to get a paycheck” – to the point that they developed personal ‘ownership’ of the company, “OUR company just won another award!”.
Great leaders, like most of us, aren’t born – they’re developed; they need good coaching from experts (check out http://www.studergroup.com ), time and lots of practice – coupled with a healthy dose of grace from their staff – if we desire grace to be extended to us!