Six Ways to Deal with Four Types of Jerks
You’re tempted to ignore the problems high performing jerks cause. It’s easy to deal with an incompetent jerk.
Cowardice is the issue when leaders tolerate incompetent jerks.
Leaders who tolerate destructive jerks hobble teams and prolong incompetence.
Four types of jerks:
- Head-in-the-sand jerks: don’t see how their behavior impacts others.
- Couldn’t-care-less jerks: see how they drive others crazy, but don’t care. This jerk may be one or all three of the following.
- Driven by a compelling vision. Some jerks believe their vision is justification for walking on people.
- Arrogant and self-centered.
- Cold hearted. Others just don’t matter.
- Genius jerks: have remarkable qualities that are concentrated in a single pinpoint. There’s little left for good manners, social graces, or communication skills.
- High performing jerks: place results over relationships.
Six ways to deal with jerks:
- Determine if this situation builds customer value or reflects cowardly leadership?
- Look in the mirror. Who do you need to become to deal with jerks?
- Invite the elephant to dance. Include the team in decisions concerning talented jerks. Talk over the situation openly. Craft a path forward together. (Everyone already knows.)
- Protect and nurture a genius jerks if their unique value is worth the hassle.
- Do others readily acknowledge their unique value?
- Can you put them on teams that admire them?
- Can you send them to the basement to be geniuses on their own?
- Help valuable jerks who aspire to improve.
- Are they excuse-makers?
- Do they blame others?
- Have you seen improvement in the past?
- Remove incompetent jerks. Ask this question. Knowing what you know today, would you hire this person?
What types of jerks have you seen in organizations?
How might leaders deal with jerks?
I’m emailing this to my husband who works at a university. Universities would have to be breeding grounds for all these jerks!! xx Rowena
Thanks Rowena. Great of you to stop in! Come back soon.
Nice, and love the beard Dan.
I had an interesting time some years back when introducing ‘management competencies’ (i.e. a picture of what ‘good leadership & management’ should look like for that company).
We would name the strengths, and the not-wanted aspects, not just the usual broad shopping list (as per Marcus Buckingham – https://tinyurl.com/o24q96v).
I had to put the point that for this all to make sense, once in place they’d have to tackle even high-performing colleagues, if they got their results via negative behaviour according to the competence framework.
They didn’t like it, and it wasn’t taken forward!
Thanks Nick. It’s difficult to see the down side of our strengths. I suppose we could say that it takes strength to acknowledge where you aren’t strong.
You remind me that culture is a big aspect of decision making.
Thanks for sharing your experience. Much appreciated.
I always tell people that strengths and weaknesses are context dependent. What can be a strength in one situation or when dealing with one person – can be counter productive (and thus a weakness) in another context. For most people their strengths are their worst weaknesses when misapplied. We all need to cultivate the contextual intelligence to know when to apply ourselves and when to pull back and try to emulate a less than natural approach. The good news is, the more we project different approaches for different people or situations, the more natural it becomes…welcome the coach as leader.
I guess the ‘genius jerk’ could be called a “pin head” then … Your thought on dealing with a genius jerk: “Can you send them to the basement to be geniuses on their own?” To me, this is dangerous! Maybe if this GJ can work on a team to find a ‘solo’ contribution to work on; but totally on their own, not good as I see it; at some point, that GJ will have to engage with others…
Thanks John. Pin head… 🙂 Wish I would have thought of that.
I suppose the “basement plan” depends on what they do. I wonder about ways to minimize the damage genius jerks can do?
The thought of sending them to the basement is keeping them away from people. Perhaps, for that to be effective, it’s good to think about who to keep them away from.
Sounds like there’s plenty of room for thought.
Thank you for sharing your insights.
I see this coming down to “power”! The jerk with the most power (not in a physical sense) will ultimately control the group if they are allowed to! I believe we need to concentrate on changing the “jerks” attitude to compel them past the power issues and be a leader not a “jerk”! Concentrate on the values of their leadership and not so much on their “egos” and jerk power fetishes! “Anyone can be replaced”, like it or not and that is factual throughout ones journey or quest to be a “jerk”! To be a “jerk” is a choice that can be changed if the individual wants to mend their ways and be a true leader and mature in a positive direction!
Thanks Tim. I agree that, for the most part, being a jerk is a choice. I have to say that some genius jerks are just out of touch. They don’t have self-awareness. I’m not sure this type is a choice.
I’m grappling with how to help genius jerks bring their genius without hindrances. In some cases, I think teams can choose to put up with and compensate for their inadequacies.
Thanks for a thoughtful comment.
We are not all the same – for various reasons. Some of us need support and encouragement, some of us need a team to be part of and some of us need handlers. Give the wrong medicine to the wrong patient and well…..-J
Thanks J. “Handler” helps me think about jerks who bring value. Some people on the team need special attention. It boils down to is the effort worth the value they bring.
Thanks for stopping by. Cheers
Agreed. Now we only have to define ‘value’ 🙂 -J
“Invite the elephants to dance” … funny 🙂
Thanks Michael. Glad you enjoyed!!
Great timing! A lot for me to think about before I have a upcoming meeting.
Thanks Stephine. Best wishes for success. Thanks for stopping in.
Sadly, variations of point #4 “Protect and nurture genius jerks……….” seems to be the prevailing treatment in the business world. We’re all left to deal with these difficult people on a daily basis. That’s why I like this blog Dan, it seems to give me the tools to effectively manage and cope on a daily basis and encourages me to have proper perspective with these difficult people.
Thanks Steve. Yes, protect and nurture may result in misery for others. That’s why a team approach might be helpful. Of course, it takes trust, compassion, and toughness to make it happen. Thank you for your kind words. Best for the journey.
I’ve known a few jerks in my time and I’m guilty of trying to ignore the problem and rise above the situation. My question has always been – why do we feel we have to tolerate them? Perhaps because we don’t like confrontation and we think that is the only way to deal with a jerk? That’s how I’ve always felt…
As far as genius jerks are concerned – they lack emotional intelligence. I’ve seen counseling help one of smartest and “jerkiest” physicians I’ve ever known. It really works!
Thank you for sharing and outlining how to deal with the various types of jerks. This post is going on my bulletin board!!
Thanks Dr. Pinzon. I wonder if our first inclination is to tolerance. Then, people become jerks when they don’t respond favorably???
Thanks so much for the encouragement that there are measure that can be taken to deal with the challenge of genius jerks…. very helpful.
Thanks for sharing your experience.
Appreciated the question for reflection: “Knowing what you know today, would you hire this person?”
Thanks Mrs. Pastor Mom. Wow! You have one snappy handle. I’ve asked leaders that question. After answering it, the issue becomes courage to take negative action or wisdom to take useful. Cheers
Is it wrong if I wish the list was shorter and only consisted of #6 …Remove incompetent jerks.?? Life is too short …
Thanks Dianna. It’s not wrong. 🙂 Maybe there’s more to it, but it’s not wrong.
Thanks for the timely insights. If you need me I’ll be in the basement 🙂
It’s great to have a genius-jerk as a reader!! Stay warm. 🙂
Okay – A jerk leader who has a good vision…. but he is a jerk because he ignores attempts at respectful communication, regularly and irregularly – just ignores emails. Lies regularly about a lot of things – and leaves one wondering eventually if anything he says is trust worthy, and to summarize is basically lazy and passive-aggressive………
How would you classify this jerk?
Including this particular jerk in the decision making process – helps sometimes….
but it’s exhausting to deal with the rest … You never get a complete answer, he always leaves you wondering if he’ll show up and do what he says … and he works pretty hard to undermine you to others………
It would be easier without him – but I’m not in a position to tell him to leave…
HOW – I ask myself almost every day – do you deal with this type of jerk?
Then there is another jerk – who keeps you on hold, expects you to jump at the drop of the hat – and then refuses to acknowledge your contribution…….. repeatedly……….
(Actually both jerks do that).
So many jerks – so little time. … You really hit a nerve today. ;).
p.s. – Knowing what I know today – I’d RUN – I would not hire them.
Jerks are jerks. They are opportunistic at higher level and responsible for Intra and inter departmental undue politics. This breed is not good or bad , but this community set grades of good or bad in organizational hierarchy. Highly self pretentious, they are highly responsible but poorly accountable.
In team management , such are always important to divert team intentions as per their intentions.
Helping such people is purely good gesture but constant vigil is very important whether they are positive or negative.
Keep arranging counselling sessions for them. But we should not allow jerks to divert the goal of organization.
Opportunistic always remain opportunistic, support or guidance is one aspect but constant vigil is need of hour to save culture of organisation to boost immunity of organisation with personal accountability.
How do you deal with yourself if you’re the jerk?