Jerk-Holes are Better than Sugar Peeps
Jerk-Holes come in various shapes and sizes. It’s better to hear the truth from a jerk-hole than lead a meeting with your zipper down.
Talented jerk-holes take you further than well-intentioned sugar peeps.
Jerk-holes make you pucker but sugar peeps tolerate mediocrity and compliment incompetence.
I’ve learned more from jerk-holes than sugar peeps.
Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, uses the phrase ‘ruinous empathy’ to describe nice people who hinder or harm.
4 ways to deal with talented jerk-holes:
#1. Restrain distorted ego.
Talented jerk-holes have something to say about everything, but they’re only good at a few things.
Don’t get sucked into distorted egotism. Speak the truth kindly and firmly. “Thanks anyway, Mr. Jerk-Hole. Your expertise is engineering not HR.”
#2. Demand specificity.
Jerk-holes over-state complaints and expectations.
Expect jerk-holes to get real with their exalted complaints and expectations.
Something’s always wrong. Change needs to happen now.
- What specifically is wrong?
- What are people doing or not doing that causes our need for improvement?
Be prepared for an earful when you ask a jerk-hole to elaborate. Take them seriously. Write down their concerns.
Agree where possible. “I see what you’re saying. It’s true that our production line could improve.”
Talented jerk-holes expect performance out of weakness.
Agree with a jerk-hole’s high aspirations. Say, “I agree that we could be better.”
Ask, “What does incremental progress look like?”
Say, “Give me three suggestions to make things better using our current talent and resources.”
Ask, “Which of these three suggestions would quickly move the ball forward?”
#4. Expect contribution.
Jerk-holes love spewing expectations on others. But how will they contribute to improvements?
Ask talented jerk-holes for specific suggestions where they contribute to incremental improvement.
Warning: Jerk-holes bristle at making small improvements because perfection is the backdrop of complaint.
What types of jerk-holes have you experienced?
How might leaders get the most from a jerk-hole?
How to Manage and Maximize Gifted Jerk-Holes
Is Super Bowl Coach Bill Belichick a Detached Jerk
A**hole survival guide: Dealing with jerks at work and beyond (today.com)
Sure the Jerk-Hole that expects you to do everything with nothing, We need this? We don’t have it? So get it? we can’t afford it? Then what do you want? I don’t know just fix it…. LOL,
Seriously the management of talent, some needs groomed depending on the subject fine tuning may be needed take a Neurosurgeon for example compared to flipping a Hamburger both have techniques some just need refined. So chose the course of action that needs fine tuned, discuss the matter, review the options and chose a path, beyond that let it alone.
Thanks Tim. The “let it alone” part has been most challenging for me. Focus the jerk-hole on things they really know something about. Confront them when they think they know something they don’t by asking questions that reveal their folly. Just look in their eye and tell them to move on. We aren’t focusing on this issue right now.
There is a fine balance in what is acceptable behavior from jerk-holes as well as sugar peeps. They can suck the life out of a work environment and create distress in cohesiveness of high accountables. They can bring down the work culture and drive out other strong talent that are not willing to work in negative or mediocre environments. I think we have to really look at the cost of the disruptive behavior and asses if the talent truly outweighs the rest. In my opinion, when truly looking at the cost of time spent responding to the jerk-holes complaints, the lost productivity by them, their leader, their peers and others, the loss of other talent, etc…, we find the cost of this employee is greater than their return to the workplace.
BTW.. I gave your comment a thumbs up. It’s very insightful and well stated.
Thanks Susan. I tend to agree when it comes to teams. On a personal level, jerk-holes have really helped me grow…sugar peeps haven’t helped me grow at all.
I dislike the boss who tolerates a high performing jerk-hole. Having said that, a talented jerk-holes contribution may be worth the effort of tolerating. The key is being open about the situation. When a team believes a jerk-hole is worth the frustration it can work. When a team can deal openly with jerk-holes keeping their talent may be worth it. When I say open, I mean everyone knows where they stand. The other thing is equipping people to deal with a talented jerk-hole. How do we respond to rude behavior? How do we dig out the treasure and throw away the dross?
Yes I too see the benefit of having to deal with Jerk holes in the workplace. I have gained some painful lessons from them at times. But having said that it always never ends well. Comradery is completely broken. The office is a better place when they are not there. There is always nervousness and tension around them. People are not at their best. Their complaints are often loud and they know how to find that 1 person that will listen to them. Its not pleasant Dan. But I know its something you have to deal with.
Thanks Steve. Peace and harmony are valuable. Tension can be frustrating and draining. I’ve also seen that lack of healthy tension turns into satisfaction with the status quo. I like the peaceful easy feelings. I don’t like casual mediocrity.
One of the most effective responses my peer manager gave one of our most persistent, talented Jerk-Holes was, “If you hate your job so much, why don’t you just leave?” She said it gently and quietly. He was taken aback. It opened a conversation with him where he expressed that he loved his work, but things were frustrating him constantly (mostly related to others). She pointed out his consistent and constant negativity.
He was much less vocally negative after that and they seemed to develop a rapport that allowed for a more cooperative relationship. He did retire eventually, but his last number of years were much less stressful for everyone around him. I don’t think he realized how he was perceived at all. That gently conversation that she began with him opened a dialogue and seemed to calm him. She told him that she appreciated his desire to help and do well – his drive for accuracy and high quality work. Then she injected a small bit of reality – especially relating to newer staff/turnover affecting learning and refocused him on being more helpful to his peers than critical.
Thanks H. What a useful story. Thankfully some jerk-holes can listen and adapt. I’ve found that a clear, respectful, kind but firm, confrontation can help some jerk-holes.
Where do you want to fight your battles? Jerk-Holes in front. Sugar Peeps from behind. Everything has a price. Jerk-Holes remind me of the “Peter Principle” they reach their level of incompetence and there they stay. Ricardo Semler had a good Ted Talk about letting the people chose who they want to work with. Unfortunately not all organizations can remove employees easily. Don’t always trust referrals when hiring. They may want to get rid of that person. Jerk-Holes remind me of bullies. If you challenge them enough they’ll find someone else easier to pick on or talk to. I’ve also held them accountable to what they say. They want to be seen as an expert not as incompetent in front of others. That being said, they will never send you a Christmas card so watch your back.
I thought I was working for a talented jerk hole. Turns out he had narcissistic personality disorder
Working with someone that is a jerk hole is intense. It is all or nothing and those small incremental improvements do not tend to make it any easier to work with them. But speaking to those needs and being blunt about what is wrong and getting specifics can ease some of those strains.