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.


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.”

#3.Pursue progress.

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?”


Jerk-holes bristle at making small improvements because perfection is the backdrop of complaint.

#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?

Bonus resources:

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 (