Are You The Jerk?

We’ve all worked with or for people who exhibit “jerk-like” behaviours. You know, they’re the ones that shout, humiliate, fail to listen, demand perfection, show disrespect, betray trust, simply don’t care (the list goes on).

In Greek, we hear that there are at least 20 words that mean jerk. No matter what the name for it, people in every culture and in every company occasionally, sometimes accidentally, exhibit jerk-like behaviours. What about you? Here is a subset of the 50 jerk-like behaviours we’ve identified. Which of these might you exhibit?

  • Intimidate
  • Condescend or demean
  • Act arrogant
  • Withold praise
  • Slam doors, pound tables
  • Behave rudely
  • Not listen
  • Micromanage
  • Give mostly negative feedback
  • Yell at people
  • Tell lies of “half-truths”
  • Get impatient
  • Interrupt
  • Always have to be in control

If you checked none of the behaviours above, you’re either a saint or you have a few blind spots. In other words, most of us do exhibit some of these behaviours some of the time. The question is, how many and how often? And what effect does your behaviour have on the people who report to you? Jerk-like behaviours are so damaging that even one or two can negate all of your other strengths as a boss.

What can you do?

  1. Get honest feedback — you need a clear picture of how you look to others – by asking your friends at work to look at the checklist with you. If you don’t have any friends, that may be a clue!
  2. Ask, “So what?” Think about the implications of your behaviours. Are they getting in the way of your effectiveness? Causing good people to leave?
  3. If you decide to change, seek help from others. Get a coach or counselor, take a stress management course and ask people to monitor your behaviour and give you feedback as you attempt to change.

If you believe (or find out) that you often exhibit jerk-like behaviours, decide to change. Changing jerk-like behaviours may be the most important action you can take to keep the talent on your team.

Article written by Beverly Kaye and Sharon-Jordan Evans. Beverly Kaye is the Founder of Career Systems International. Sharon Jordan-Evans is the President of the Jordan Evans Group. This blog post is based on concepts from Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay fifth edition by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans. This bestselling book provides twenty-six strategies to keep talented employees happy and productive.


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