Jerks at Work | Tessa West

Summary of: Jerks at Work: Toxic Coworkers and What to Do About Them
By: Tessa West


Our workplaces are often full of interesting personalities, but some individuals can create obstacles and frustrations for their colleagues. In the book ‘Jerks at Work: Toxic Coworkers and What to Do About Them’, Tessa West introduces different types of jerks one might encounter at work and offers actionable strategies for dealing with them. These toxic coworkers can range from the subtly competitive ‘kiss up/kick downer’ to the credit-stealing colleague to the aggressive and domineering ‘bulldozer’. By understanding their behaviors and developing effective methods to address these issues, readers will learn how to navigate complex workplace dynamics and thrive in their professional lives.

Dealing with Workplace Jerks

Tessa West, a social psychologist, provides insights on how to deal with a specific type of workplace jerk – the kiss up/kick downer. These individuals flatter their superiors while undermining and sabotaging those at the same or lower hierarchy level. To identify such a person, obtain testimonies from other potential victims. Once confirmed, minimize your interactions with the jerk and tactfully approach your manager about the problem, highlighting the negative impact on you and your colleagues. However, be patient as finding a solution may take time.

Don’t Let Credit-Stealers Take Your Promotions

Your performance at work isn’t always enough to get ahead. You need to be mindful of colleagues who take credit for your ideas and accomplishments. However, you shouldn’t be accusatory towards them. Instead, have a neutral conversation to understand their perspective, talk about the efforts you both put into the project, and agree on ways to distribute credit more fairly in the future. One way is to set clear responsibilities before starting a project.

In the workplace, your performance may seem like the key to getting ahead. But is it enough? The truth is, it’s more complicated than that. You can do an excellent job on a project, but if no one knows about the work you did, your efforts will go unnoticed. Even worse, a colleague might take credit for your ideas and accomplishments. Meet the credit-stealer, the person who takes more credit than they deserve.

Of course, we can’t assume they are doing this intentionally. Sometimes it’s hard to attribute individual contributions in group projects. We all have a natural tendency to overestimate our contributions and assume our work is more visible than it is. It’s also possible that people come up with similar ideas independently of each other, leading to accidental accusations of stealing.

So how do you deal with credit-stealers? It’s essential to have a neutral conversation with them. Avoid being accusatory and instead share your perspective and ask for theirs. Have a discussion about who did what and the invisible work you both put into the project. Perhaps it turns out that they did more than you thought. And if not, the facts will speak for themselves.

To prevent the problem from recurring, it’s important to agree on how to distribute credit more fairly in the future. One practical solution is to decide who will do what at the beginning of a project. This way, there will be no ambiguity over individual contributions. Don’t let credit-stealers take your promotions. Stand up for yourself, but do it in a calm, professional manner.

Tackling a Bulldozer

Do you have a colleague who dominates conversations, interrupts others, and knocks others down to get what they want? This book teaches you how to handle the bulldozer by being assertive, defining conversation parameters right from the start, enlisting help, and taking back power by learning their unique skills.

Tackling Free Riding in Teams

Free riders are those who benefit from the efforts of others without putting in an equal amount of work. Strong groups are more prone to attract free riders. This is because they tend to have members who are hard-working, dependable, and cohesive. Furthermore, they employ collective rewards to encourage teamwork instead of competition among members. To prevent free riding, teams must keep track of each member’s work and distribute tasks more fairly. They can also reward individual performance in addition to collective accomplishments.

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