Do you work with a jerk? Dan and Alison answer your questions with the help of Stanford management professor Bob Sutton, an expert in dealing with difficult co-workers. They talk through what to do when your colleague is a bully, when your boss never takes the blame, and when your direct report gets on everyone’s bad side — but still brings in the money.
Send in your questions about workplace dilemmas by emailing Dan and Alison at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Alison and Dan’s reading list:
HBR: An Antidote to Incivility by Christine Porath — “If you’ve dealt with a rude colleague, you probably know how hard it can be to get over it. Perhaps no feeling is more difficult to overcome than a sense of injustice. Neuroscientists have shown that memories attached to strong emotions are easier to access and more likely to be replayed, and ruminating on an incident prevents you from putting it behind you. This can cause greater insecurity, lower self-esteem, and a heightened sense of helplessness.”
HBR: How to Help Someone Develop Emotional Intelligence by Annie McKee — “If one of these socially awkward or downright nasty people works directly for you, it is indeed your job to do something. They ruin work teams and destroy productivity, not to mention morale. They’re little time bombs that go off when you least expect it — sucking up your time and draining everyone’s energy. They need to change, or they need to leave.”
HBR: Make Your Enemies Your Allies by Brian Uzzi and Shannon Dunlap — “Because rivalries can be so destructive, it’s not enough to simply ignore, sidestep, or attempt to contain them. Instead, effective leaders turn rivals into collaborators—strengthening their positions, their networks, and their careers in the process. Think of these relationships not as chronic illnesses you have to endure but as wounds that must be treated in order for you to lead a healthy work life.”
Book: The Asshole Survival Guide by Bob Sutton — “A study by Professor Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik found that when bullied employees banded together to fight back, authorities punished 58% of the abusers and none of the bullied employees were fired. But when employees battled alone, only 27% of the bullies were punished and 20% of the bullied employees were fired.”
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