Did you ever stop to wonder why the television sitcom The Office,
which features a first-class office jerk -- the boss, no less -- is so popular?
Simple. For starters, it's a theme to which so many of us can relate. If you've
ever worked in an office, chances are you've encountered an office jerk -- that
annoying co-worker whose ridiculous antics or downright inappropriate behavior
wreaks havoc on the productivity and morale of every other office employee.
It's also a lot easier to laugh at the office jerk whose cubicle is nowhere
It's an entirely different matter when you're stuck working with an office
jerk day in and day out. When you're at the receiving end of the office jerk's
bad behavior -- whether it's bullying, backstabbing, egotism, or just downright
annoying behavior -- there's little humor in it, especially when you feel
helpless about changing it.
But there is hope, say experts. Understanding why the office jerk continues
unabated to get under co-workers' skin and learning how to confront the creep
head on can make the work environment a whole lot more tolerable. WebMD asked
human resource pros to share the inside scoop on what makes an office jerk
tick, and how to dismantle the ticking time bomb.
Like Michael Scott, the clueless boss on The Office, most office
jerks have no idea that their behavior annoys co-workers, contributes to
workplace stress, and disrupts the
Mitchell Kusy, PhD, a Fulbright scholar and professor at Antioch University,
has spent years studying the causes and effects of behavior by "toxic
individuals" in the workplace -- aka office jerks. "Most [toxic individuals]
don't realize they're toxic," Kusy tells WebMD. When he and colleagues surveyed
500 corporate leaders identified by co-workers as "toxic," most admitted they
had no idea how their behavior was perceived by others in the workplace.
Other experts echo Kusy's findings. "Don't assume that people know they're
being challenging or difficult," says Julie Jansen, a workplace consultant and
author of the book, You Want Me to Work With Who? Chances are, office
jerks are surprised, even shocked, to learn how irksome co-workers find their
It may not seem fair, but often those of us on the receiving end of the
office jerk's antics are partly to blame for the ongoing onslaught of insulting
behavior. That's because most of us shy away from confronting the bully,
belittler, cheater, backstabber, or other kind of office jerk who makes our
work lives so miserable.