Anyone who has ever worked for a manager who is terrible knows the pain and difficulty it can cause. And when we are on the same team or staff with a colleague whose behavior is negative, demeaning or disruptive, it can make our work lives miserable and prevent us from succeeding. Study upon study has shown that when people leave an organization, it’s more often than not about their manager, not the work or role itself.
In a recent SHRM study, for instance, the findings supported the age-old workplace adage that employees leave managers, not companies, as 84% of U.S. workers say that poorly trained managers create a great deal of unnecessary work and stress. One phrase I’ve personally heard countless times over the past 16 years in my work as a career and leadership coach is this: ”My boss is a complete jerk.”
To learn more about the key types of jerks at work and how to deal with them successfully (and not get fired doing it), I caught up with Tessa West.
Tessa West is a Professor of Psychology at New York University, and leading expert on interpersonal interaction and communication. West has published over 60 articles in the field of psychology’s most prestigious journals, and has received multiple grants, including from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. She is the recipient of the Theoretical Innovation Prize from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and writes regularly about her research in The Wall Street Journal.
She is also the author of the book, Jerks at Work: Toxic Coworkers and What to Do About Them, which explores the seven key types of “jerks” or difficult and conflict-creating individuals in the workplace and offers a definitive guide for dealing with (and ultimately breaking free from) the overbearing bosses, irritating coworkers, and all-around difficult people who can make your work-life miserable.
Here’s what West shares:
Kathy Caprino: Tessa, can you share a bit about why you decided to write a book about jerks at work?
Tessa West: I’ve been studying the ways we handle conflict in our relationships for two decades. Five years ago, I noticed a trend: People were quitting jobs because they didn’t like the people they worked with, but the same problems cropped up at their new jobs. Most people don’t learn how to have healthy conflict conversations at work. They either try and fail to address issues or do nothing and stew in anger. I thought a guide would be a good starting point to help people.
Caprino: In your book, you explore the 7 types of jerks. What are they are what are their key hallmarks?
West: Here are the 7 types of jerks I’ve identified that are most common:
Kiss-up/kick-downer: They climb to the top by any means necessary, which includes sabotaging the people who work at the same level as them and below. They question your expertise in front of a client or insinuate to the boss that you could use more “hands-on training.” But they are top performers who can read the room, so the boss loves them.
Credit stealer: Teammates, friends, and bosses who gain your trust, and then steal your good ideas or take credit for your hard work. Some cover their tracks by complimenting their victims publicly. The credit-stealing occurs behind the scenes.
Bulldozer: In meetings, these folks talk over people and control the agenda, but the sneakier ones go behind the scenes to overthrow group decisions they don’t like. Many do this by claiming that the process through which decisions were made was either unfair or unclear.
Free Rider: Charming and well-liked coworkers who are experts at doing nothing and getting credit for it. They distribute their work equally, so no one person feels the burn. Teams full of conscientious people and those with “hands off” bosses make great targets.
Micromanager: Impatient taskmasters for whom everything is equally important and equally urgent. If you have a micromanager, you struggle to meet long-term goals. You also work the hardest and get the least done.
Neglectful boss: Bosses who follow this cycle: a period of neglect, a build-up of anxiety from being out of touch, and a surge of control to alleviate their anxiety. If you work for one of these, you’re in a constant state of uncertainty. When will they show up, and how disruptive will they be?
Gaslighter: Bosses with two signature moves: Lying with the intent of deceiving on a grand scale, and socially isolating their victims. The reasons why bosses gaslight people vary—from covering up their own unethical behavior, to convincing people to do work that they later claim credit for.
Caprino: Which type is the most common and why?
West: Free riding is the most common; it’s a human universal to slack off. Smart free riders target conscientious people who are slow to complain. People freeride because they’re pulled in too many directions, suffering from mission creep, or work for a boss who doesn’t measure contributions.
Caprino: What are your top three strategies for dealing with jerks and toxic coworkers?
West: These are some helpful first steps:
Embrace small conflicts
Most of us are terrified of conflict; we see it as a red flag that a workplace is toxic. But social science has shown that having no conflict is the red flag—it means that you aren’t communicating. Frequent, small conflicts are a normal part of the working process; the key is in learning how to do them well.
When you confront, focus on what the person did, not on why they did it. Be as specific as possible and avoid broad generalizations. “I felt like you interrupted me three times in that last meeting” is better than “Why do you constantly talk over me?”
To move forward, frame the behavior around a shared goal you both have instead of what they need to do to change. And at the end, ask the person, “Do you have any advice for me?” Conflict conversations go more smoothly when they feel like a give-and -take.
Feedback should be small and frequent
No one likes giving or getting feedback that is negative. It’s uncomfortable for both involved. If you take issue with someone’s behavior at work, bring it up immediately, and focus on the behavior in question—not on why you think the person did what they did. People feel a lot less threatened when we focus on small acts, not big issues, and we don’t make assumptions about their cause. From your perspective, reducing that threat is key to getting them to hear your perspective.
Create a network that is broad not just deep
Most of us seek advice from a few close coworkers who we know and trust. But distant social contacts—people who aren’t our best friends, but we do consider potential allies—are important sources of information and support.
Imagine that you’re having a conflict with your boss, and you don’t know how to get them to care about your issue. A distant tie, like your boss’s colleague, has some insight into what tactics will on your boss. Most of us work in little silos—we know how our jerk treats the other five people we work with, but we have no idea what this person’s history was like before they showed up. Distant social ties will help you get the lay of the land.
Caprino: How about when your immediate boss is a jerk or a narcissist (which I’ve experienced directly as have many of my coaching clients). What’s your take on the best approach to deal with that personality type?
West: Narcissists have self-esteem that’s unstable; they’re very sensitive to rejection. When dealing with narcissists, I recommend a very utilitarian approach. How can you frame your requests in a way that will appeal to their self-interest? It doesn’t feel good, catering to the needs of a narcissist, but just focus on your end goal.
Caprino: You write about the importance of having a network of allies at work which is different from having a lot of friends at work. How is it different and what are the best ways to build that ever-important network?
West: Distant ties give us reputational information about people; they also can connect us to other “central nodes” at work (people who have a lot of influence). The best way to form these relationships is informally. Ask a distant tie out to coffee or lunch just to chat and hear their perspective. Offer advice to newcomers at work to help you network.
Caprino: As a former therapist and now in career and leadership coaching, I’ve written and trained extensively about the 6 toxic behaviors that repel people and opportunities and how to recognize these damaging behaviors in ourselves and others, and also how to protect ourselves against narcissists in life and work. From your view, what are some tell-tale signs we might ourselves be a jerk at work?
West: Honest, negative feedback is rare at work; the absence of positive information is more common. If you suspect you might be acting like a jerk, ask for specific (behavior-based) feedback, and ask broadly—think lots of people who’ve been around you at work, not just one or two. We all have a worst-case-scenario version of ourselves lurking deep within. It’s important to know what brings out this version, so we can watch out for the warning signs. We often can’t control those signs, but can we control how we respond to them.
Caprino: Any last words about how to overcome (and even bypass altogether) the pain and challenge of working with jerks?
West: Most of the approaches I advocate for are uncomfortable at first; they take time to perfect. Be patient and try not to jump to a new job until you’ve tried them. If your jerk isn’t motivated to change, or there is a climate at work that encourages their behavior, then I would consider thinking about the exit plan.
Adjusting Your Creative Output With Dylan Sesco
Some people manifest their dreams, but very seldom does it pan out the way they wanted or imagined.
Dylan Sesco wanted to work on music. It started with wanting to lipsync Snoop Dogg for a school talent show, then writing his own lyrics in 6th grade.
“Oh it was bad. Really bad.”
Eventually with the accessibility of computers and programs, Dylan started making his own hip-hop beats. No longer did you need 10,000 dollars worth of studio equipment, you just needed a simple laptop. After that, a camera to start making music videos.
That led to working on projects with friends, which led to a crew of artists, which led to forming his own small label called Vertlife Entertainment with friend and fellow artist Flax.
Dylan Sesco was driven by production and crafting a brand, but still had the itch to make his own music as well. Jumping from executive producing to video production to rapper in the same session, he created an eclectic style of hip-hop based music with a stable of talent including Seaz, Ave, ItsRucka, Epacenter, Neto V and more.
You may not know those names. Infact, you probably don’t. The label didn’t amount to much.
“It still hurts sometimes. We never made it big, but I cherish those times and the art we created.”
After struggling for years, Dylan Sesco would be in his rented studio alone until the sun came up working on music that mostly never saw the light of day. He released multiple solo projects featuring all his friends, hoping it would motivate them to work as hard as he was.
It just didn’t happen. Everyone had their own lives, and this was viewed as a hobby. But not to Dylan Sesco.
The frustration led to a creative pivot. Dylan was already well versed in video production. He was the in-house video producer as well as head of the label, producer and rapper. From various music video freelance work to small documentary work, this was another passion that he had almost ignored.
In 2016, he went all in and started a new Youtube channel: The Somethin’ Or Other Tour.
Dylan Sesco (and his brother Cole) started exploring history, going to football games, and visiting pop-up museums.
“I just wanted to do something positive and motivate people to see the world. We lost a lot of peers to violence, drugs and prison. I wanted people that otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to discover the cool things the world has to offer.”
The idea that started as a hip-hop travel show has blossomed into a small time show with big time aspirations. An adventure, travel, experience show that touches on any topic you can think of.
Dylan says it has been the most rewarding creative outlet of his life. He thought his dream was music, but letting go of the stubbornness let him find his true passion. Things don’t always go as planned.
The Somethin’ Or Other Tour, or SOOT.tv, has been featured on the nightly news, ESPN, and even in a french high school textbook.
The viewership is not huge, it’s not a famous channel, but the content has depth that has touched people.
“I get so many kind words. Teachers that show my videos to their kids, people that haven’t been able to travel themselves, things like that. It feels good to be able to provide something, as little as it may be.”
“Letting go of my other dream was difficult, but necessary. It worked out. I am so much happier now.”
Let this be a lesson that sometimes our dreams aren’t set in stone, and there may be a separate, or adjacent goal that will fulfill you just the same, or even more.
You can learn more about Dylan Sesco and The Somethin’ Or Other Tour on Youtube at http://soot.tv.
Epic Copycat: MEMS Company Found Guilty of Infringement amidst Global Conference
The much-admired International Workshop on Acoustic Wave Devices for Future Communication recently took place after the pandemic. Needless to say, it went successfully and attracted many acclaimed industry experts and academic professionals. ‘Awareness about IP protection’ was one of the hot topics that were discussed at the conference.
However, things took an interesting turn when an announcement of a product originated from EPIC MEMES came under debate.
The proven copycat, EPIC MEMS, announced its self-reliance in research and development after the conference concluded. The company president proclaimed that the company has successfully developed the ‘FBAR technology.’ However, he forgot to mention the original developer Broadcom Inc., from whom they’d stolen the technology.
Dr. Rich Ruby, director of technology (FBAR & orthogonal markets) at Broadcom, made the case for his company. He shed light on how his company has acquired and developed the technology and presented solid evidence of the FBAR infringement.“I wish that I or Broadcom employees had thought of substituting Sc for Al atoms in the unit cell (and patented it),” explained Dr. Ruby. He then described how the process of patents works in the industry. “You get protection from others simply copying (or stealing) your IP and avoiding any innovation or research cost,” he clarified his stance.
Dr. Rich Ruby is a renowned name in the industry and has won several accolades for his contributions. He is well-known for his participation in the packaging of FBAR filters and duplexers as well as his development efforts for acoustic properties and manufacturability. He rose to fame in 2001–2003 when he universalized the first FBAR duplexers HPMD7901 and the 7904 back in 2001–2003.
For his work on FBAR technology, he has received the CB Sawyer Award, the Bill Hewlett Award, and the Barney Oliver Prize. He’s also the recipient of the IAP Prize for “Industrial Applications of Physics.” Over the years, he has given numerous invited papers and has registered around 80 patents.
Dr. Ruby was an Agilent Fellow in 2002 and later took over the directorial role at Broadcom. He expounded how the copycat, EPIC MEMES stole the FBAR technology developed by American Semiconductor manufacturing company Broadcom and did the copyright infringement.
According to Dr. Rich Ruby, “Broadcom FBAR IP was stolen around 2008/9. This stolen IP now has found its way into many Handset manufacturers, and we are aware of this.” To support his claim, he exhibited a photo example of the copycat FBAR 41 filter and said, “[It] looks almost identical to our product and uses many of the inventions we developed and patented.”
The photo proved to industry experts that Broadcom has developed the technology. The comparison made by DR. Ruby clearly indicated that the copycat company, EPIC MEMES has infringed the FBAR technology. From the cap-opened EPIC MEMS EP7041 filter chip, anyone can conclude that EPIC MEMES is using the technology from Broadcom.
Multiple research labs have unveiled this IP infringement with solid evidence after the conference. Dr. Ruby cautioned that brands who are using filter chips with infringed IPs may have to face the consequences. According to him, their reputation will be stained and the consequences may lead to market withdrawals. Brands may have to withdraw devices like pad computers and smartphones from markets which have infringed Broadcom patent chips.
The notion of a lawsuit against such companies is an interesting development. It has been observed that Samsung has obtained the problematic filter chips and they’ve been delivered to the market.
But the most surprising thing is perhaps the announcement made by the copycat EPIC MEMES. In response to Dr. Ruby’s panel, the company has rejected the claim. The Epic MEMES statement “we took (the) initiative designed and developed the technology” appears to be carefree and unworried. It is as if the copycat is challenging, “catch me if you can.”
Disclaimer: Contents and opinions in this article are not Founder Courier’s. We only provide a voice to sources in our community.
What is Positive Psychology?
For clinical psychologists, education and training have been centered on treating mental disorders to help people achieve symptom relief and return to “normal functioning. This is valuable and necessary work. It starts to feel overly focused on negative aspects of a client’s life. Would it be great to flourish rather than feel normal? What’s normal anyway?
A new field, referred to as positive psychology, was developed in response to the need for a broader focus. So, what is it exactly?
Positive psychology is a subfield of psychology that studies and promotes the positive aspects of human life, such as the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. More specifically, it focuses on what makes life meaningful and worth living, particularly on topics like happiness, well-being, life satisfaction, gratitude, optimism, character strengths, flourishing, and human potential.
The field of positive psychology was founded in 1998 by American psychologist Martin Seligman (now known as the “father of positive psychology”) during his term as president of the American Psychological Association. At the time, Seligman was frustrated with psychology’s primary emphasis on understanding and treating the negative aspects of the human experience, such as mental illness, suffering, dysfunctional behavior, trauma, and pain. For this reason, he decided to make positive psychology the theme of his presidential term.
Other psychologists have emerged as leaders of the movement with their unique contributions, including Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Christopher Peterson, and Barbara Fredrickson. From these co-initiators, we now have compelling research on concepts such as flow, character strengths, the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, and many more. We are thrilled to be able to share them with you so that you can thrive, too.
Advantages of Positive Psychology
Many studies encourage the workings of psychology. These include but aren’t restricted to:
- The ability of a cheerful disposition to cultivate the expertise of a happier mood. This isn’t only to say that putting on a happy face will lead to feelings of enjoyment. Instead, they will start to exploit a deeper relationship together.
- Easy and tiny actions can have the most significant effect on mood. By way of instance, if somebody generates a custom of keeping track of all the things they’re thankful for, they can subsequently experience more minutes of happiness and pleasure since they’re “priming” their heads to be receptive to these encounters.
- We’re resilient. Positive psychology contributes to the story as individuals are invited to concentrate on their strengths. Limited time is spent ruminating on our shortcomings or failures. By coming to us in this manner, we realize that we’re far more powerful than we give our credit for. This self-love creates a cycle of positive thinking in which people become better equipped to deal with compassion, kindness, and understanding.
Positive psychology is popular and attempts to bring out the best within a person or group. For example, someone could pursue an extraordinary life, participate in life, have a purposeful life, or attain life using positive psychology. Positive psychology impacts supporting mental illness, being joyful, attracting well-being, and decreasing anxiety, depression, and anxiety during positive ideas. Positive psychology is the study of this “great Life”, or even the positive facets of the human experience which make life worth living. As an artwork, it targets both individual and social well-being.
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