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Work is filled with jackasses — here’s how to handle two types


Back in the early 2000s (flashes Gen X symbol, too small for Boomers to see without their reading glasses), Scott was working at his second job as a sales trainer for a packaging company. It was a pretty sweet gig. He traveled around North America training people to sell bubble wrap. We aren’t talking quick Skype sessions or anything — these were three-day training sessions on how to sell air.

His yearly evaluation was coming up, and he was pretty sure trouble was on its way. He wasn’t exactly the definition of a good employee. 

Before the evaluation, he called home to let everyone know he’d likely be home early, and possibly unemployed. The time came, and he sat down across from his boss, ready to pack up his desk and thank him for the opportunity, when his boss surprisingly told him the year had gone great and offered him a $5,000 raise. 

After the shock of the evaluation, Scott went back to his desk and drafted an email home:

Not only did I not get fired, I got a raise! It’s going to be hard to do less this coming year, but I’m going to give it a shot! I work for idiots.

And then he sent the email. To his boss.

A wave of panic came over him as he searched for the “unsend” button of his dreams, wildly pinching the cords coming out of the desktop. He worked literally twice as hard to stop the send as he had the entire last year at work. 

Scott’s boss walked by his office a few moments later and told him it was probably the funniest email he’d ever seen, and wished him a good weekend. 

Yadda, yadda, yadda … Scott started his own business. Entrepreneur, after all, is Latin for “bad employee.”

Our workplaces are filled with jackasses. Some of them slack off, expecting to be fired, only to get raises, and then email their bosses about being idiots. When you put a lot of humans into one space, jackasses happen. It’s just science. There are loud typers and sniffers, overzealous meeting holders and contributors. There are slackers, and those who never make more coffee or add more paper to the printer. Someone in every office mispronounces and misuses words, or uses jargon with such confidence they may as well just walk up to a chalkboard and have at it with their nails. When people share a microwave, things get real. That’s work. 

Years of extensive jackass research has shown us that the first step to not being the jackass at work is to realize that we are all the jackass from time to time. How we react to the day-to-day frustrations at the office shape the way we interact, and — most importantly — whether we pay the jackassery of Carol with her loud phone calls and her microwave tuna forward. We all need to be jackass whisperers — snuffing out the purveyors of pet peeves before their attitudes spread.  

For example, let’s meet two of our favorite work jackasses: Long-Weekend Larry and Infectious Ian. For each one, we’ll give you two possible reactions — the jackass reaction, which pays the negativity forward, and the whisperer reaction, which stops the spread.


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