How To Avoid Being A Jerk In The Workplace

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Recently, I’ve had several clients come to me with the same problem–their co-workers think they’re jerks.

These revelations have come to light in 360s, performance reviews, and regular feedback sessions.

And the thing is, these people aren’t jerks. But, they’re doing everyday things perceived as jerky– stuff you may be of guilty of doing, too.

So, to better your reputation and play better with others, stop doing these four things–right now!

1. Don’t steal other people’s ideas.

Don’t take other people’s ideas and call them your own. People who are more autonomous by nature are especially in danger of doing this. They may express ideas without realizing they were expressed initially by someone else.

If this could be you, put yourself on notice and be aware if someone else expressed the same thought already. And, give credit where it’s due.

If you don’t, others will notice and assume you aren’t collaborative. Or worse, they may think you’re out to get them by stealing their ideas.

So, instead, listen and add on to others’ thoughts and ask for input on yours.

2. Don’t spew criticism.

Being direct is probably not a bad thing, but it can be off-putting or offensive when it’s about something negative, including constructive criticism.

Instead, learn the art of the compliment sandwich. That is, say something positive. Insert the criticism. Then, end with another positive.

And, make sure the compliments are related to what you’re concerned about. I’ve had people tell me I look nice, then follow up with apprehensions about my ideas. That doesn’t cushion the blow. Instead, show appreciation for people’s time and participation.

3. Don’t be a time suck.

This is for those people that monopolize meetings, launch marathon chat sessions, and delegate time-intensive tasks.


Be aware of how much air space you’re taking up and how much of another’s time you’re consuming. This is especially true for those of you who have a habit of pontificating or complaining. Collaboration is key.

4. Don’t blow others off.

People who don’t respond to emails, stay on mute on conference calls, and never say hello in the halls, are perceived as jerks.

Instead, be responsive and communicative. Always say hi virtually or face-to-face to everyone–from janitors to managers.

Over email, don’t forget the greetings–that’s a “hi (name)” and “best regards,” or something of that ilk. Otherwise, you come off as rude.

These actions are really very simple. You can start them right now and turn your reputation around! If you don’t, well, no one wants to work with–or for–a jerk!

A version of this post was first published on Inc.