There are a lot of ways to be a jerk at work. Someone was complaining to me about a co-worker stealing credit for her ideas the other day. Another person was recently really upset about someone constantly making personal comments about her appearance.
And, I think sometimes people don’t even know they’re being jerks. We’re insecure, we’re preoccupied. And those things can sometimes translate into thoughtless and oblivious behaviour. But that doesn’t make it any easier on your colleagues. And in the long run, being unlikeable isn’t going to help your career.
Here are ten ways not to be a jerk at work. If you’re doing the opposite of any of these behaviours, there’s a good chance your colleagues aren’t your biggest fans.
Don’t steal credit or ideas. I had a boss once who took credit for my work and ideas in such a fashion that is made it impossible for me to protest without looking petty. It drove me insane. Don’t do this. But it’s not enough to not actively take credit, you must also give it where it’s due. Make sure that others are recognized for the work they do. You’ll go farther in life building people up than knocking them down.
Do your job. So simple and obvious, right? But haven’t we all had that co-worker who never seems to do anything? How does that person keep their job? I can’t tell you. But I can tell you that doing your job, and not leaving others to pick up your slack, is a good idea. And if you can, do more than your job. Help others do their jobs! It’s fun! And makes everyone’s life better.
Don’t boss people around. If you need someone to do something ask nicely. Even if you’re the boss. Say please and thank you.
Don’t gossip. Got something to say about someone else? Don’t. Don’t talk about other people’s appearance, personal lives, habits, or shortcomings. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Haven’t you seen Bambi?
Don’t be a passive-aggressive jerkface. I know a woman who got to work one morning to find a disposable coffee cup on her desk that a co-worker had taken out of her garbage can. The colleague had removed the lid and heat sleeve and put them beside the cup, on a piece of paper with a note reading “These are recyclable!” With a smiley face. (The coffee cup itself was not recyclable.) No matter how passionate you are about the environment, this is not acceptable behaviour. It’s rude, self-righteous, and downright weird. Stay out of people’s garbage. Also, don’t be passive-aggressive. You get the idea. I hope.
Clean up your own mess. Why is the office fridge so gross? And why are there always dishes and mugs in the sink right under the sign that says “Please wash your dishes”? It’s like living in a land of obstinate, oblivious children. And it breeds resentment. Throw out your old food, and wash your own dishes – even if no one else does. Set an example.
Listen to other people. I’ve worked with people who never seemed to understand a word I said, because they couldn’t be bothered to listen. Listen when people talk to you instead of just waiting your turn to talk. You might learn something. And you might discover that other people’s input helps everyone function better as a team.
Don’t complain about little things. You know those coworkers who go around complaining about the smell of someone else’s lunch, or the volume of someone’s phone? You know what’s more annoying than the smell of a tuna sandwich and the sound of a ringing phone? Hearing you whine about it.
Don’t schedule meetings unless it’s necessary. Before you schedule a meeting, ask yourself if the meeting could be an email. Or could you just walk over to someone’s desk, and ask them for your stapler back, and tell them not to take it again? If so, don’t schedule a meeting. Ask yourself if you’re just trying to establish your presence, get attention, or make a connection with someone. If so, find another way to do those things.
Just be nice. Ask yourself if what you’re about to say is kind, necessary, or helpful. If it’s not any of those. You shouldn’t say it. We’ve all worked with people we didn’t like. And a lot of the time it just comes down to them saying and doing thoughtless things. And no, comments about someone’s appearance, if they are not complimentary, are not any of those things. Don’t make personal remarks. And think before you speak. Those things alone will eliminate a substantial amount of jerkiness.