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EQ IMPACT: You're not the jerk (but there still are some)

Let's be clear...You're Not the A$$hole (But There Still Are Some) - did that wake you up?

But wait!

We all know the archetype: the office jerk...go ahead and say it: "the a$$hole," the credit-stealing loudmouth, the negativity factory. As emotional intelligence experts, we champion self-awareness as the key to personal and professional growth. But what if the biggest obstacle to a healthy workplace isn't "them" but a nagging suspicion: "Could it be me?"

Women standing up with arms spread out by her side
Women standing up with arms spread out by her side.

Let's face it: dealing with workplace jerks is a universal struggle. But before we launch into strategies for handling them, let's take a deep breath and consider a possibility that might sting—could our own behavior be contributing to the problem? One of the crucial elements we learn with emotional intelligence is "understanding the perception you give off." And this can be so hard! Trust me.

Here's how to turn that introspection into positive action:

1. (Hop on the Self-Awareness Train!) The Brutal Honesty Check:

Start with a self-assessment. Reflect on your interactions with colleagues. Do you:

Interrupt or dominate conversations?

Take credit for others' work (even unintentionally)?

Deliver criticism harshly or without empathy?

Struggle with managing your frustration, leading to outbursts?

Be honest with yourself. Even a few "yesses" indicate areas for improvement.

2. Seek Multiple Perspectives:

Self-evaluation is crucial, but it can be biased. Reach out to a trusted colleague you respect (not someone who might gossip) and ask for their honest opinion on your communication style and interactions with others. This feedback, even if not always easy to hear, can be invaluable.  

3. Reframe Your Perception of Conflict:

Sometimes, we misinterpret assertiveness for aggression. Is it possible you're simply passionate and direct, while others perceive it as hostility? Learn to differentiate between advocating for your ideas and being disrespectful to opposing viewpoints.

4. The Power of Active Listening:

Truly listen to understand, not just to respond. Ask clarifying questions, and acknowledge the other person's perspective. This shows respect and fosters collaboration, replacing the us vs. them mentality.

5. Mastering the Art of Apology:

We all make mistakes. If you realize you've misspoken or been insensitive, own it! A sincere apology goes a long way in repairing relationships and demonstrating emotional intelligence. Remember: Your intent does not supersede the impact.

Okay, You're Not the Jerk (But There Still Are Some):

Women standing and pointint finger out on audience.
Women standing and pointint finger out on audience.

Let's say introspection reveals you're not the problem child. Now what? Here are some strategies for dealing with genuine workplace jerks:

The Disarm: Humor can be a powerful tool. A lighthearted quip can deflect tension and redirect the conversation. Use it cautiously, though, to avoid coming across as dismissive.  

The Boundary Setter:   If humor doesn't work, establish clear boundaries. "I appreciate your input, but I need to handle this." Be firm without being confrontational.

Document and Report (When Necessary):

  1. If the behavior is severe or persistent, keep a record of incidents.

  2. If it violates company policy, escalate it to HR.

  3. Remember, protecting yourself and fostering a positive work environment is your right.

  4. Remember, you can also have a "bigger voice" speak on your behalf.

You have a powerful voice. You have to use it. You have undeniable courage. You have to use it. You have confidence. You have to do it. All of this is to protect your peace and (emotional) power.


The key is to approach every situation with emotional intelligence and self-awareness. By turning the spotlight inward first, we can improve ourselves and foster a more respectful and productive work environment for everyone.

So the next time you encounter an office jerk (or shall we say a$$hole?), take a deep breath, consider if there's room for self-improvement, and then choose to react with emotional intelligence. You might be surprised how powerful that can be.

Nicole F. Smitth Signature
Nicole F. Smitth Signature

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