No matter where you work, you’ve probably encountered a jerk or two who makes your job a lot less enjoyable. And it turns out work jerks come in a few different varieties. According to Tessa West, an associate professor of psychology at NYU and author of the book, “Jerks at Work: Toxic Coworkers and What to Do About Them,” most work jerks typically fall into at least one of seven categories. And if you know the red flags to look for, you can spot them and keep them from doing too much damage.
These are West’s tips for finding and dealing with the seven types of work jerks:
- Kiss-up kick-downers - They have a constant need to compare themselves with others and can read a room to figure out who’s got power and who doesn’t. This helps them know who to suck up to and get those in charge on their side. Find allies to help you deal with them, especially those who’ve already been targeted by kiss-up kick-downers.
- Credit stealers - These opportunists look for teams that work well together and use a lot of “we” language so it’s tough to tell who gets the credit. They also love hands-off bosses who can be fooled by their tactics, but finding ways to give credit where credit is due helps stop them.
- Bulldozers - They’re willing to do anything to get their way, even if it means flattening people. To deal with them, use strategies to make sure you’re being heard and don’t rely on them to get things done.
- Free riders - West says this is the most common type of jerk at work, especially when it involves any type of teamwork. They tend to be charming, so we like having them around and they fly under the radar and get the team to pick up their slack. Doing regular accounting of who does what behind the scenes may keep them from getting away with it.
- Micromanagers - They tend to get involved in every minor detail of your work, disrupting and slowing things down in the process. Deal with them by setting specific boundaries about what you need to do your work effectively and scheduling regular check-ins.
- Neglectful bosses - Weeks may go by without them checking in and their inconsistency leaves you feeling uncertain when they’ll show up and want to get involved. To deal with them, try making small, specific asks and getting help from an expert who isn’t your neglectful boss.
- Gaslighters - This is the scariest, most pathological jerk to deal with at work, according to West. They’re lying because they want to hide something and they’re good at covering their tracks, but building up a network of people you can rely on who have experience working with the gaslighter can help you deal with them.
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