Dave Kerpen | How to Work with a Jerk
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How to Work with a Jerk

How to Work with a Jerk

Recently, our software company Likeable Local began partnering with large companies to help reach more small businesses. Our first company, Likeable Media, works with many large companies as clients. So even though I don’t have a boss, from time to time I’ve had to work with people I don’t love. In fact, recently I began working with someone that I can only (nicely) call a total jerk. We’ll call him Al to protect the guilty in this article.

Al is the kind of person who hates babies and kittens and is never happy. Al demands a lot of everyone around him at work. Al is often if not always critical, and is never one to praise or compliment coworkers and employees. It’s always “Al’s way or the highway.” When I talked to someone at his company about Al, I was told, “Get in line. Nobody can stand the guy. But he’s here because he gets results.”

Do you know anyone like “Al”?

I’ve had the good fortune of building my own companies over the last seven years, and have worked very hard to build a likeable, positive, fun corporate culture at both, so it’s been awhile since I’ve worked with a jerk. I could complain endlessly about working with a jerk, but the truth is, complaining won’t change anything, for me, or for any of you out there who currently work with or for a jerk.

So instead, let’s look at three suggestions for making work with a jerk, easier, for you and for me:

1) Seek to Understand Where The Jerk is Coming From

I studied psychology in college, and love using what I learned to better understand people. I also truly believe in the inherent goodness of people. Maybe my jerk was constantly criticized as a child by his parents. Maybe nothing is ever good enough for his wife. Maybe someone else at the company is instilling these values and there’s a lot of pressure on him to perform. Even if you can’t understand exactly why your jerk acts how he/she does, by simply trying to understand, you’ll humanize him more, which will help you deal with him.

2) Shower the Jerk with Positivity

It never hurts to be positive. Never. Begin and end your interactions with the jerk with a smile. Send handwritten thank you notes. I even sent Al a box of chocolates. Being super friendly and positive likely won’t change the jerk at all, or make him appreciate you more, or be kinder to you. But it will put you in a better mindset to deal with him/her. It will make you happier — and in the end, that’s what matters most.

3) Talk to Others and Consider Your Options

I often talk with people who are in difficult work situations, that don’t see themselves as having options. You have a mortgage to pay. You don’t have other skills. You’ve been working there forever, and it’s all you know. The truth is, you always have options. If you’re working with or for a jerk and the situation is making you miserable, seek out other options. Talk (carefully) to other people who work with or for the jerk and get their insights. Read What Color is Your Parachute. Know that today, thanks to social media, the world is smaller and more transparent than ever before. Eventually, the jerks will be out of business, and you will be able to rise above when you’re dealing with now. But if you can’t wait, seek out other non-jerks now.

You spend more of your waking life at work than you do anywhere else, so it’s important that you work with and for people you like and respect. Ultimately, choose to work with those people, and you’ll be happier. But in the meantime, if you’re stuck with a jerk – seek to understand, be positive, talk to others, and consider all of your options.


Now it’s your turn! Have you ever worked with or for a jerk? How did you deal with it? And what tips do you have for other people who may currently work with someone they don’t like? Let me know in the Comments section below, and please do share this post with all of the non-jerks in your network!

  • Jeannette Purcell
    Posted at 21:39h, 28 June Reply

    I have worked with a jerk. This person was very demoralizing to almost every one she worked with. You could complain to upper management and they would do nothing. Very high turnover rate with this company. How I handled that situation was to avoid that person and found another job.

  • Alina
    Posted at 21:07h, 15 September Reply

    Thanks for the insight,Dave. You describe the characteristics of the jerk perfectly. I have come across someone like that and found out that nothing that you do, positivity, common courtesies or rising above their petty attention seeking tactics, eventually works. You’re stuck in a rut and it wreaks havoc with mental health. I suppose just putting up with the situation is what you can do best and distancing one self from the jerk as far as one can.

  • Sokheng
    Posted at 07:54h, 16 September Reply

    I used to work for a jerk. For 2 years. Nobody want to work with her but they have to stay because it’s very difficult to look for a better job in the small country. They have to stay in critical circumstances because of a jerk manager who want to control everything.
    I can reach my goal today because of her as well. I told myself that I have to work hard and study hard to get a better job and work place today.

  • Claudette Landry
    Posted at 11:53h, 16 September Reply

    I agree with you Dave that showering the jerk with positivity is the only control you have. I have done this before and it really helped me feel good about myself . Because sometimes these people really dont bring out the best in us. The only control we have is how we choose to act or react!

  • Domenic Certa
    Posted at 17:29h, 24 October Reply

    Yes! There is a way to deal with a jerk!

  • Igorlasotov
    Posted at 12:54h, 10 June Reply


    Can I contact admin?
    It is about advertisement on your website.


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