Don't Be a Jerk at Work

You would think that this would go without saying. I know you aren't that person; that you're reading this, and will repost this article so "that person" will see it, read it, see the light and stop being a jerk. I've certainly worked with a few big time jerks in my life, and it's a terrible experience when you're on the receiving end of it.

Turns out, believe it or not, it's bad for the jerk, too. Or at least for their organization. Those jerky behaviors, can cause a lot of damage at work. So, just in case you ever slip into jerkdom yourself (I know I've done it a few times), here's why you should rethink your unfiltered and unpleasant ways.

Distracted Unproductive Employees

First, being a jerk puts everyone around you in a bad mood. Bad moods aren't conducive to good work. In fact, they lead to complaining, gossiping, and focusing on how awful the jerk is. These emotions are contagious, so pretty soon you'll have more people in your organization spending more time grousing than working. And when they do get back to work, they won't be doing their best work. Why? Because a bad mood affects our ability to focus and be productive. So, decreasing productivity. A bad thing.

And, as it turns out, if you're a jerk at work, you'll pay the price.

High Turnover That You Can't Afford

Second, people will only put up with your bad behaviors for so long before they walk. So whether you belittle others, criticize them, or merely micromanage them, be aware that you're setting your organization up for some expensive rework -- as you'll have to hire and retrain folks to replace the ones you've run off. This can run you into some big bucks; for low and mid-wage earners (up to $75K/year) those turnover costs average about 20% of their salary. If you're losing more senior employees, with specialty jobs or unique skills, the cost can be from 150% to 200% of their salary. Expensive rework. Lost knowledge and intellectual capital. More badness.

Dumbing Down Your People

Worst of all, when you behave like a jerk -- ridiculing others, dismissing their ideas, sometimes just excluding them -- you're evoking a threat response in your team members' brains. This is a lot more costly than you might think. As Amy Cuddy and her research colleagues reported, it "can undermine cognitive potential, creativity, and problem-solving, and cause employees to get stuck and even disengage." People who feel discounted limit their commitment and engagement, even if they aren't aware of it. David Rock, an expert in the effect of brain science on modern management practices explains: "Humans cannot think creatively, work well with others, or make informed decisions when their threat responses are on high alert." So these jerky behaviors actually dumb your people down: decreasing creativity, interfering with intellect, and blocking problem-solving abilities. Not. Good. Ever.

There's no question that stress levels are higher than ever at work. The best of us, under that much stress, can sometimes act like a jerk. But this is no excuse to treat one another badly. And, as it turns out, if you're a jerk at work, you'll pay the price.

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