And now, back to our regularly scheduled program already in progress.
Last week, in Work With A Jerk? Part 1, we talked about how crappy it is to work with a jerk, and how you can minimize the stress by first checking your own reaction.
This week, let’s talk about other things you can do to further insulate yourself from a real jerk.
Because you can. I’m telling you, honestly. It’s totally possible. But you may not like what I suggest you do. Ready?
OK, you have to set boundaries.[insert collective simultaneous groan and sucking-in of breath]
Sure, we hear about “boundaries” from time to time and I’ve written about this before (When Gifts Become Junk was especially good, imho) but let me lay out a keen definition for you right here:
A boundary is knowing where you stop and I start.
When there is no separation between you and a jerk, it’s that much easier for the jerk to control you, manipulate you, push all your crazy-making buttons. When you know who you are, and have a firm sense of your own edges, you exist as a whole person, and are not as easily triggered.
Jerks rarely “see” people. Rather, they often think of others as merely an extension of themselves. So if the jerk is angry, everyone must be angry. If the jerk likes to get drunk every night in a bar after work, he’ll expect you to do it, too. If the jerk lies, steals, cheats and compromises her integrity at every opportunity, guess what she’ll expect of you?
Insulate yourself by refusing to merge with the jerk – and you’ll effectively isolate him or her. And at the bare minimum, you’ll feel so much better about yourself.
A boundary is also knowing where to draw the line.
Here are the facts: work is not your family. Your boss is not your parent. You are not your employee’s parent. So, believe it or not, there are some things you don’t have to put up with, some confidences you don’t need to hear, some emotions you don’t need to soak up like a scrubbie sponge. If this is what you learned to do in your own family – unlearn it. Now.
Boundaries might be an issue for you if you find yourself overly flexible – willing to do anything for anyone and incapable of saying no. Sound familiar? Or maybe you’re overly rigid. There are rules, and the way things should be and, by golly, that’s that. And creativity? Solutions? Are you allowing those in?
Both circumstances reflect leaky boundaries.
And, like it or not, a hierarchy exists in work and you ignore it at your peril.
If you’re the boss and you confide your deepest concerns to the receptionist, what are you doing?
Confiding bestows power.
So set a boundary and be very careful about when you spill your guts at the workplace. Think about who you confide in – and pick a trusted peer, an ally, a friend. Not someone who will use the power bestowed by your confidence for evil. Need I remind you of those two words who have fueled jerks for ages – “office gossip”?
The bottom line: Holding yourself separate and intact, and drawing the line by saying “yes” when you want to say “yes” and “no” when you need to say “no”, will defuse the anxiety and stress that comes from working with a jerk.
Next week: knowing when it’s time to quit. Bet you’ll like that one.