3 Tactics For Dealing With the Jackass at Work!

My work life has been peppered with people that have been…well let’s just say, jackasses.  I’ve always thought of myself as someone that’s easy to get along with but, obviously, that’s not the case with everyone.  It could be your boss, co-worker, subordinate or even the barista at Starbucks…let’s face facts, we all work with some people that we might consider difficult.   The difficulty could arise from a difference of opinion, attitude, or just moving through the same spaces.  Regardless of from where it stems, it can make our work life miserable!  If our work life is miserable, that’s going to filter into most facets of the rest of our life.  80% of our success in life isn’t about how much we know or how skilled we are, it comes from how well we get along with people and those difficult ones can be, well, difficult!
If you’d like to get along with (notice I wrote “get along with” and not be “best friends with”) the difficult people at work, here are three tactics that have always worked for me.

When I was a young Petty Officer, I worked with a crusty old Master Chief that, quite frankly, hated my guts (and it was reciprocated).  I didn’t like the way he did things and he didn’t like my “snarky” attitude.  So, to get along and get things done, we kept it professional.  Very much like Dragnet’s, Joe Friday, our conversations were about “just the facts.”   That kept personality out of the equation and kept things moving.

Tactic #2:  BE NICE
My first instinct when someone comes at me is to come right back.  If they bring a knife to a fight, I want to bring a gun (figuratively…obviously).  Although it goes against my instinct, what I’ve found is that by being nice, it helps ease the tension.  If they bring a knife, I’m bringing a smile.  If they bring a gun, I’m bringing a laugh (you get the idea).  Take a clue from Patrick Swayze in “Road House”….”Be Nice, until it’s time not to be nice.”  Those times may come but 99.9% of the time we can be nice, kill them with kindness and always come out ahead.

I used to have a Major work for me that would try and block anything (and everything) he could in order to maintain control.  Instinctively (like I said),  I flanked the same way but found that fighting fire with fire brought less results than I would hope.  What I found was that if I started any conversation about daughters (we both had two), he would be much more receptive to anything I had to say.  I would even ask his advice on what he did in certain situations when he was raising his girls (his were a little older than mine).  EVERYONE HAS SOMETHING IN COMMON!  Find out what it is by asking questions and let that be the baseline for opening your conversations.  Even if it’s “Hey, you have parents!?  I have parents too!”  We ALL have a baseline from which to draw and connect.

In all of these situations, I didn’t become BFF’s with the person but I DID learn to get along.  In any situation, we have a choice to make.  We can let it control us or we can work to control it.  I think that these three tactics help keep the control in our own court so that we’re a little less stressed, get along better and can move our team further with less blockage from jackasses.  I hope you find the same.

Originally posted 2011-09-13 09:09:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter


  1. I am sometimes (often) the “difficult person”… that’s why I hire people that are friendlier than I am… so I am not the ass to customers.

    Sometimes I know I need to step back and “check myself”… these articles help me do that.

  2. I love this advice Chip! It takes a bit of maturity to pull it off though. I’d like to add one more tactic: Avoid the water cooler whining surrounding Mr. Jackass. Eventually the comments people make find their way back to the target, only exasperating the problem. Like your mother always said, “If you can’t say something nice….shut up!”