High-Performing Jerks in the Office

Sitcom producers have made millions by capitalizing on the person in the office all of us love to hate. You know the person I’m talking about-the high performing jerk. The one no one likes but everyone caters to. The person everyone secretly wishes could be taken out by a hitman but would never say that out loud. So what do you do when you have a high performing jerk in the office?

One of the first things leaders have to realize is that no one person on their team is more valuable than the collective momentum or energy. Leaders who allow the high performing jerks to influence the organization’s direction commit the ultimate malpractice. Our first job as leaders is to protect our people and our company from any threats which includes those internally.

Teams who have the seemingly untouchable high performing jerk will typically function like a family who’s unwilling to admit there is a serious problem. Many will be content to grumble behind closed doors with colleagues while others spend their free time surfing career sites.

How do you handle the high performing jerk in the office?

Leaders:Confront the high performing jerk in the office directly!

The first step is to address the individual directly (dah!). Do not succumb to the fear that grips most leaders when they have this conversation-this high performing jerk in the office will not make or break your company financially. That has to be the #1 reason I hear managers give when I encourage them to confront the office jerk. This type of thought process is what has allowed the little monster to grow into the full-grown Godzilla so as Barney Fife said, “Nip it in the bud!”

Team:Encourage the team to speak up

Maybe it’s being raised as the oldest of four or maybe it’s just how I’m wired, but I rarely let a jerk get away with anything on the team. If you find yourself dealing with a high performing jerk on your team or in the office, you have the right and obligation to say something. First, try going through the proper channels by going to your manager. If he/she will not take action, confront the jerk on your own.

Now I don’t mean to go all gangster on them and meet them behind the building but find ways to diplomatically challenge them or better yet, sit down and help make them aware of their actions. Don’t let the bully take control of the team. You might find that when you find the backbone to stand up, your team members will follow your lead. It’s always good to have the group self-correct team members when possible.

Leaders: Get HR involved early

I love how right before the shit hits that metaphorical fan, that’s when leaders want to call in HR to fix the mess. My suggestion would be to involve your HR partner as soon as you start seeing signs that one of your team members is showing signs of becoming a jerk. Allow your partner to help coach you and the team member toward a more positive resolution rather than waiting until things hit a nuclear level.

I must admit, I’ve been one of those high performing jerk in the office. I didn’t realize how much of a diva I had become until one of my team members called me out on it. I realized then that I needed to change not only to help my team but also to help myself.

All that to say, maybe the high performing jerk in the office isn’t the ultimate douche bag everyone thinks they are. Maybe, just maybe there’s still a human to be salvaged out of the mess.

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