by Mike Masnick

Working With The Smart Office Jerk, Or The Nice Office Dunce?

from the your-choice... dept

Apparently, a new study has found that most people would much rather work with a likable, but less-skilled co-worker than a smart and competent jerk. It's probably not too surprising, given how aggravating a jerk can be when you need to deal with them on a constant basis. Either way, the study seems quite relative. What kind of a "jerk" the person is can make a big difference, as could just how incompetent the other person is. In the meantime though, we really need to change around our own online poll, so we'll just use this question as the basis for our own highly unscientific survey.

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  • identicon
    acousticiris, 27 Jul 2005 @ 9:46am

    Good points all around . . .

    It reminds me of a situation in my own life where I worked both *for* and *with* a jerk. The guy was technically brilliant. There was nobody in my office that could match his skills better on almost any subject related to server support. In addition, the largest bredth of his knowledge was in a specific subject that he worked the most on, so he had the perfect fit to the perfect job.
    There was only one problem: he was a HUGE pain to work with. Nobody had a good thing to say about this fellow. The running joke was that when you asked this individual a question, you always have to ask twice because his first response will always be "No", or "I can't help you". After rewording the question, kissing his butt a little and working very hard to appeal to what little "better sense" he had, you might get him to work with you on something.

    Eventually, I left that team.
    And not too long after his employment was terminated. Much to some manager's surprise (believing we couldn't lose such a brilliantly knowledgeable person), the department runs much better without him.
    Even though the rest of the team is not nearly as skilled, and his position was filled by someone who has very little technical ability, his replacement's willingness to work with others to fill his gaps of understanding/knowledge coupled with the willingness to work within a cohesive team has made that department one of the better performing in our company.

    So yes, the degree to which this guy was a jerk was his downfall. Had he been a little easier to work with, he would have been successful.
    Conversely, to the degree his replacement is inexperienced, if he were not so easy to work with he would not be successful.

    But to the survey's point, I do find that it is much more desirable to have an inexperienced coworker/boss than a jerk simply because inexperience can be fixed through learning or appropriate delegation. A person's choice to be a pain-in-the-neck is often psychological, and I'm not in the psychology business.
    Personally, I've always been left wondering how someone can be on this planet for so long and still be incapable of dealing or working with others. Politeness and consideration are not difficult traits to most of us, so when encountering a person who completely lacks them I am left to wonder what other problems they have?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      thecaptain, 27 Jul 2005 @ 10:16am

      Re: Good points all around . . .

      The manager's response above is a very common

      I've always found the only people who LIKE working with very knowledgeable and competent jerks are the managers who never have to ACTUALLY work with them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TenRam, 27 Jul 2005 @ 9:46am

    People to Avoid

    How about trying to stay clear of people who are incredibly inefficient communicators? You know, people who can't say what they mean in under a paragraph or two or who keep talking after you tell them you understand or agree.

    People who make you cringe when they walk in the door and you're working on something important and you know from the time they open their mouth until the time they walk out, 95% of their breath is going to be wasted noise.


    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chris, 27 Jul 2005 @ 11:33am

    Not altogether unexpected...

    ...when I trained tech support agents, I always started off by asking the question "When you call tech support, would you rather talk to a friendly person who couldn't help you, or a rude person that fixed your problem, but called you names."

    90% or better, to my perpetual confusion, always went for nicer moron... the few that didn't I imediately focused on level 2 support, inevitably, they were always the ones CAPABLE of doing it. Engineer brain vs. everyone else.

    I will never get that... but I still use the question all the time, to separate the people who will inevitably just annoy me, from the few that might not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jul 2005 @ 12:14pm

    No Subject Given

    Which one might be more of threat to their own job security, the competent one or the incompetent one?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rich Jerk, 10 Aug 2006 @ 11:51pm

    So True

    There is nothing worst than working with someone who always judges what you say and tries to rebut whatever actions you make just to make themselves feel or look smarter in front of your superiors.

    I think I speak for most people when I say that working with nice people is so much easier and would accomplish much more.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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