Offensive assholes at work

And what to do about them. . .

I’m pretty sure the reason that I’m not “professionally successful,” a “go-getter” with a “bright future,” is that I actually cry at work. I know, I’m such a girl. Well, ok – I close the door to my cubicle and just snivel, but somehow I suspect the average 41-year has slightly more effective ways of dealing with asshole colleagues.

The perfect asshole colleague (AC), of course, never does anything that you could sue the AC for, or drag the AC before Human Resources, or actually even explain why the AC makes you want to both cry and puke at the same time. The AC will: maliciously misrepresent things you say so that everyone thinks that you are somehow responsible for major fuck-ups; carbon-copy the misrepresentations to co-workers, with strategic contextual bits cut out; respond to your on-going efforts to be excruciatingly diplomatic (for the sake of ‘collegiality’) by telling you that you’re stupid and incapable of independent thought; belittle all aspects of your argument by simply repeating that you are wrong and the AC is right; refuse to undertake any task that will not be formally evaluated because the AC has more important things to do (and since everyone else has a notional sense of professionalism, the AC’s work will simply be delegated to someone else), and ignore all efforts to open dialogue and pull something positive from a train-wreck of office politics, etc. In other words: every office has one. Welcome to capitalism (actually, I suspect that there were ACs in the feudal era as well, but in general things just sucked more then).

But no – I don’t want your sympathy. I actually want revenge. This may be difficult to do, since this would potentially jeopardize my own job, and I need my job (for now). But there must be subtle, yet cruel, practices that would give me tremendous satisfaction. Alternately, I need to find some way to self-medicate so that I’ll be able to remain sober, concentrate on tasks at hand, but not feel any sicky, pukey feelings. It would be nice, actually, if I just had some self esteem and could get over this. But frankly, I tried to be diplomatic, patient, sympathetic and a few other things, and just got reamed. So give me some help, people! Sedatives of choice? Favorite childish revenge pranks? I’ll be up all night feeling queasy, anyway, so fire away! (metaphorically, of course).

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11 Responses to Offensive assholes at work

  1. janet5 says:

    I have just started the ‘self-medicating with mediocre bourbon’ phase. This won’t last long, I fear (low alcohol tolerance).

  2. steve says:

    since everyone else has a notional sense of professionalism, the AC’s work will simply be delegated to someone else.

    This sounds like a real problem to me. The AC might not be behaving in this way if s/he did not think it would mean avoiding doing the more tedious aspects of academic work. People like this tend to be pretty goal-oriented. Whoever is responsible for delegating this work should be onto this and make him or her do it. That’s their job.

    My strategy would be to go the Head of School (or whoever is delegating the work) and explain that you cannot undertake the extra tasks that have been left to you, because you are too busy with projects of your own and it isn’t your job. There’s no need to personally attack the AC. Just try not to get stuck with his or her work and keep calm about it.

    I did this once when an arsehole colleague of mine was trying to avoid doing the dog work on a large grant application and hoping I’d get saddled with it. I saw the potential disaster looming, and was tempted to step in, but consciously avoided saying anything or doing anything about it. I also made sure I was busy with another project when the crunch came.

    He ended up totally fucking up the applicati0n, which was beautiful, and everyone kept asking him why he hadn’t done all these really basic things that needed doing, so he looked a fool. At this stage, if he’d said “but someone else was supposed to do it for me” he would have looked an even bigger fool.

    He never did it again – to me, anyway. He’s out of a job now.

    Not sure what I’d do about the abuse. But I’d the best revenge would be to leave him in a situation where he fails at something really major, because he relies on help and support and then doesn’t get it.

    People like that deserve this.

    • janet5 says:

      Steve, this sounds like a sane response. But it is, like, way too rational. Unfortunately, the AC in question is embedded in a mini-hierarchy of ACs and is therefore protected from a variety of obligations because he/she needs time to focus on his/her ‘brilliant work’ . There are some inter-office decisions that must include input from all affected staff, and this is where the problems start – the AC feels ignored if his/her particular point of view does not win out, the rest of us are stupid and incompetent, or worse – hostile and patronizing to the AC (which winds up getting us in trouble). Ultimately the AC wins, because people would rather not have to deal with the crap and instead prefer do the work on their own.

      I think it’s also just a question of how committed different people are to making a particular community livable and workable. I’m sure I’m no angel when I’m argumentative – and I do tend to take things personally – but I also have a shame reflex that eventually kicks in if I’m being an asshole. The AC has no internal filters, and therefore no sense of shame or embarrassment about pretty much anything. I suppose the best that can be hoped is that at some point, the AC will be so convinced of how moronic and lame the rest of us are that he/she will move on to a new job.

      • steve says:

        Unfortunately, the AC in question is embedded in a mini-hierarchy of ACs and is therefore protected from a variety of obligations because he/she needs time to focus on his/her ‘brilliant work’ .

        Look for a new job?

        Sorry, but it sounds like this guy (can we just say it’s a guy?) has the game all sewed up. Either go with the arsenic strategy or move on.

      • janet5 says:

        Yeah. I am simply trying to refuse to engage at all (delete e-mails without reading them; avoid unnecessary social contact). Maybe I could lobby for Prozac in the water supply? I do think that eventually he will look for a new job. The worst thing is that he will probably inflict the same behavior on whatever new place he lands in.

  3. janet5 says:

    I love you, Mack. Admittedly, the whole arsenic thing might get me in trouble, and there’s the whole problem of the appropriate delivery vehicle – the AC would probably be suspicious if I arrived at his/her cubicle with a “peace offering” of vanilla cupcakes. And I would probably be invited to eat one first, which means I’d have to craftily make sure that some of them did *not* have arsenic and were indicated by a slightly different frosting color. I’ve clearly spent some time thinking about this.

    But the other suggestions are just ripe with possibility. I’ve also considered signing the AC up for a variety of Christian support group e-mail lists. Preferably ones with high traffic.

    I already have a warm feeling inside. Thanks.

  4. Daisy Anne says:

    Vengeance is always the best idea, otherwise people just keep taking the piss.
    Vengeance, and coffee with me.

    • janet5 says:

      Indeed! I sincerely doubt that I will be thinking about the AC at all when we get our coffee, which makes me very, very happy. As for vengeance. . . I will have to see whether I can build a secret network of equally aggrieved co-workers. Vengeance is more fun with a team.

  5. steve says:

    Yes, vengeance is in order, but what kind of vengeance?

    I know it has already been written off in favor of arsenic as being too rational, but I would still maintain that landing the AC in a situation where he fucks up and looks a fool is the best plan of attack here.

    Find something that he is definitely responsible for, and tries to shirk. Then make your move. And yes, a team of fellow aggrieved co-workers will help.

  6. k- says:

    Hmmm, I’m not sure I agree about the team approach. If one decides to back out or, worse yet, squeal, then the whole plan falls apart. I say go it alone.

  7. janet5 says:

    This arrived in my in-box a couple days ago:

    How To Deal With Difficult People:
    Never again fall victim to those who love to make life miserable for the rest of us …

    * You’ll learn why they act the way they do.
    * You’ll find out exactly what to say and do in specific situations.
    * You’ll become less of a target for their barbs and antics
    * You’ll see how to bring out the best in even the worst offenders.

    Attend this seminar and gain the communication skills you need to “de-stress” all of your difficult relationships, on the job and off.

    This is a day of intensive training with immediate payback …
    Learn to take the offensive against know-it-alls, dictators, snipers, gripers, “yes” people, “no” people, and all of the other contrary characters you confront every day.

    I really like the idea of “immediate payback,” although I suspect it does not involve rat poison in the cupcakes. I do like the idea that I could somehow immunize myself against the barbs and antics of others. However, this “professional seminar” costs $119 (why $119? why not an even $120?). The advertisement noted that there is a group discount for parties of five or more, in case you need to bring the whole traumatized office along. And of course, this all probably assumes that the AC is going to respond rationally to others’ strategies – I seriously think that a more intensive de-programming strategy is in order.

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