There’s a New York Times article worth reading. In “How Bad Apples Infect the Tree,” Stanford professor Robert Sutton writes about nastiness at work, especially what he calls “jerk-infested” workplaces that “pack a disproportionately large wallop on our moods, well-being, physical health and relationships.” Disdain and disrespect increase costs and undermine work performance too.
Sutton tells of a woman named Ruth who was repeatedly put down, interrupted, and glared at by colleagues. She responded by using a technique she’d learned from river-rafting. She’d learned as a teenager that if she fell out of the boat, she shouldn’t fight the rapids. Instead, she should rely on her life vest and float with her feet held out to push off from rocks. Ruth, Sutton writes, used this strategy to survive nasty meetings. She detached herself, letting “verbal barbs” bounce off her.
There’s something to be said for detachment under such circumstances. Sutton doesn’t recommend it as a steady diet, suggesting that people instead leave a workplace where nastiness is pervasive.
Until that becomes possible, which could be a while in this economy, it’s important to know comebacks that make “jerks” think twice before taking you on.