The topic of “Jerks at Work” is one of my favorite. Why co-workers and bosses act like jerks. Why employees don’t get in trouble for being jerks. What to do about a jerk at work. And why employers should face jerks at work head on.
Hand-in-hand with Jerks at Work is the topic of Workplace Etiquette–or lack thereof. The sheer volume of workplace affronts workers must confront daily can be overwhelming. Not to mention the incredible variety of crude, rude, and downright discourteous conduct in the workplace is alarming.
I posted earlier in the week about a report from The Ladders.com about which of these numerous breaches of office etiquette employees took most personally. I was surprised to learn that the #1 most offensive exhibit of bad manners is lunch theft! That’s right, your coworkers just cannot, will not, shall not, tolerate the extraordinary disrespect they equate with the office refrigerator raider. Apparently, across the country, rogue employees, surely outcasts of mainstream office-worker society, are sneaking into the closest kitchenette and snatching your left-over lasagna. (See my earlier post, Put Down the Brown Bag and Back Away From the Lunch).
According to a post earlier today, An Anti-Rudeness Warrior On Handling Jerks at Work, by Tom Weber at the WSJ Blog, there is an “expert” who can speak to both issues–Jerks and Lunch Theft! Dr. P.M. Forni, author of The Civility Solution and Choosing Civility: The Twenty Five Rules of Considerate Conduct, has started a campaign of sorts to convert the Jerks of the world to conduct themselves with a bit more respect. You can read all about his mission at the Johns Hopkins website devoted especially to Civility.
But, much to my delight, in Weber’s interview with the Doctor of Do-Right, he concurs that the severity of the “sandwich situation” has really gone too far. He gives the following advice to help us cope:
Buzzwatch: What’s the most common workplace rudeness question you hear?
Dr. Forni: At the very top of the list, a common act of incivility is that of taking credit for other people’s work. At the top of some other lists is the person who takes food from the office refrigerator, or takes a bite from another person’s slice of pizza in the office fridge and then puts it back. That’s not to be taken lightly, but I don’t think it’s as egregious as taking credit for someone else’s work.
Buzzwatch: How would you handle that?
Dr. Forni: Depending on how egregious it was, I would start with the culprit. I would say, give the culprit some benefit of the doubt and say, “You failed to mention that a good part of the report was done by my office under my direction. It was a collaborative effort and I think the boss had the impression instead that the bulk of the work was done by your group. I think we should rectify that impression.” The burden is on that person to send an email to the boss with a carbon copy to you.
If the culprit is reluctant to set the record straight, then you go one rung up the ladder and you explain to the supervisor what happened and say that you owe it to yourself and to your team that she, the boss, know exactly how the plan came into being. You do this without being judgmental about what the colleague did, without using harsh words, without revisiting in a blaming way what your colleague did or did not do. Stay focused on the issue that this is the version of the facts that the boss needs to hear.