The Seven Different Types of Jerks at Work (and How to Deal With Them)

We’ve all handled our share of jerks at work. It is perhaps the colleague who sucks up to the boss, the one that manages to do none of the work whereas taking all of the credit score, or the boss that wishes to micromanage each facet of your day. Whatever your work jerk appears to be like like, one factor is for sure: They could make life a residing hell.

As it seems, even work jerks have a kind. As Tessa West, an affiliate professor of psychology at NYU and creator of the guide Jerks at Work: Toxic Coworkers and What to Do About Them, explains, work jerks have a tendency to fall into at least one of seven classes.

There’s the kiss-up-punch down jerks, the credit score stealers, the bulldozers, the free riders, the micromanaging bosses, the neglectful bosses, and at last, the gaslighters. All of these jerks can handle to make your life a residing hell, albeit in some very other ways.

The excellent news is that if you already know what to search for, you may spot these jerks and discover methods to minimise their harm. As West notes, some of the crimson flags to search for aren’t inherent to the work jerks themselves, however to the organisation, as a nasty work tradition can flip nearly anybody right into a jerk.

“Learning to read those signs early is really critical,” West stated. “It’s not just within the person, but within the culture, as well.”


One of the earliest crimson flags with kiss-up-kick-downers is a continuing want to examine themselves with others. This could possibly be the massive issues, akin to evaluating month-to-month gross sales numbers, or it could possibly be inane issues, akin to who will get probably the most freebies.

“Another thing they often demonstrate early is they can read the room,” West stated. “They very quickly figure out who has power and who does not.” When it comes to energy, this contains the extra apparent gamers, such because the boss, nevertheless it additionally contains the extra casual gamers, such because the co-worker everybody turns to for recommendation. Kiss-up-kick-downers establish these individuals and suck up to them as a approach of defending themselves from any complaints by ensuring that the individuals with energy are on their aspect.

Dealing with kiss-up-kick-downers requires discovering allies — people who find themselves well-connected and might supply perspective in your downside. It additionally helps to attempt to establish others who’ve been focused by the kiss-up-kick-downers. If you convey this up along with your boss, you need to be very particular about how the kiss-up-kick-downer’s behaviour is affecting productiveness and morale.

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Credit stealers

Credit stealers are opportunistic individuals. Often, their technique is to hunt down a well-functioning staff, one which works effectively collectively. The weak point in such groups is that it’s arduous to parse out who precisely does what, with so much of “we” language getting used throughout displays. “They are able to go in and take credit because the team isn’t good at allocating credit,” West stated.

If this staff has a hands-off boss, the credit score stealer will typically discover methods of being particularly noticeable, banking on the truth that as a result of the boss isn’t concerned within the day-to-day operations, they gained’t know sufficient to see by means of the credit score stealer’s techniques.

“Behind the scenes, they take advantage of what we sometimes call invisible labour,” West stated. These are all of the day-to-day duties which are necessary for the success of the undertaking, however don’t all the time get recognised. “The credit stealer will go in and take credit for that invisible labour when no one else is claiming it.”

With credit score stealers, it’s necessary that groups discover methods of giving credit score the place credit score is due, akin to figuring out who contributed what throughout any displays to higher-ups.


With bulldozers, what you see is what you get. These are the people who get their approach, it doesn’t matter what, flattening everybody else within the course of. There are normally two sorts of bulldozers: The ones you all the time placed on mute throughout a Zoom name and those who’re doing the bulldozing behind the scenes.

The first kind of bulldozer tends to be unhealthy at studying the room. They gained’t cease speaking till everybody else caves to what they need. As West notes, this sort of behaviour is commonly allowed to proceed as a result of the bulldozer has one thing that everybody wants, akin to a talent with a specific software program that nobody else is aware of.

The second kind of bulldozer is a little more refined. “They tend to be very seasoned and well-connected,” West stated. “Their talent is in shutting down group outcomes that they don’t like by questioning the process.” To do that, they go to individuals in energy, and get them to query the choice that’s about to be made.

In order to take care of a bulldozer, it’s necessary to take into consideration methods for ensuring your voice is being heard, and to keep away from any conditions the place you have got to depend on a bulldozer to get issues performed.

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Free riders

According to West, that is the commonest kind of jerk at work, particularly if there may be any kind of teamwork concerned. “Their main skill is that they tend to be charming,” West stated. “They’re often attractive, they’re funny, and we like having them around. They don’t act like jerks, they just act like really nice people who are overwhelmed and just don’t have their life together.”

Free riders are superb at discovering sturdy, hard-working groups after which determining a approach to fly below the radar, divvying up their work among the many whole staff, in order that nobody particular person feels the ache of their slacking.

Groups which are notably susceptible to a free rider have a tendency to be conscientious, cohesive, and within the behavior of giving collective rewards. Free riders know these groups will get the work performed it doesn’t matter what, which suggests others will decide up their slack, whereas additionally they attempt to preserve the peace.

“Their presentation skills are great,” West stated. “They’ll offer to give the presentation that the team spent 30 hours on, which creates in the boss’s mind this association between them and all the hard work, when in reality they didn’t do any of the groundwork behind the scenes.”

With free riders, it’s necessary to discover a approach to have common equity checks, which incorporates an accounting of who does what. As West notes, typically free riders do what they do just because they’re disengaged from the job, not as a result of they’ve zero curiosity in doing work. In these instances, free riders might be coaxed again into doing their job by figuring out which duties they could take pleasure in or be good at.


Everyone has handled a micromanager at one level or one other. These are the bosses that make your life hell by getting concerned in each facet of your job, regardless of how minor, disrupting every little thing within the course of. With micromanagers, though the intent is to assist, their efforts typically backfire, slowing you down within the course of, and main to a decrease high quality of work.

“They’re working the hardest and getting the least done,” West stated. “A lot of their micromanagement is coming from a chronic anxiety that they have yet to figure out how to regulate effectively.” As West notes, so much of micromanager bosses are that approach both as a result of they’ve micromanager bosses themselves, or they have been by no means given coaching on how to be an efficient supervisor. “They were promoted because they were good at their old job, not because they can manage.” Work tradition may contribute to this downside, akin to a tradition of no forgiveness.

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Dealing with a micromanager boss means having to discover methods to calm this nervousness whereas additionally setting boundaries. This can embody be particular about what boundaries you want so as to do your work successfully, whereas additionally scheduling common check-ins at a specified time.

Neglectful bosses

Neglectful bosses are normally characterised by inconsistency. They could go weeks or months not realizing what you’re up to, solely to swoop in all of the sudden, wanting to know every little thing you have got been doing. “The warning sign you have a neglectful boss is this chronic feeling of uncertainty you have, where you never know when they are going to show up and wreak havoc,” West stated. “They’re really inconsistent in their behaviour, and it’s tough to predict.”

Neglectful bosses can occur at any stage in your profession. They could also be neglectful as a result of they don’t have administration expertise, as a result of they’ve an excessive amount of on their plate and are overwhelmed, or as a result of they don’t have clear messages from their bosses on what they want to prioritise.

To take care of a neglectful boss, West recommends making small, particular asks; providing to take work off their plate; or looking for the enable you want from an professional who isn’t your boss.


For the opposite six sorts of jerks, West recommends making an attempt to perceive what their motivations are. When it comes to gaslighters, she doesn’t advocate this technique. “Gaslighters are the scariest, most pathological jerks to deal with at work,” West stated. “They are lying to create an alternative reality, and the reason they are doing that is because there is something they are trying to hide.”

Gaslighters could possibly be making an attempt to cowl up unlawful or unethical behaviour, or they is perhaps making an attempt to cover indicators of their very own incompetence. Either approach, they do that by isolating individuals, whether or not by making them really feel like they’re half of one thing particular, or by slowly destroying their self-worth. Gaslighters are superb at masking their tracks, which suggests they typically do that in non-public, leaving no paper path of their behaviour.

In order to take care of a gaslighter, West recommends increase your community of individuals you may depend on. When you are feeling prepared to begin opening up about what’s going on, begin small, by asking individuals for his or her basic experiences working with the gaslighter.