Dealing with the jerk on the team

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Aug 10

As I write this tonight, I’ve just gotten done watching Top Chef on Bravo (via TIVO, of course). In this particular episode, there was a team challenge to produce “after the party” food with the four members of each of two teams constrained by the associated time and budget, selection of random team members, and expected perfect execution of the event done by each team.

In this one, the person who causes the most conflict on the show over several episodes was on the team that lost the challenge. And of the four people on the team, the person who got kicked off was not the person causing the most conflict, but the person who didn’t handle the conflict well and stopped working her strengths in this contrived game.

It’s really a big lesson for cubicle warriors. Sure, the guy causing the most conflict is a serious asshole (sorry for the PG-13 rating, but that’s the truth), but when we let up on our game by losing the right attitude, it looks as if we can’t deal with the realities of life.

The deal is, Top Chef is a reflection of our work life. We are consistently brought into teams to accomplish a goal with limited resources and time. How do we react? Do we let the person we don’t like run the show, affect our attitude, and stop performing?

If we do, we’ve lost the perspective. The rest of the team, including management, will look at our work and decide it is not up to snuff. Didn’t really matter if that other person was the jerk that affected our attitude, the truth is that we didn’t perform.

It’s really unfair. And, in the case of Top Chef, eliminating the conflict-maker would make for boring television, so, of course, they will keep the idiot that hurts teams for the sake of the ratings and gets rid of the person who couldn’t really handle the stress. Sound like your work environment?

The lesson for us is that team situations will change. Team situations are temporary. So work to your strength on the team, don’t lose the good attitude, and work around the jerk as best you can.

Remember that it’s your goals, career, and reputation that needs the right impression on your team and management. Not your reaction to a jerk.

Yeah, it’s tough. That’s why you’re a cubicle warrior.

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