I think the simple 2 qualifier test that Sutton has for spotting jerks is a good assessment, but I’ve have to agree with Jo, in that someone is also a jerk if they direct their venom at their peers as well.  But I think the point that Sutton is getting at is that they don’t direct it toward their superiors because that could potentially cause problems for them as they try to advance themselves. I completely agree with “Test One” because it is all about the perception the person who just interacted with the bully in question.  It doesn’t matter if the jerk grew up in a culture of treating people that way and it is accepted in their social group,
if they go to work and treat someone in a way that leave them feeling “oppressed, belittled…” worse about themselves in general, then the person who made them feel like that is acting like an a**hole. 

To address why a**holes feel humiliation after they’ve been publicly labeled as such; I think
it’s because of their behavior.  I think the possible consequences that they face work at humbling them and can be considered pivotal points that will push them to publicly apologize soon after, so that they can professionally recover.  Maybe I’m naïve but I think (with the exception of the worst of the worst, I’m talking sociopath type) no matter how bad a person is acting, once light is shone on their dirty deeds, once they realize that they actually hurt people that they will feel bad and subsequently embarrassed.  I think that the first reaction that a jerk feels if approached about their ways is that the target needs to get a thicker skin because that’s just the way it is, because they view their actions as acceptable in their culture.  But if they are shown evidence from a 360 evaluation of other tool that shows how a variety of people really perceive them, a lot of people want to change.  This is getting to the next chapter, but on page 110 Sutton references a study where people were faced with the results of how people viewed their behavior and “found themselves unable to argue with such overwhelming evidence, and it motivated them to change.”   To me, this fact supports that they are embarrassed by the behavior, by their personality flaw, rather than by the consequences of it. 

The nurse study is alarming because in any business or organization, health care being even more important, workers should feel comfortable enough to fess up to mistakes so that the situation can be resolved before it becomes a whole error chain ending in disaster!  To me that example is the most prominent of the damage that jerks can do because it is dealing with human life, not even just the workers’ lives but those of the unsuspecting patients.

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Replies to This Discussion

I like your perspective on the ***hole's humiliation. But I have to question how often the "light is shone on their dirty deeds" when Sutton's research/observations seems to indicate that witnesses are not willing to come to the rescue. Even when the spotlight does land on them, I think true ***holes don't care, and perhaps even get more out of such recognition. The ***holes in my personal experiences never thought the way they were acting was "wrong" or unacceptable, even when their behavior is brought to light. Maybe I've just been unlucky and ran into the sociopath type! And perhaps my understanding of this will change when I get further into the book. Your cite for the next chapter indicates there is more discussion on this topic-so I'll look forward to that!

I have to say that it has been by experience that two general types of a-holes exist, 1. true a-holes, and 2. subtle a-holes.  True a-holes treat everyone that way even their supervisors and they have a disregard for authority because they feel above everyone if you will.  Subtle a-holes have different levels of mistreatment depending on the lever of power that the other individual that they are dealing with has over them.  Subtle a-holes will generally respect authority a little more due to the power imbalance that the more powerful party has over them.  I have experienced both types in my careers both from the receiving end and the witness perspective and I have to say that I think that while they are both damaging the true a-holes do the most damage.

 

Nicole, I am interested in understanding more about the idea that these jerks do not care when their behavior is shed to light. Why do you think that is? Could this be due to nature--it is just who they are? Or is it something else, like a defense mechanism (recognizing I am not asking for you to be a psychologist but rather interested in your perspective). Also, I am wondering what others think and if anybody has experienced witnessing this...have you seen someone get "called out" on their behavior and what happened?
Lynsee
Nicole Bohe said:
I like your perspective on the ***hole's humiliation. But I have to question how often the "light is shone on their dirty deeds" when Sutton's research/observations seems to indicate that witnesses are not willing to come to the rescue. Even when the spotlight does land on them, I think true ***holes don't care, and perhaps even get more out of such recognition. The ***holes in my personal experiences never thought the way they were acting was "wrong" or unacceptable, even when their behavior is brought to light. Maybe I've just been unlucky and ran into the sociopath type! And perhaps my understanding of this will change when I get further into the book. Your cite for the next chapter indicates there is more discussion on this topic-so I'll look forward to that!

I agree with the notion that when shown their behavior its possible to correct jerky behavior. How do we encourage this evaluation of behavior?? Once a certified jerk, or several, have infiltrated a work environment and begun a ripple effect encouraging the creation of temporary jerks, what can be done? I am currently in this position at a temporary sales job. The jerks happen to be in management too, and with a small team of employees, most feel resigned to suffer through it. (In response to another thread regarding economy- the poor job market is the only reason I still with the company).

 

Perhaps just an issue of semantics, but if a certified jerk can be made to see the error of their ways, in actuality were they just a temporary jerk? Distinguishing the two seems to imply that a certified jerk is permanent- and therefore cannot change their behavior. Thoughts on this?

I have just seen people build their reputation of being an ***hole - it's literally what they thrive upon. They know other people call them that and yet they do not change. I don't know how they feel deep down, but they maintain their ***hole front very steady. I don't think it would be a defense mechanism...of all the ones you could choose, why this one?! But perhaps I have never gotten to know the ***holes good enough to know whether it could be a defense mechanism. I, like those in Sutton's book, avoid these jerks. 

 

Therefore, I am prone to believe that it is some people's nature. Just like other sociopathic/psychopathic behavior, it's hard to explain how people can act like this. As I said earlier, I just have yet to see an ***hole be embarrassed by their behavior, even when it is brought to their attention. And I definitely have not seen a true ***hole change their ways. 

Lynsee Swisher said:

Nicole, I am interested in understanding more about the idea that these jerks do not care when their behavior is shed to light. Why do you think that is? Could this be due to nature--it is just who they are? Or is it something else, like a defense mechanism (recognizing I am not asking for you to be a psychologist but rather interested in your perspective). Also, I am wondering what others think and if anybody has experienced witnessing this...have you seen someone get "called out" on their behavior and what happened?
Lynsee
Nicole Bohe said:
I like your perspective on the ***hole's humiliation. But I have to question how often the "light is shone on their dirty deeds" when Sutton's research/observations seems to indicate that witnesses are not willing to come to the rescue. Even when the spotlight does land on them, I think true ***holes don't care, and perhaps even get more out of such recognition. The ***holes in my personal experiences never thought the way they were acting was "wrong" or unacceptable, even when their behavior is brought to light. Maybe I've just been unlucky and ran into the sociopath type! And perhaps my understanding of this will change when I get further into the book. Your cite for the next chapter indicates there is more discussion on this topic-so I'll look forward to that!

I think that the first reaction that a jerk feels if approached about their ways is that the target needs to get a thicker skin because that’s just the way it is, because they view their actions as acceptable in their culture.

 

Perhaps because I am around it so often, but I have heard people actually say that- that's the way it is.  And it's not limited to a$$holes either- I think an (almost) automatic response when feeling attacked is to strike back and blame others and not themselves.  It become part of the culture when many do, and those at the top either do it too and/or allow others to act like a$$holes.

 

One of the things I really enjoy about this book and the sort of relief that I am not the only to have experienced this- and there must be many others too as the book is a NYT's best seller :)

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