photo by Bench

Are You the Jerk at Work?

If you’ve been one, don’t flagellate yourself. Just cut it out. Right now.

When I decided to strike out on my own, the name Honor Code Creative came to me very easily. Bechert. Because one of the things I value most is acting with some honor, being a decent human. I’m not saying I always get it right. I am saying that I try. Daily. And that I value those who do.

Are you sometimes a jerk at work but think it’s NBD? Ok. But it is a BD. Losing employees costs money, and “[a]ccording to Gallup polls, a full 50% of employees who quit cite their manager as the reason,” says a recent Forbes story. “A good manager will give you the freedom to grow, mentor you to be better at what you do, and make your daily work enjoyable.” Let me just connect the dots here: Jerks do not make work enjoyable.

Here’s what honor at work means to me.

  1. Give credit where credit is due. On cop shows, when they catch a perp, and one cop gets praised for it, s/he always says: “Team effort.” It applies outside the precinct. If your boss gave you the idea, and you ran with it, be clear. If the president is praising something, give a shoutout to the team. Implicitly taking credit for a team effort just … ain’t right. Being generous with credit makes you look more confident, helps engender loyalty, and is just the right thing to do.
  2. Hey … is that a bus … coming right toward … ? Do. Not. Ever. Throw. Anyone. Under. The. Bus. It makes you look petty. And it’s really bad karma. I’ve worked with two people in the same company when someone on each of their teams made a mistake. One said to the higher-ups: “Look, it’s on me. It doesn’t matter who dropped the ball. It’s my team, and I take responsibility. I’m doing X and Y to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” The other one said “It was X (junior associate) and I just cannot believe she let that fall through the cracks.” One of these people is a leader.
  3. Acknowledge a 360. Nothing frustrates an employee more than a leader who seems to change her mind arbitrarily. Yesterday you said one thing, and now today, you’re asking for the opposite. That’s fine. Good leaders have a gut, listen to it, and aren’t afraid to make changes. But don’t act like that past conversation never happened. That’s where the frustration lies. I try to say: “I know I said that we should do xx, but seeing it now, it just feels wrong in my gut.” Because there were so many times I wish someone would have said that to me. And I hope my clients do the same.
  4. Love talent, don’t fear it. I have seen so many creative leaders act threatened by talent. It shows — when you can’t collaborate, when you don’t share information or resources, when you only push forward the ideas you personally originate, when you don’t fight for the promotion of someone who deserves it (or worse, I’ve seen people recommend against it). There’s plenty of work. If you’re good at what you do, why feel threatened? Be psyched to have someone on board to make your life easier and the work and brand better. And don’t worry; the cream has a way of rising to the top. If they’re a slacker, if they’re bad to work with, they won’t stick anyway.
  5. Sorry, yes sorry. If all else fails, apologize if you know deep inside that you acted like a jerk or that the ask (work all night, etc.) really sucks. Not a b.s. apology, but a genuine one, where you look the person in the eye and speak plainly. “Wait, before we start, I just want to tell you that I thought about it, and I do see what you were trying to do there. Sorry if my delivery was rough. I’m working on it.” And then move on. (One of my mentors intervened once when I over-apologized. “We got it,” she whispered, changing the subject.)
  6. Go to the mat for people who are good to you. There are certain people who have worked with me in a way that ensured I’ll be in their corner for life. People who were good and wanted to be better, who could be counted on, who were positive, who rolled with it and figured things out. If one of those people works for or with you, I hope you are returning the favor by gunning for their raises and promotions, being a reference if they want to make a move, letting them know when their work is awesome (not just when something needs a change). And if you work for someone who’s helped you out, remember to be grateful and look for ways to return the favor. I have a short memory for some things, but a long one when it comes to women helping other women.

Did I leave anything out? Have anything to add? Lay it on me at rachel@honorcodecreative.com. And click the ❤ if it works for you.