Signs That You’re Difficult to Work With

In June, Daniel Yudkin and Tessa West wrote an insightful piece in The Wall Street Journal called “How to Tell if You’re the Office Jerk.” In far too many offices, we’d all agree there is a jerk, but what happens if it’s you? How do you tell?

As Yudkin and West write (I added the bold for emphasis):

“Identifying the jerk at work is easy. Unless, that is, the jerk is you. In that case, there’s a good chance you’ll never know it. The reason for our blindness is clear: People hate giving negative feedback. So when people do things that offend, irritate or make others uncomfortable, nobody tells them.”

That’s exactly the problem. People hate to criticize other employees, even when it might be helpful. Plus, not nearly enough people in a typical office have the skills to correct another person’s behavior well. And truthfully, in any office with many employees, it’s incredibly easy to offend someone – even if the office isn’t “woke” and filled with people who love being victims.

So how can you be sure you’re not the jerk? Once again, I’ll defer to Yudkin and West:

“The clear winners (well, losers) were behaviors considered to be overreactions and judgmental. For example, one poster was universally maligned for “calling out an annoying and weird colleague in an all-staff email.” Another was condemned for gifting soap to a supposedly unhygienic co-worker during the office holiday party. In other words, an outsize display of emotion, or a lack of tolerance for others’ potential lapses, puts you at high risk of being seen as a jerk at work. In many cases, we are jerks not because we did something mean, but because we were too judgmental about other people’s behaviors. That awkward joke you made on Zoom the other day? Unlikely anybody remembers it. But the judgey comment you made about someone else’s awkward joke? That indeed, might land you in jerk-at-work territory.”

The lesson? Being self-aware matters. We don’t have to be hyper-sensitive and obsess over our lapses (I certainly don’t). But as leaders, we must constantly observe whether or not we’re practicing encouragement or discouragement.

Leadership is about helping people reach their full potential. Sometimes that means giving them difficult feedback, but in more cases, it means inspiring and encouraging them to improve.

And as a leader, if you’re regularly inspiring people, you’ll most likely never be considered the office jerk.

Read more from Phil Cooke »

This article originally appeared on and is reposted here by permission.

Phil Cooke
Phil Cooke

Phil Cooke is a filmmaker, media consultant and founder of Cooke Media Group in Los Angeles, California. His latest book is Ideas on a Deadline: How to Be Creative When the Clock is Ticking. Find out more at