How to deal with jerks and idiots at work

Weird funny monkey smoking cigarettes and playing guitar

© The Shortlisted

I got you, man.
The fact is that, sooner or later, we will all bump into clients, customers or colleagues who are idiots, jerks and incompetents and will give you a hard time in your effort to turn your passion into a job which would be satisfying for you – instead of a nightmare.

Stupidity, inefficiency and nonsense are traits that go far beyond national and cultural boundaries. So, more often than not, either you’ll work with a bunch of idiots or you decide to quit your job.

If you are going to stay, the generic rule of thumb is to always treat idiots as if you didn’t think they so were – so yes, you’ll definitely need to lie all the time.

The 8 most common species of idiots and jerks at work, and how to survive them

1: The stupider than you

  • An idiot first grants their status by not being aware of their idiocy. The gift of common sense is quite rare nowadays, so you may easily find yourself facing clients who ignore pretty much everything about your role and industry but, for some obscure reason, they still believe they’re better than you at your job.
  • When dealing with an idiot as a client, don’t try to educate them. Ever. They’d take it personally, so just pretend you are wrong. Even when you’re not. Especially when you’re not. Always remember, though, that they are wrong, but if they still don’t get your point, just give them what they want, even if the result is going to be crap.
  • Then avoid including this piece of work in your work portfolio.

2: The blind shooter

  • Idiots’creativity knows no boundaries when it comes to finding ridiculously stupid ideas.
  • When you are presented with bullshit from your colleagues, just be extremely busy working on something else, so you will avoid taking any responsibility for the crap they’ll come up with.

3: The financially insecure jerk

  • This type of client is not sure if they can pay you since they’re not even sure if and when they’re going to pay themselves first.
  • They act irresponsibly with money, especially with the money they owe you, so if you are freelancing for one of these, just try and anticipate their dirty moves by claiming upfront and/or milestone payments.
  • This will reduce the risks for you. If they reject your payment plan, give up the job.

4: The greedy incompetent

  • Raise your hand if you’ve never heard the following story: the client comes to you and says something like: “why should I pay you all this money for such an easy task?” Other contractors will charge less”.
  • Here, you may try to negotiate: if they simply don’t get the complexity of the task, try to explain this first and keep telling them what you can do, instead of what you can’t.
  • What works well for me very often is offering lower-quality work at, of course, a lower rate; this shows that you can tailor your offer to their specific needs and, at the same time, you’re saving them money. If this doesn’t work either, it’s probably time to say goodbye.

5: The time-traveller

  • Some idiots may show off a wide range of supernatural skills, such as the ability to time travel. This is the case every time a pretentious jerk expects some highly time-consuming job to be done by… yesterday.
    I’m not joking.
    This happened to me for real.
  • So, always make things clear from the beginning and make them respect everything you have agreed on. In some cases, if the deadline is unreasonable, you may outsource part of the job and charge them for that.
  • Make them understand that ready-to-go, accurate and high-quality work doesn’t come for free.

6: The bully

  • Some idiots can also be rude and have a big mouth.
    When a random zen guru tells you he is just an idiot, don’t take it personally, they are just trying to justify someone else’s abusive behaviour that shouldn’t be, by any means, justified.
  • If somebody insults yourself and/or your work, or if they’re simply not well-mannered, then it is personal. Stay calm or at least pretend you do, answer politely so you won’t take the blame for the others’ conduct.
  • Most companies naturally become the perfect environments for idiots and jerks to grow and proliferate, the best repellent against them being your self-control and fair play.
  • If it doesn’t work and you get oppressed, have no hesitations in reporting to your manager, as you don’t want to suffer from burnout because of them. In the short term, you can just keep calm and carry on, but in the long term you’ll need to protect your well-being, so consider changing jobs if necessary.

7: The Scarlet Pimpernel

  • This is a type of idiot that cannot absolutely be trusted: they will send you an email to ask for your email address.
  • Don’t trust them and don’t wait until they’ll blame you for their stupidity. As a general rule, I speak to my clients and the freelancers I hire at least twice a week, and I try to meet them in person at least once a month, if possible. Regular communication between you and your coworkers should never stop, whether they are stupid or not.

8: You

  • You are the deadliest, most ferocious and unstoppable of all the idiots out there.
  • Statistically, that would be perfectly acceptable and even quite likely. Just think about it for a moment: have you ever suspected yourself of being an idiot? If not, you most probably are.
  • Idiot is a dangerous word and you should never use it to label people you don’t understand, or that just annoys you. I’m not being moralist: scientific evidence demonstrates what I’m saying.
  • All human beings are victims of a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability suffer from some illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as being greater than it is. On the other hand, people of high ability tend to underestimate their competence and erroneously presume that tasks that come easy for them will come effortlessly for other people to perform as well. This is called the Dunning-Kruger effect.
  • I strongly believe that the ones who, no matter what, never lose empathy for their fellow human beings are the cleverest. This is the reason I’m trying hard to stop labelling other people as idiots, either aloud or into my mind.
  • Remember: no matter how brilliant you are, you will always be a sort of idiot for somebody else, so let’s just try and help each other by becoming more compassionate.
  • After all, we are all in the same boat.

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About The Author

Freelance localisation specialist

Roberto Popolizio is an Italian localisation specialist. Online marketing and audiovisual content production are his bread and butter. He's been helping e-commerce stores, web developers, and video producers improving their translation processes since 2011.

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