I got you, man. Sooner or later, we all bump into clients, customers or colleagues that are idiots and/or jerks.
Stupidity, inefficiency and nonsense are all traits that go well beyond national or cultural boundaries, so, more often than not, either you work with a bunch of idiots or you decide to quit your job.
If you decide 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 need to lie. Here are 8 species of idiots & jerks at work and how to survive them.
1: The stupider than you
An idiot grants his status first by not being aware of his own idiocy. The gift of common sense is quite rare nowadays, so you may easily find yourself facing clients that ignore pretty much everything about your role and industry but, for some obscure reason, still think they’re better than you at your own job. When dealing with an idiot as a client, don’t try to educate them. Ever. They’d take it personally, so don’t try to patronise them and pretend you are wrong. Always remember, though, that they are wrong, and if they don’t get your point whatsoever, just give them what they want, even if that’s going to be crap. Obviously, avoid to include this shit into your portfolio.
2: The blind shooter
Idiots’creativity really knows no boundaries when it comes to finding ridiculously stupid ideas. When you are presented with this sort of bullshit from your colleagues, just try to finish your job as quickly as you can in order to start working on something else shortly after. This way, you can avoid taking just any responsibility for the crap they’ll come up with.
3: The financially insecure jerk
This type of client is not sure 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’re freelancing for one of these jerks just try and anticipate their dirty moves by claiming upfront and/or milestone payments to reduce the risk for you. If they reject your proposal, 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 charge less than you”. Instead of punching them in the face, try to start a negotiation as they might still be an option if they’re not too much of an asshole. So, if they don’t get the complexity of the task, try to explain this first and keep listing what you can do, instead of what you can’t do. What often does work well for me is offering a 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 each and every time a pretentious idiot expects that particular and highly time-consuming job to be done by… yesterday. I’m not joking. This happened to me. 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 your 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 justified by any means. If somebody insults you 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 don’t take the blame for the others’ conduct. Most offices out there 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 burn-out 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 your job if necessary.
7: The Scarlet Pimpernel
You cannot rely on this type of idiot for anything at all. They are capable of sending you an email to ask your email address. Don’t trust them and don’t wait until they’ll put the blame of their inefficiency on you. As a general rule, I speak to my clients and the freelancers I hire at least twice a week, and I am 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 idiots or not.
I am not kidding. You are the deadliest, most ferocious and unstoppable of all the idiots out there. Just reflect about it for a moment: have you ever suspected yourself of being an idiot? Statistically, that would be perfectly acceptable and even quite likely. On the other hand, if you’ve never thought about it, then the fact that you are an idiot becomes a certitude. Idiot is a dangerous word and you should never use it to label people that you don’t understand, or that just annoy you. I’m not being moralist: scientific evidence demonstrates what I’m stating.
In fact, 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 really is. On the other hand, people of high ability tend to underestimate their own 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 that never lose empathy for their fellow human beings really are the cleverest out there. This is the reason why I’m trying hard to stop labelling other people as idiots, either aloud or in my mind.
Remember: no matter how clever you are, you will always be a sort of idiot for somebody else, so let’s just try to help each other by becoming more compassionate.
After all, we are all on the same boat.