I can’t stop being an asshole at work.

I’m working on a long-term project with a large group of people, some of whom are better at their jobs than others. I get snappy with certain work colleagues, sometimes to the point of being downright rude, and this upsets people. I usually apologize and we move on, but it’s gotten to the point that it’s starting to impact on my working relationships, and I want to stop. It’s unprofessional, not nice for anyone involved, and bad for the project. I need to find ways of managing my stress better and not letting it manifest itself in cutting comments or disparaging remarks or general rudeness. Please help!

I’m have high standards for myself and others, I’m not the most patient person in the world and I struggle to deal with people who are incompetent. I’m under a lot of pressure to get this finished perfectly and on time. Add to this the fact that I’m not the best delegator and sometimes interfere in others’ work when I think it isn’t going well. I know none of this is an excuse for my behavior, but I want you to see how frustrating the project is in general. We’re underfunded and there are far too many meetings for me to actually get much accomplished, which is hard to deal with.

Most people like working with me when I’m not in stress-overload mode. I’m energetic, supportive, occasionally amusing, and very good at what I do. I can be diplomatic and provide constructive feedback. But I’m starting to get a reputation as being unpredictable and some people are becoming wary of me, and I need to stop this before it becomes more of a problem than it already is.

Sometimes, I can’t stop eating cookies, or drinking Chardonnay, or checking Facebook to give myself more fodder for despising that annoying friend who always posts about what an amazing mother she is because she won’t let her kids have sugar or fun. Those are problems, or even mildly addictive behaviors, that, if I cared to do so, I could seek help to stop doing.

I don’t know if there’s any kind of therapy or self-help book for just generally being a rude, disrespectful asshole.

The main issues here are that you think you’re a.) always right b.) smarter than everyone else c.) indispensable and d.) awesome, and therefore justified in being mean to people. Please listen carefully: you’re none of these things. And your behavior can get you fired. I don’t think your bosses are going to see you as the only competent person in a vast sea of dipshits; they’re going to see you as the crazy mean chick who screams at people and can’t keep her beak out of other peoples’ business.

It’s okay if you’re not nice. Not everyone has to be nice. But you can be brisk and efficient and thoughtful and respectful without tearing your colleagues a new one every time they miss a deadline. In order to train yourself not to do so, you’re going to have to do something radical—shut your freaking mouth. Literally. Don’t open your mouth when you’re ready to launch into someone for doing something “wrong” (and please note that I put the word wrong in quotes because a person isn’t always, automatically wrong just because you don’t agree with her). Instead, take a breath, think about how you’d like someone to speak to you, and then use that as a guide for how to respond.

1 Comment

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One response to “I can’t stop being an asshole at work.

  1. SG

    I have similar issues especially dealing with a coupel of co-workers. My boss suggested that I rephrase my e-mails and conversations to state “What I was looking for..” instead of “You should have..”. You have to learn to delegate but with that responsibility comes a lot of hand holding if the person you delegated to is not a person who can deliver. However, that person won’t get any better at it if you yank it away or yell at them. So hold meetings as checkpoints, set expectations as far as deadlines. Give them an opportunity to do it right before you have to take things over “temporarily” to show them the right way.

    But also think whether or not it is your place to moderate and micro-manage their work and work partices. If there is another manager who is responsible for it use them as a check point. Inquire with them if they’ve been working with this person and if you have true concerns (not just being paranoid) then express them. Let that person’s mgmt work with their employee as they know the person’s strengths and weaknesses.

    And we come from a world of too many meetings. Not all of them are necessary or a productive use of time. Take a look at how you conduct the overall project and maybe find a better way to communicate. The more inner reflection you do the less likely you’ll react in the same way to different stress factors at work. This has certainly worked for me.

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