The other day I heard ESPN’s popular talk show host, Colin Cowherd, use the term, “jerk vision.” He attributed the term to his colleague, David Fisch, who applies it to professional athletes who are so full of themselves they do not realize how others perceive them.
Star athletes are not the only ones suffering from “jerk vision.” Most of us have known, or worse worked for, those who have acted oblivious to others. Such blindness gives them free reign to do what they want to do. Put simply, these folks are profoundly unaware of themselves.
The warning signs of a jerk boss are manifold. These include putting self before all else. That means they speak first, listen seldom, finger point to escape blame, and take credit when it suits them. In short they are jerks.
The challenge for the rest of us is how to deal with them, especially if you happen to work for one. You have two choices. One, you can work elsewhere. In today’s economy few may be interested in this option. Two, you can find ways to work around them. The challenge is how to do it.
Put them first. Jerks crave attention so give it to them. Filter all of your ideas through them. Make certain you keep them in the loop on everything you do. This actually is not as hard as it sounds because a jerk boss is so self-absorbed they notice little, except for what they want to hear.
Cater to their interests. Note what their hot buttons are. For example, if your boss has a thing for quality, or reducing cost, or customer relations, pitch whatever you do as something to do with one of those hot button items.
Get them noticed. Find ways to get your boss noticed, even if it means getting noticed for work that you and your colleagues have done. This will involve swallowing some pride but consider the upside. It may mean your boss spends less time in your office and more time in his boss’s office. He will be out of your hair and free you to do your work.
Get on with your work. Now you can focus on what matters, helping your team do the real work. No gamesmanship. Do your best and find ways to be collaborative with your colleagues. When appropriate work more for “we” instead of “me.”
Now if you think that I am advocating appeasement, or worse, playing politics, you would be correct. And yes, there is an edge of cynicism in what I advise. But listen, your jerk boss will never notice because he’s too much of a jerk to care. That is, he’s so wrapped up in “jerk vision” he can only see images of himself not others.
In the meantime, you will have had the opportunity to do good work and with luck, and some persistence on your part, you will get noticed. That notice will be your ticket out of Jerkville and into a responsible position. Where of course you will NOT be a jerk.
John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership development consultant, executive coach, author, and speaker. In 2009, Top Leadership Gurus named John one of the world’s top 25 leadership experts. This article draws upon themes expressed in John’s newest book, Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up (Amacom 2009). Readers are welcome to visit John’s website, www.johnbaldoni.com