How to Know if Your Office is Full of Jerks

Unprofessional behaviour at work can be hard to spot yet can also ruin your productivity and hurt your chances at advancing in your career. What kind of behaviour are we talking about? Let's find out!

When we say “jerks”, we don’t mean the people in the office who act a little weird or is a bit obnoxious. People often mean well and personality quirks are not wrong to have. What we mean when we say “jerk” here, is downright unprofessional workplace behaviour that can reduce productivity, and ultimately ruin your efficiency in the office.

At best, these kinds of behaviours can result in lowered morale or an unwelcome work environment, and at worst, they can amount to harassment or lead to a dismissal. Those people could include you too, of course. You may not be aware that your behaviour is unprofessional - which might warrant a meeting with human resources. Read on to see if your workplace demeanor is up to snuff, or if you actually need some lessons in professional conduct.

Intimidation or Bullying

We all have our daily duties and responsibilities in our workplace, and getting them done should be our priority. But while your superiors are in a position to assign tasks to you, this does not mean they can bully you into doing so.

What’s the difference? Whenever you have good reason to say no to something but are forcefully coerced, intimidated, or threatened to do it anyway, that’s bullying. Phrases like “Do this or you’re fired”, physically stopping you from doing things, or verbally accosting you in front of others also count as bullying. Should this be happening in the office to you or a co-worker, be ready to either file a strong complaint to the HR or jump ship to a better company - whichever helps your mental health the most.

Sexual Harassment

Affectionate teasing and banter is a natural by-product of spending lots of time with others. It’s part of building rapport and a way to bond with people which helps foster good teamwork. However, there may be times when your co-worker might get a little too close for your liking.

Lewd comments, sexual come-ons, or any actions or words that make you uncomfortable would fall under unprofessional conduct. Sexism and discriminatory practices in the workplace are unfortunately not uncommon in Malaysia. Even worse, there is currently no Malaysian law that criminalises sexual harassment. What we recommend you do should you encounter this type of behaviour, is the same as the previous misconduct, a strong complaint to HR or another position in a different company.

Read also: 6 Cool Work Benefits Your Job Probably Doesn’t Have

Abusive Language

The pressures of work get to everyone sometimes, and blowing off steam with some strong language expressed privately can be a good way to recalibrate our emotional compass. Nonetheless, should this language be used on or heard in the workplace in the wrong context, it can surely count as unprofessional behaviour. Even if you think the words you use are not vulgar or offensive, the intent, context, and reaction they get are the real factors in determining whether or not you’re being abusive.

Generally speaking, if people can’t react comfortably or feel safe in the office after what someone said, it might be some abusive talk. This includes name-calling, insulting, yelling, threats, or other unsettling language. For hot-headed people who fly off the handle too easily, the best way is to ignore them until they cool down before re-engaging them in a professional manner. If this is too much for you to deal with and is interfering with your work, escalating the matter to your HR department would be the next step.

Frequently Missing Deadlines

Nobody’s perfect and sometimes things happen beyond our control, but if someone consistently misses their deadlines, it’s a sign of something more deliberate than pure chance.

Depending on the field of industry, missing deadlines can range from mildly annoying, to catastrophic. Missing deadlines regularly however is a sign of either extremely poor time management, or a crippling lack of care in their work. In either case, this problematic behaviour is something your HR department would already be keeping close attention to and you may not be seeing these people in the office too often if it keeps up.

Passing Blame

In a workplace with plenty of departments and moving parts it can be difficult to ascertain what went wrong if something goes off the rails. In moments like these, it’s important to find out the problem, and work together to fix it. What doesn’t help, is when people spend too much time blaming others. Passing on the blame is the kind of behaviour that signals an unwillingness to accept responsibilities. This isn’t just bad for their performance, but also means they can’t be reliably counted on to help carry their weight in the workplace.

Worse still, consistently passing the buck means they are more interested in appearing guilt-free rather than focusing on fixing the problem. This kind of person is best avoided and if possible, try not to work with them on tasks that require plenty of teamwork. Like the other unprofessional behaviours mentioned above, if this one affects your work negatively too often, get the HR department involved.

Of course, there might be other types of behaviours that also hamper your productivity and make for an unwelcome workplace, but these are the most common ones you should pay attention to and try your best to avoid. Work is where most of us spend our time and it’s only fair to yourself to make that time as pleasant as possible. If you’re looking for some side income to bolster your earnings, check out our article on how to do that with your hobbies. Have anything to add to this article? Do share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments section down below!

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