We’ve all been there.
A jerk boss is humiliating you over something he is wrong about, yet again. He is making you feel like crap and you’re the one who is right! Thoughts of yelling at him, punching him, and creative ways of exacting revenge, up to, and including lighting him on fire float through your mind. Those thoughts stay just that though, thoughts. Feelings of resentment and powerlessness occupy you. The more you think about it, the more you hate yourself for not doing anything about it.
I mean, what can you do?
Instead of enjoying the moment, the fresh air, the cute girl that just walked by, or all the good things in you life, you get angry, feel defeated, and keep on putting up with it.
Somewhere deep down, you are unsettled. You know you don’t deserve to be treated like this, yet here you are taking the abuse.
After joining the F.B.I. as a junior guy in the unit, I quickly made a name for myself as a hard worker, quick learner, and a do-what-it-takes type of guy. I was initially hired as an IT flunky, but as my reputation got around I was recruited to an operational support team and found myself spearheading research and development of the entire evidence collection system in our corner of law enforcement.
I’d noticed an area where we desperately needed to modernize, and I jumped at it. I spent countless hours reading up on the topic, studying, researching, and educating myself. I consulted with experts in the field, and even spent hours on the phone with company engineers when I was out sick for a week. This was my passion project.
I found myself in the board room of a major technology company trying to figure out if their product was the one for us. We are talking 30 million dollars on the line. When I started offering what I’d recently learned, the rest of my team started making fun of me. I was astonished.
It got so bad that the sales guys we were meeting with started joining in!
I was furious. Not only did I know more about this topic than anyone else in the room, my team members hadn’t even touched this stuff before! They had taken months of my work as their own, and crapped on me for my efforts. In the military, if this happened you would take somebody into the Fan Room and settle things like men. Apparently the F.B.I. frowns on physical violence to solve office politics.
How Did I Handle It?
Badly. After this incident, I was pissed. I considered quitting, switching teams, and even thought about just not working hard anymore. I went so far as to text my boss about how angry I was over the whole incident.
I pouted. I fumed. I complained to my girlfriend and coworkers. I googled “How to deal with jerks at work” and read all the blog posts, but found no acceptable answers. I told myself I wouldn’t work for a team that tore me down in front of others. Then I realized something very very important.
It wasn’t anyone else who needed to change, it was ME.
I saw this meme that shocked me into realizing my mindset wasn’t what it should be:
1944: 18 year olds storm beaches, jump from planes, charge into almost certain death.
2015: 18 year olds need a safe space. Because Words.
I had let myself become so weak that a bunch of old guys hurling petty insults could hurt my feelings.
I knew I needed to change my mindset. I had recently read Mike Cernovich’s Gorilla Mindset and knew that I needed to get back to the unshakable confidence that served me so well in the Navy.
I took a few days and reflected on the facts:
I had worked hard to get where I was. I was working hard.
These older guys all had military or law enforcement backgrounds and screwing with the new guy is test. They wanted to know, would I hold up under pressure? In other words, it wasn’t personal.
These guys had info that was out of date, and didn’t want to look bad in front of the brass. They were protecting their status as the gurus of the team.
My hunger for success threatened their status. My desire to be the best had stepped on toes without me even realizing it.
What Can You Do?
The first thing you need to do is examine yourself. If people are being jerks, answer these 5 simple questions.
1) Are you doing what You need to be doing?
You need to examine if their words hold any water. If someone were to make fun of you for having 11 fingers, you wouldn’t care, right? You would probably laugh it off as being silly.
Because it’s not true. If you are taking their words to heart, it be might because you believe them. If your work is on point, you have no reason to take it personally.
2) Are insults part of the culture?
Whenever you work in a high pressure field- sales, military, law enforcement, sports, etc… You’re going to get insults thrown everywhere. It’s part of the high testosterone locker-room culture that develops. Not only is it not personal, you should embrace it as being an alpha male!
If you swim with sharks, you’re going to get bitten. Be a shark, and bite back!
It’s a form of camaraderie, of brotherhood. Change your mindset from that of a victim, to that of one of the boys. A brother amongst men.
3) Do you stand out?
There is an old Japanese proverb;
出る釘は打たれる – “A nail that sticks out will be hammered”
In other words, if you are very good at something and stand out in a crowd of mediocrity, you are going to have people who take shots at you and criticize you. If you choose to be a leader, you are always going to have people hating you and being critical. If you choose to keep your head down and hide in the crowd, you may not get hammered. But is that the right way to live your life? For some people, sure. But not for people like us.
The answer is: OWN IT.
If you stick out, take responsibility and take your shots gracefully, and give back as much as you get.
Where I work, I dress stylishly, nobody else does. I take jabs constantly from others. Do I take it personally? Hell no. I realize I care more about my health, appearance, and happiness more than they ever will.
Standing out brings success, but also opens you up for cheap shots. Laugh it off and don’t change.
Conversely, if people are sending insults your way, it could be because you’re jacked up and need to conform. Recently, I began taking heat for showing up later to work than everyone else. I’d stay long after they left, but those snide remarks told me I needed to start coming in earlier. Message recieved.
This goes back to question number 1: Am I doing what I need to be doing?
4) Are you being overly sensitive?
You need to ask yourself if you’re being overly sensitive, or if you’re being truly singled out.
Some people are just jerks, and taking their insults is unacceptable. You need to dispassionately look at things and figure out if they are personal attacks, or just “giving you a hard time.” Either way, give as much as you get. If it crosses the line into unprofessionalism, pull the offender aside and say something.
After leaving the boardroom on the first day, I texted my boss how angry I was about how it all went down. He quickly called me back, confused, he hadn’t noticed them zeroing in on me, everyone was ribbing on everyone. When I thought about it, everyone was mocking everyone else. I was the only one who took it to heart.
5) Are you outshining the master?
In the boardroom, my hunger for success threatened their status, I had violated the Number One rule from the book 48 Laws of Power.
“Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please or impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite – inspire fear and insecurity. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.”
I had inadvertently made them look uninformed and foolish. What I needed to do was rethink how I carried myself. If I wanted the changes I desired to be a reality, I needed them on my side.
I resolved to change how I interacted with my team. I asked them for help on my projects, I listened to their explanations even if I knew them already, and I gave them room to show off. That may sound like a pain, but it wasn’t. I realized they knew things I didn’t, and by humbling myself, I gave their large egos room to breath.
Instead of making sure I shone the brightest, I shared the glory with those above me.
I fed their egos and therefore got them in my pocket.
The other day, I had a problem I couldn’t solve and asked for help. One of my team members dropped what he was doing, and spent his entire day helping me solve my problem.
I made him feel like a rockstar, and it paid off in spades. This was the same guy who was making me look bad in the board meeting only a few months prior!
Take pains to include them in on the glory of your hard work, even if they haven’t earned it.
Tell people that they helped you finish your project.
Tell those above you that they inspired you to find your unique solution.
Never ever talk bad about that person, it WILL get back to them. Make an ally, not an enemy.
Ask for their help, even if you don’t need it.
When showing off your completed work, ask them to explain part of it. Bring them in to the conversation.
I failed to ask myself those key questions, and instead let myself confidence take a hit. I also did not follow any of those tips above and got slapped down for it.
Remember, Never Outshine The Master.
Final Note: Horrible Bosses
If you’ve gone through all these steps, you may realize the problem is with them, and not you.
Some people are poisonous.
Some people hate their lives and their families.
Some people like being spiteful and hateful.
Some people are psychotic and enjoy inflicting pain on others.
Some people enjoy being a bully.
Steer clear of them.
What if it’s your boss and you can’t avoid them?
Get the hell out of there.
Life is too short to put up with being treated like crap. Polish that resume and find something better.
Change your mindset, change your life.
If you want a great book on mastering your mindset, I highly recommend Gorilla Mindset by Mike Cernovich. It helped me look in the mirror, ask the hard questions and make real changes.
The other book that helped me develop this change is 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. This book is ruthless. It’s the guide for sharks deep in the shark tank. Life can be competitive, and this book gave me an edge. It helped me to think less emotionally and more strategically.
If you’re dealing with crap at work, you need to look in the mirror and get yourself straight first.
Are you doing what you need to do?
Are you part of a tough culture?
Do you stand out?
Are you being overly sensitive?
Most importantly, are you outshining the master?
If you can fix these points or own them, insults will roll off you like water off a duck.
Do you want to trade your dignity for a couple of bucks? Or do you want to live the life of a champion?
Do you want to spend the majority of your day having your soul crushed? Or do you want to do something where you are valued?
The answer is obvious.
Like anything in life, take what you want.
(In the spirit of full disclosure, I get a commission if you decide to purchase anything through these links. I only recommend products & systems that I use and love myself, so I know you’ll be in good hands.)