cover image Jerks at Work: Toxic Coworkers and What to Do About Them

Jerks at Work: Toxic Coworkers and What to Do About Them

Tessa West. Portfolio, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-0-593-19230-6

NYU social psychologist West empowers frustrated workers to deal with difficult colleagues in her punchy debut. Among the types of workplace antagonists she identifies, there’s the “kiss up/kick downer,” who tramples colleagues to get ahead; the “credit stealer,” who pretends to be friendly but takes ideas; and the gaslighter, who manipulates others to make them complicit in unethical behavior. For each “jerk at work,” West details methods for pinpointing what motivates them and where and when their jerky behavior is most likely to occur, and offers tactics to deploy in response. In the case of a “free rider,” for example, friendly folks who don’t do much, one should set strict boundaries, and with a neglectful boss at the helm, one should “need-nudge,” or make concrete requests for help with specific time frames. West highlights the roles she’s played in workplace drama—she’s been employee and boss, and confesses to being both victim and jerk: her excessive micromanaging once drove 11 students working on a research project to quit in a single month. She mines these experiences for solid anecdotes, and while her tips are geared toward victims of workplace bullies, West’s simultaneously humorous and no-nonsense approach to collegiality is broadly applicable. Leaders and workers alike will find in West an astute and personable guide. (Jan.)