Tips on How to Deal with Difficult Co-Workers

Steve Adubato goes one-on-one with Dr. Jody Foster, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “The Schmuck in My Office” and explains how to effectively deal with difficult people at work.

7/18/2017 #2061






"We're pleased to be joined by Doctor Jody J. Foster, MD, MBA, also the author of The Schmuck in My Office, and a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. What a great title! A, where did the title come from? B, what are you trying to accomplish here? The title comes from the fact that probably 80-85% of the consults I get start with, "Jody, I should have called you ten years ago. I have a schmuck in my department. I have a jerk in my office." And people get so frustrated because they've waited to intervene, and by the time they call me there's so much affect on top of the consult that that's what I get. You know it's interesting, we had to check with our team, our folks at PBS, could we use that word? And I said, "Yeah, she can use it," but clarify it. Is a schmuck a jerk and that's it? Well, the literal Yiddish translation is something quite different, but... I do know that. Right, but... I'm Italian but I know that... [laughter] ...the literal translation is what it is, but there are different types of schmucks, are there not? Go ahead. So I've been doing this work with disruptive people in the office for... Look at that! [laughter] ...for quite some time. When the air quotes come! And what I've learned is that barring major mental or physical illness, all of these anecdotes, all of these situations related to interpersonal conflict, fall into the same ten buckets over and over again. And I'm not saying they fall cleanly into the ten buckets, there's... Such as? Such as... so I renamed these buckets from their psychiatric terminology to make it extra clear that I don't think these people are psychiatrically ill, or compromised. Right. These are just traits. So Narcissis, which is relatively self explanatory... So okay, someone in the office...? Okay, you're dealing with a particular problem in the office. You go to a colleague or the colleague's aware of it, or is what you're talking about Doctor, that the colleague comes to you and says, "Let me tell you about my situation. Let me tell you how I dealt with that. Oh you think you have it bad? I have it worse!" Am I oversimplifying it? You mean for the Narcissis character? Yes, the... everything's about them? So yeah, I mean the... the basic premise is that they're incredibly entitled, they're incredibly self centered, they have an incredibly limited ability to empathize or see a situation from another person's viewpoint, they tend to have a "my way or the highway" attitude, and they tend to require constant praise to..."