Read 4111 times

How do Jerks become Bosses
Lipi Agrawal | HRKatha | New Delhi | Friday, 12 May 2017

RSS Feed
Pin It
Rate this item
(6 votes)

Whether or not organisations accept their existence jerks are an integral part of the system. Who creates these jerks? People say they themselves do. Do jerks get priority in promotions or they become one after getting promoted?

At one point or the other, we have all certainly come across a boss or a senior we despise, and feel that it was an organisational mistake to have promoted that jerk to that level. The sad reality is that every organisation has a few jerks—people who misuse power, are insensitive to others’ feelings and expectations, believe in bullying and exploiting others in the name of performance and are self-centred.

Such people disrupt the whole work environment in various ways. They may cause trouble to many and at the same time become a magnet for more jerks such as themselves. These people, when promoted—either on the basis of their past performance or because they are tough taskmasters—certainly raise doubts in the minds of many. However, the sad reality is that such people do get to go up the ladder to some extent, if not really reach the top in most cases.

Whether or not organisations agree to the existence of some jugheads, who have somehow risen through the grids, they for sure are an inevitable and irritable lot. Mangesh Bhide, technology HR- head, Reliance Jio Infocomm, agrees that there is a difference in the ideological world and the world of reality and in the real world, people such as these exist.

“At the managerial level, there are two aspects that define a person—extreme task orientation and extreme people orientation. People who can balance the two are good managers, but those who are only task oriented and are absolutely unaware about their team members are jerks, and they exist in all organisations at some point in time.”

Mangesh Bhide“At the managerial level, there are two aspects that define a person—extreme task orientation and extreme people orientation. People who can balance the two are good managers, but those who are only task oriented and are absolutely unaware about their team members’ or their colleagues’ expectations and feelings are jerks, and they exist in all organisations at some point in time,” he explains.

He further shares that such people exploit their subordinates’ capabilities and see them as their own stepping stones to success. They are leaders or managers, who don’t accept faults. For instance, after getting a bashing from their boss during a review, such managers reciprocate and spill the wrath on their team, putting the entire blame on them. They never take ownership of things that go wrong, but solely grab the appreciation or credit for anything that works well.

Whether one likes it or not, such people exist and grow seamlessly in organisations of all sizes and domains. Explaining the reasons behind their unheeded existence, Bhide says, “Like social or familial upbringing, there is also something called corporate upbringing. Such jerks are a result of organisational ignorance in the sight of business performance. There is certainly a fault in corporate upbringing when someone who lacks people orientation is not confronted well.”

“When promotion is simply based on one’s performance in the current job, then there are chances of behavioural or competency issues as one moves to the next level.”

Prasanth Nair

In addition to what Bhide explains as the loopholes in corporate upbringing, Murthy MVS, chief people officer, nuFuture Digital, Future Group, says, “With almost five generations of workplace diversity at this point of time, it is important to understand the culture and upbringing of individuals and how it reflects in the workplace. Fundamentally, this could be the differentiator and seed cause for behaviours (consistent) at the workplace.”

He explains that such a situation arises when various assessment tools used by organisations for career growth and succession planning fail to incorporate and assess the value orientation the individual carries, through which their behaviours are exhibited.

“It specifically makes sense for new-age companies or startups to have jerks, who have risk-taking abilities, extreme discipline and strong values.”

Anil Misra

“When promotion is simply based on one’s performance in the current job, then there are chances of behavioural or competency issues as one moves to the next level. The future cannot be decided merely based on one’s past performance. It is just a leap of faith, and a performer may not necessarily remain the same in the next role,” concurs Prasanth Nair, managing partner and country head, InHelm Leadership Solutions.

 However, sadly, many organisations miss out on this aspect. More disturbingly, a lot of organisations do not even have any clear guidelines or regulations charted out for employees, in case they need to report interpersonal issues with troublesome managers or colleagues. Even if there are any, most people hesitate to report such issues to the HR or management, as they fear it might backfire in some way.


(L-R: Prasanth Nair, Anil Misra, Mangesh Bide, MVS Murthy & Pradeep Mukerjee)
“With almost five generations of workplace diversity at this point of time, it is important to understand the culture and upbringing of individuals and how it reflects in the workplace. .”

MVS Murthy

Some experts defend the existence of jerks in the workplace and on a lighter note say that it adds to the diversity of the workforce. Anil Misra, CHRO, Magicbricks, says, “It specifically makes sense for new-age companies or startups to have jerks, who have risk-taking abilities, extreme discipline and strong values.” However, there is a different cadre of people—that may not necessarily be jerks— who make it difficult for others to be able to perform their best, when they are around.

On the other hand, Pradeep Mukerjee, founder director, Confluence Coaching & Consulting, shares that people are not necessarily jerks but certain circumstances make them behave so. “In the present times, with increased responsibilities, the kind of pressures and insecurities people face are also increasing manifold and people behave like jerks owing to their own insecurity or incapability to deal with the pressures that are inherent today,” he elaborates.

“In the present times, with increased responsibilities, the kind of pressures and insecurities people face are also increasing manifold and people behave like jerks owing to their own insecurity or incapability to deal with the pressures that are inherent today.”

Pradeep Mukerjee

Whatever may be the reasons for people to behave like jerks or become so over time, the jerk mentality needs to be corrected or clipped. Murthy suggests a ‘probation term’ for those promoted to the next level or role, irrespective of their past track record. He believes that this would strongly determine how much the individuals invest in shaping themselves to the new norms. He also suggests that organisations incorporate a process to synthesise personality traits, such that they do not get to manage such an issue at a later stage.

Last but not the least, Bhide says, “Organisations need to support strong-headed people, who can confront such jerks, who are actually quite shallow and back off when they are confronted. In organisations that have an open environment and strong processes and interventions, where people feel secure enough to speak their mind, such jerks can easily be confronted and controlled.”

© 2016 HR Katha
Last modified on Friday, 12 May 2017

4 comments

  • Comment Link Nertila Domi Monday, 15 May 2017 posted by Nertila Domi

    unfortunately they do not hesitate on nothing ; they are not people oriented; are ready to cover issues through "dirty ways"; therefor, considering the market competition , management some times encourage them instead a promoting people which work "by the book"
    however, yes - that category of people exists in any organization

  • Comment Link Doug MacDonald Monday, 15 May 2017 posted by Doug MacDonald

    I've always been of the opinion that organisations onboard jerks into managerial roles due to what I call faults in the interview systems. As we all know the interview is 50% bullshit on both sides - companies and applicants don't give the "whole" truth unless its what is considered a plus either for the organisation or the applicant. Despite reference checks (how many are ever bad?) Psycho tests (How many managers understand the results and their applicability?) and group consensus, jerks keep appearing and getting the jobs right up to board level. Most of the good "salespersons" - yes both male and female - that sell their abilities at the interview appear to have the edge over less outgoing performers for the vacancy. Which leads me to the question - are HR interview templates and skills up to scratch?

  • Comment Link Doug Hull Monday, 15 May 2017 posted by Doug Hull

    Well written and a topic which needs to be addressed by and within Executive teams and BOD's. Your statement “At the managerial level, there are two aspects that define a person—extreme task orientation and extreme people orientation. People who can balance the two are good managers, but those who are only task oriented and are absolutely unaware about their team members are jerks, and they exist in all organisations at some point in time” is so true! Balance must be key--business must progress, succeed and be effective; however, poor leaders, no leadership or management training, micromanaging-delegating responsibility but no authority, rewarding or allowing behavior which demeans individuals--kill morale and business results will suffer. Again, great thoughts!

  • Comment Link Carlos Nava Limon Monday, 15 May 2017 posted by Carlos Nava Limon

    Very clear... high performance is only one piece of leaders promotion process...

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.