• Hate your boss?
• Suck at interviewing?
• Deserve a promotion?
• Can't negotiate your way out of a paper bag?
• Suffering through a professional crisis?
• Have ISSUES?

Then you've hit the right place.

Through brutal honesty and concrete advice, the Reluctant Genius effectively helps you manage all aspects of your job and career. With 18 years of experience in Hollywood, the RG has figured out how to make it to the top AND SURVIVE, somewhat unscathed.

Available for consulting services and speaking engagements. Write to: info@thereluctantgenius.com


Managing Covert & Overt Assholes

Covert Asshole (koh-vurt ass-hole) n. 1. One who wreaks havoc on the workplace while hiding behind an insidious smile or otherwise pleasant-looking fa├žade.

Overt Asshole (oh-vurt ass-hole) n. 1.One who wreaks havoc on the workplace while showing outward signs of insanity.

-The “Genius” Dictionary

Let me start by saying: If you have to work with or for an asshole, pray he or she is of the overt kind. Since I’ve worked with and for both, I know first hand that knowing and seeing that the Overt Asshole's insanity is coming your way is far better than guessing what lurks behind the neoprene exterior of the covert one.

Now, in the interest of full self-disclosure, I admit that I have been an asshole. And to clarify, I’ve been an asshole of the overt kind. While I don’t take immense pride in saying I’ve been an OA, I can at least say anyone could see it coming; it’s not like my assholishness was going to sneak up on you and BAM, bitch-slap you from behind. (I don’t have a good poker face.) To redeem myself, I must note that over the years I’ve matured and I think it’s safe to say that most - -save a few -- would not consider me to be an asshole of any variety. But I have mucho experience with assholes of all flavors.

While there are these two classic forms of assholes, it’s the Covert Asshole you need to worry about. They’re super-icky and, since you really can’t understand their motivation, you’re stuck wondering, “Hmmmmm, how is this asshole going to destroy my life?” It’s truly maddening to be singled out by someone who has silently and insidiously declared jihad on you. I’ve experienced this twice, once with a co-worker and once with a boss. I think it’s more complex (not worse, just more complicated) when it’s with a co-worker because there are more layers of your world they attack – they trash-talk horizontally, vertically, perpendicularly and on the bias. When it’s your boss, I believe there are fewer positions from which they attack – horizontally mostly, and then in the future when you need their reference for your next job. But, if we’re using “devastation” as the denominating factor here, both assholes are equal.

When it’s your CO-WORKER, you can typically confront them more easily than you might your boss. And CONFRONT is the right action to take. I don’t mean run up and punch him in the mouth, but discuss what you “perceive” to be going on as though “you’re concerned” about your work relationship. (Puke, right? Just do it.) You can have a slight edge in your tone, but be pleasantly strong. Let them know you’re serious. Surely you’ve been hearing “rumblings,” so you should allude to them without being specific and without throwing your intrepid spies under the bus. Just say it’s becoming “more uncomfortable the more I hear these things,” and that you hope there’s no problem or misunderstanding between the two of you. If they’re more covert, then you can say, “I sense there’s something between us, but I’m not sure what, if anything is going on. Can we talk about it?” If they’re a complete overt asshole, yelling or bitching at you, tell them to knock it the hell off. I mean that literally. Say, “Joe, knock it the hell off.” That’ll usually stops them dead. It's fun to do because rarely does anyone have the balls to say it to them.

Know that in any case, the person you’re talking to isn’t going to ‘fess up and be honest about the fact that they have a problem with you, but at least you’ll know that they know that you know. They’ll also know that you’re hearing the crap they’re saying. They’re busted and confronted and they’re embarrassed because they’re not as clever as they thought they were. Don’t you remember the panic you felt in high school when someone said, “I heard what you said about me?” THAT’S THE KIND OF PANIC I’M TALKING ABOUT! Brilliant!

When it’s your BOSS, use the same basic tactic. This just takes more balls and if you don’t have them, pretend you do. See all about bullshitting. There is NO REAL CONFRONTATION here, only dialogue, which by its very nature is calm. Your tone should be nice and respectful – no edge. I had to do this a few years ago when I noticed my boss was no longer speaking to me, returning emails, looking me in the eye, or otherwise acknowledging my existence, which made it difficult to run his TV show. There was no clear “moment” that marked this slow burn into hell, but he had a ginormous ego, so it shouldn’t have been surprising. Anyway, when I’d had about enough of the passive-aggressive-ego-maniacal bullshit, I set an appointment and walked into his office. I calmly, BUT WITH CONFIDENCE, explained that during the last meeting, when he completely ignored me, it made me wonder if I had done something to offend, frustrate or otherwise upset him. I went on to say that my sole job is to make him happy with the work I was doing, (yes, puke, I know) and that if there’s something I needed to adjust, I was more than happy to do it (and I would have). During my conversation, I was not a sniveling idiot, but instead a strong, clear-minded adult who wanted to clarify any misunderstanding that might be in the way of getting the job done in the best way possible. And, since I really DID care about the job (not him), I wanted to adjust anything that might make life with him more tolerable. I knew I wasn’t going to get any honest admission like, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I’ve been a passive-aggressive asshole and I don’t like strong women,” but it was important that I knew that he knew that I knew. His only response was, “there is no problem.” So, I took that for what it was worth – zero -- and left. I then went on and tortured him by being unbelievably nice and professional until the very end – all the while knowing that he was just a CA.

I think the most difficult thing when you’re dealing with a CA boss is that you believe that if you just worked harder and longer and faster that things would change. Trust me, they won’t. Who knows what’s going on with this person? It could be that the way you chew your salad reminds her of her mother – and now there’s hell to pay because she sees HER when she looks at YOU. Seriously, it could be that your very presence triggers something in her and what in the hell can you do about that? Nothing!

Please, though, advance the greater good of the non-assholes and confront the person who is making your life hell. What do you have to lose? You’re not going to lose your job if you handle it with the utmost respect. And, what? You might lose a friend at work who was never your friend in the first place? Get it together and take charge of your situation. No patsies here!

FOOTNOTE: Now, it should go without saying that if you suck at your job, are lazy, complain, stir up shit, and take 2-hour lunch breaks, I condone assholish behavior from your boss. But it shouldn’t last long. They should buck up and fire you.

LAURA INGRAM -- "DON'T COME IN MY EAR" -- This sums up life in TV



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Connecting Reality - Wednesday, 29 October 2008
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