Thursday, April 17, 2008

Being a Jerk Once in a While Doesn’t Make You a Jerk

The Workplace Attitudes Test is designed to identify enduring jerks or turkeys, not people having a bad day or those people with lesser people skills. It is sort of like the difference between “mean stupid” and “benign stupid.”

Mean stupid is where, upon hearing that a kid was hit by a car in the street, someone says “Well if he didn’t want to be hit, he shouldn’t have been playing in the street.” Benign stupid is where, upon learning that Lou Gehrig died of Lou Gehrig’s disease, someone says “Wow, what are the chances of that?”

This is similar to the distinction between “states” and “traits” drawn by Dr. Robert Sutton in his book, “The Asshole Rule.” He notes that psychologists indicate that “states” are fleeting feelings, thoughts, and actions whereas “traits” are enduring personality characteristics. States are often related to circumstances, and traits are related to beliefs and attitudes.

Beliefs and attitudes are the lenses through which a person sees and interprets their world. The Workplace Attitudes Test is based upon research linking identifiable beliefs and attitudes with the consistent behavior of jerks and turkeys in the workplace.

In short, jerks and turkeys act the way that they do because they have certain beliefs and attitudes that determine their behavior. They tend to see the world in a way that justifies their actions. We all have subjective lenses (beliefs and attitudes) through which we see our world -- as Bertrand Russell, British author, mathematician and philosopher, is reputed to have said “There is not one world, but as many worlds as there are people in it.”

My research related to the Workplace Attitudes Test shows that jerks and turkeys see their world as a place of hostility, a place of winners and losers, and a place where courtesy and consideration have little value. Jerks and turkeys are often able to “play-act” their way through a job interview but once they have the job their negative beliefs and attitudes usually direct their behavior.

Fortunately, the Workplace Attitudes Test lets us see the lens through which they see their world. See

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