From cubicles to open floor plans, from conference rooms to Slack channels and Zoom calls, the workplace has changed a great deal over the years. There is one thing that never changes, however. You’ll always have to deal at some point with workplace jerks who can wreak havoc in your professional life, career and role. Joining us today is Tessa West, a Professor of Psychology at New York University, where she is a leading expert on interpersonal interaction and communication. 

Tessa has published over 60 articles in the field of psychology’s most prestigious journals, and has received multiple grants, including from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. She is the recipient of the Theoretical Innovation Prize from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and writes regularly about her research in The Wall Street Journal.

Tessa is also the author of the book, Jerks at Work: Toxic Coworkers and What to Do About Them. Today, we take a closer look at the seven types of jerks that she describes and dive into her definitive guide for dealing with (and ultimately breaking free from) the overbearing bosses, irritating coworkers, and all-around difficult people who can make your work-life miserable.

To learn how to spot a jerk and also how to ask for the right kind of feedback you need to prevent you from becoming a jerk yourself, plus helpful strategies for dealing with workplace jerks, tips for finding great allies, and so much more, don’t miss this episode. 


Key Highlights From This Episode:

  • How Tessa landed on this topic and what compelled her to write about it [02:55]
  • Cultural norms that steer us away from conflict and why we need to learn to face it [04:46]
  • The seven types of jerks and how to identify them [11:25]
  • What these jerks might have experienced in childhood that drives their behavior today [17:10]
  • The fascinating origins of the term ‘gaslighting’ and how it relates to narcissism [29:32]
  • Proven strategies for handling each type of jerk [30:32]
  • Tips for reframing your work relationships and finding trusted allies [32:30]
  • Encouragement and advice for dealing with jerks and toxic coworkers [36:35]
  • How to recognize if you’re the jerk at work [37:44]


For More Information:

Tessa West

Tessa West at NYU

Connect with Tessa on LinkedIn and Twitter

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


Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Tessa’s book, Jerks at Work: Toxic Coworkers and What to Do About Them, on Amazon and Audible.

Take Tessa’s free tests to find out “Am I a Jerk at Work?”, “Am I an Effective Ally?”, or submit your workplace problem for direct feedback

Kathy’s viral article, ‘6 Toxic Behaviors That Push People Away: How To Recognize Them In Yourself and Change Them’.


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Order Kathy’s book The Most Powerful You today!

In Australia and New Zealand, click here to order, elsewhere outside North America, click here, and in the UK, click here.

If you enjoy the book, we’d so appreciate your giving the book a positive rating and review on Amazon!

Other resources:
Kathy’s Power Gaps Survey, Support To Build Your LinkedIn Profile To Great Success & Other Free Resources

Kathy’s TEDx Talk, ‘Time To Brave Up’ & Free Career Path Self-Assessment

Kathy’s Amazing Career Project video training course & 6 Dominant Action Styles Quiz


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“We don’t learn this stuff. We don’t learn how to detect jerks early. We don’t learn how to have conflict early. A lot of these problems stew. Eventually, we maybe get fed up [or] we turn to coping mechanisms that don’t work.” — @TessaWestNYU [0:03:45]

“You imagine conflict more than you actually [encounter] it. That perception is what leads us to avoid these situations.” — @TessaWestNYU [0:08:29]

“We know that adult attachment styles don’t just affect your personal relationships; they affect your workplace ones as well.” — @TessaWestNYU [0:17:33]

“Gaslighters cause the most long-term damage out of all these types [of jerks]. The psychological warfare they engage in is just next level!” — @TessaWestNYU [0:27:24]

“This stuff is hard. If anyone comes to you and says, ‘There’s a quick fix. If you just did X, Y, and Z, these problems would go away,’ don’t believe them!” — @TessaWestNYU [0:36:47]

“It’s all about the small behavioral changes. Little things accumulate. Don’t try to hit [the problem] with a hammer. Just go slow and steady. That wins the race here.” — @TessaWestNYU [0:37:25]


Watch our Finding Brave episodes on YouTube here!

Don’t forget – you can experience each Finding Brave episode in both audio and video formats! Check out new and recent episodes on my YouTube channel at And please leave us a comment and a thumbs up if you like the show!



Kathy’s new book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss shares vital information on the 7 most damaging power gaps that 98% of professional women face and how to overcome them. Boost your power and confidence today!


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