Boris Thomas, JD, PhD

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Always a "Jack" or "Jill" - Your Work Nemesis, Part 1

My friend Cameron got a new job that started with the new year.  He's very excited.  Great pay, new and interesting challenges, a good amount of autonomy and a boss he respects.  Nothing is perfect, though.  He wanted to work from home one day a week, but his company wouldn't go for it.  And, after a couple of weeks, he's discovered that there's a "Jack."  

Jack?  Who is Jack?  Well, four jobs ago, "Jack" was his most memorable office nemesis.  Jack's antics had Cameron losing sleep and perseverating about strategies to defeat him.  Eventually, he left the company to Cameron's relief, but not before he could wreak havoc.  In Cameron's subsequent positions, "Jack" has shown up as Drew, Shondra, Mike and Allie.  In this newest position, "Jack" happens to be named Marcus.  

Know your "Jack" or "Jill"

Many of us have a Jack/Jill.  He/she may not be hateful or evil or sociopathic, but may have characteristics or take actions that, at best, irk us, or at the worst, slow our progress and undermine our success at work.  

  • Is Jack the co-worker threatened by your skill and competence--either because he is super competitive or lacking in knowledge and confidence?  
  • Is Jill the smart and capable person who means well, but always falls short, disappointing the team because she overcommits?  
  • Maybe Jack is the suck-up always wanting to be the big boss's favorite, constantly courting his/her attention and hogging the spotlight.  
  • Jill also could be the report who never gets it right, but due to preexisting relationships in the organization is somehow protected from termination, discipline or even an effective performance improvement plan.  

We can find ourselves in work contexts where any one or all of the above may exist.  However, many of us have a particular Jack or Jill with a specific pattern of behavior that really affects us, usually on an emotional level.  In some cases, the aspect of Jack/Jill that upsets us connects with something from our histories.  Sometimes they conjure up a problematic family dynamic, remind us of that awful former romantic relationship or maybe even that playground bully.    

Why Does Jack/Jill Get Under Your Skin?

There are two ways that they affect us.  The first is by being who they are, having characteristics, behaviors and/or a personality that rub us the wrong way.  The second is by having a direct or indirect impact on the tasks we have to perform and the trajectory of our advancement at work.  In the next part of this series, we'll take a look at some strategies to deal with your Jack or Jill. 

Coming soon . . . Always a "Jack" or "Jill" - Your Work Nemesis, Part 2

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