How To Deal With A-Holes At Work Through Play

Defining A-Hole-Itis

  • Sheer dread as you travel to work
  • Scared to submit ideas and feedback
  • At the first the sound of their voice, it evokes a negative emotion
  • I assumed this was just normal behavior here.
  • I don’t believe I have support from management to feel safe to speak up.
    This person has seniority, so I don’t want to rock the boat and end up losing my job.
  • I’ve tried in the past to address it, but it hasn’t worked, so now, I just tolerate it.
  • I just chose to leave simply because nothing was being done about that A-Hole.
The Monopoly Experiment on Inequality. TEDx: Does Monday May You Mean?

A-Hole Symptoms & Diagnosis

So, what makes up an A-Hole?

We diagnosed this like a Proctologist, searching for the symptoms of A-Hole-Itis.
  • Mean (Suffers from Jerkitis)
  • Arrogant (Suffers from I’m Better Than You Fever)
  • Self-Righteous (Suffers from I’m Always Right Syndrome)
  • Dismissive (Suffers from Your Ideas Suck Flu)
  • Entitled (Suffers from I Didn’t Need To Work Hard For Anything Disease)
  • The entitled disease can be hereditary and may be passed from generation to generation

A-Hole Triggers

  • Is it when the A-Hole cuts you off mid-sentence?
  • Is it when they dismiss your ideas and then later claim them as their own?
  • Could it be their sheer presence in the room that makes you want to punch them in the face?
  • Why do they bother you so much?

Finding Solutions To The A-Hole Problem

Once you figure this out, now we can start addressing solutions to the A-Hole Problem.

Reframing & Redirecting The A-Hole

  • Determine strategies to guide the A-Hole in directions you want to go

Challenging The A-Hole

  • Confronting the A-Hole and stepping into your own power to address the issue

Dealing with An A-Hole That is Your Boss or in a higher level of management

  • Challenging the power structure to see if this is the right place for you or not

Addressing The Inner A-Hole Within

  • In order to address the external A-Hole, you may need to tackle the inner one first

Reframing & Redirecting The A-Hole

See The A-Hole As A Whiny Child (Effectiveness Level: 2, Difficulty: 3)

  • Speak to them beforehand.
  • Recognize the value that they bring, which is being able to challenge ideas and making sure they can withstand scrutiny.
  • Tell them that we will need that level of feedback at the end of the meeting, but during the brainstorming part, we need them to step back.

Challenge The A-Hole

You can only do so much to reframe and redirect. So, now we are tapping into challenging the A-Hole and the system directly. This may take more than just you to accomplish, so start enrolling your colleagues into your plan.

  • Choose a strong facilitator that lays down the ground rules at the beginning of each meeting and doesn’t let the A-hole or anyone else take over the meeting.
  • Work with your colleagues to start taking up more space in the meetings by speaking up.
  • Talk to your colleagues about getting each other’s back when sharing a new idea. Before the A-Hole is able to dismiss their idea, vouch for their idea. If enough people do so, the A-Hole make think twice about being so dismissive.
  • Be deliberate about taking up the space that the A-hole currently occupies.

Name What Exists & Challenge The A-Hole To Change (Effectiveness Rating: 7, Difficulty Level: 9)

  • There is something I feel like I need to share with you, but I feel a bit awkward/uncomfortable saying it. What’s the best way to share this with you?
  • I believe you are trying to accomplish certain goals with the team (listing good intentions). Confirming that this is their goal and the intentions behind the goals. Then, state your perspective. I am not sure if we are going to get to where you want to go this way. Are you open to my observations?
  • During the meeting, (insert A-Hole behavior), and the impact was (insert result of their A-Hole behavior). Was that your intent? If not, are you open to suggestions so that there isn’t miscommunication in the future?
  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but one of your goals this year is to have our team perform better than any other one in the department, so you can get the largest bonus? So, if that is the case, what if I told you I could propose a different approach where you could get more productivity out of the entire team than your current method? Try it for a month and compare my results to yours and let’s see which one works better.

Address The Powers That Be

(Effectiveness Rating: 8, Difficulty Level: 10)

  • Ask them: Are willing to tolerate this behavior at their company, as having an A-Hole present makes the organization as a whole stupider, as staff begin to second guess themselves, become less confident about their work and, as a result are less productive and less willing to engage.
  • Outline how it affects team morale.
  • Ask if this person’s behavior matches the core values of the team and the mission of the organization.

Addressing Your Boss Who Is The A-Hole

(Effectiveness Rating: 9–10, Difficulty Level: 10)

Addressing Our Inner A-Hole

(Effectiveness Rating: 9–10, Difficulty Level: 10)

A Cautionary Warning For Organizations That Have Chosen To Retain Their A-Holes:

We recognize that many systems are designed to reward the A-Hole, but that toxic system is changing. Organizations, communities, countries are realizing that putting A-Holes in charge isn’t just detrimental, but divisive.



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Jeff Harry

Jeff Harry

Workplace Positive Psychology Play Whisperer / Helping Fortune 500 Companies Build Psychologically Safe Workspaces Through Positive Psychology & Play