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The ‘Jerk Differentiator’ and why Jerks are bad for Business & Marketing




Driving down Karnataka’s tallest peak, we encounter another car coming in the opposite direction. A request to move a bit to the side was met with rudeness and a lack of desire to help us pass by. Considering we were on the side facing the drop down and the old gent driving the other car was towards the safer side, I tried to reason. More rude behavior followed, and after a few minutes the ‘jerk’ relented. Thankfully we passed by safely.

I can bet all of us have had our fair share of ‘jerk encounters’. Such run-ins happen almost everywhere, at social occasions, and surely even at work. You see, there are the two kinds of jerks out there. The ‘situational-jerk’, and then there’s a ‘conditioned one’. I am wondering what kind the old gent would qualify as. If he was the former, then his rude behavior was probably shaped by the stressful ride up the peak. The roads were bad in places, and maneuvering past other vehicles on a narrow road up in the hills surely takes a toll. What if rude behavior was a default, meaning he was a ‘conditioned jerk’? The conditioned ones have rude insensitive traits deeply embedded as part of their personality. Such characteristics can be attributed squarely to a lousy upbringing (blame mostly parenting, peer circles, and role models). 

Okay, so what’s the point? Just that jerk-behavior is an outcome of low emotional intelligence and it has its major implications for business and marketing. Now the way to getting ‘emotionally intelligent’ is to start with Self-Awareness and then move to Self-Regulation (both are inner directed; later you can move to 'Motivation' which is both inner and outer-directed, 'Empathy', and 'Social Skills'; the latter two are outer-directed). Once you are aware of your frailties, you can begin work to manage or even overcome them. Note, even if you have progressed in emotional intelligence, it may still come undone during certain situations. Momentarily it is possible to go low on self-awareness and therefore make no attempt at regulation (confession – been guilty myself). If one can hold on to self-awareness even in most taxing of situations (like while driving up a steep hill on a narrow broken road and encountering bad drivers) and self-regulate, I’d say nirvana is just a few feet away. It’s easier for situational-jerks to get emotionally intelligent than the conditioned ones. The latter have to undo and redo their selves, and this requires external help.

People low on emotional intelligence make for lousy employees and marketers. Employees essentially ‘come together’ in the best of business firms as value creators for customers. An emotional unintelligent employee comes in the way of co-created value. Value creation on its part requires that businesses step into the lives of their customers and know how their products and services serve as solutions to customer needs, wants, and problems. Such ‘stepping out’ by employees aka businesses and ‘stepping in’ can only happen with high collective-emotional intelligence. 

Yeah, I know the perfect (read, harmonious) workplace is wishful thinking, and so here’s some help from Bob Sutton that can enable you to navigate the ‘not-so-perfect’ workplaces.

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