update: should I tell my boss I know I’ve been a jerk and I’m getting therapy?

Remember the letter-writer who realized she had been the office jerk and was seeking counseling? Here’s the update.

I’m having less frequent “jerk” episodes than when I wrote in, but I’m not “cured” by any means yet. I compiled a ton of advice from the comments into a document that I re-read regularly, in order to try to keep my mind on track towards where I’d like to be, so I’d like to thank everyone who contributed.

I saw the therapist for several sessions, but I got little from it; I think I just chose the wrong therapist. I warned him before we started that I wanted to practice real things to do or think in order to change my behavior, but instead, all he wanted to do was have me talk about myself for 50 minutes and then hand him a check. I got more actionable advice from the AAM commenters in one day than I got from this guy in several weeks. One thing I did learn from these sessions is that the difference between when I behave well and when I behave poorly has to do with how much conscious focus I am able to give to my behavior. For example, in a meeting where I am trying to find the right words to explain a technical concept, my focus on good behavior starts to dwindle, and then the jerk habits come out, despite my strong conscious desire not to act that way. It seems pretty clear that I need to replace the bad habits with good ones. Therefore, I am now trying to find something more along the lines of a group or a coach that can address communication habits, and I would appreciate any reader advice on how to choose a good one.

In my first one-on-one with Wakeen, I used the script you provided. He said it was an area that he himself also had trouble with, and that he had already seen improvement from how I was when I first started working here. I then told him that I wanted the title-bump promotion that I mentioned in my previous letter, and he said he would see what he could do. Soon after that, I received a special award from the company for the work I mentioned in my previous letter. Then, when review time finally came around, I received the promotion, including a 12.5% pay increase, which put my salary in line with the local market rate. People who had been with the company for a long time were extremely surprised that I got a promotion after only three years, when five to ten is more common here. I believe I gained it because I already had the positive attention of upper management at the time I requested the promotion, due to the award I received. I have also received a raise and a bonus since the promotion.

Wakeen has focused on learning to be a manager, including taking online courses, and he pays more attention to us than our previous manager. I have not heard any sarcasm or frustration from him since his promotion, and he generally seems more put-together as a manager than he was as a team lead, so I think it was a good move for him. He has not said anything to me about my punctuality issues since he became my manager. I’m glad he’s letting it go, because it makes little difference to our job what time I arrive. Frankly, I’ve made no headway on the punctuality issue since I last wrote in. I managed to be on time for a few weeks, and then I gradually slid backwards again to exactly the same habits I was in before. This is the pattern that’s happened my entire life.

When I talked with coworkers about my problem with being a jerk, they said I had improved over time. I also asked our summer intern on his last day whether he’d noticed a problem in the dynamics between myself and Fergus, and he laughed and described me as the “czar” of our area of the project and described Fergus as “hesitant about sharing his real opinions.” The intern reported to other people that I was patient and helpful to him. The younger and less experienced a person is, the more patience I have with them, so the intern never directly experienced bad behavior from me.

The main thing that has most helped me to act more professionally (although I still have a long way to go) has been to try to consciously let go of my expectations for things that are outside my control. I tend to lose my temper less and less frequently as I get better at doing this. For example, I have stopped expecting Fergus to accomplish anything, so now I am able to be polite to him regardless of what he does or says, and I’m doing better at keeping my tone of voice closer to “helpful” than “disdainful” when he asks questions he should already know the answer to. If someone told me my “helpful” tone is sometimes condescending, I wouldn’t be surprised, but at least I’m not dripping with derision anymore. The difference in my attitude was noticed enough that a coworker asked me directly about it.

Although my attitude is better, the issue of Fergus has been getting worse. Fergus’s difficulty completing the work has become increasingly apparent to the rest of the team, and I believe it’s because he’s getting slower over time. Three days of work for me is three to six weeks of work for him. Everyone is politely conspiring to split the work between the two of us so that Fergus gets the easiest and least risky things. Fergus’s attempts at participating in conversation, whether about work topics or not, are increasingly irrelevant or missing the point of what others have said. He is old enough to retire, so I privately wonder whether he is experiencing an age-related decline. There is a hiring freeze that includes not replacing retirees, so I see no reason to push Fergus out only to have no one replace him, extra-slow performance or not. If the company would rather pay him a lot to do very little than pay some fresh college grad much less to do more, that’s their prerogative. I sometimes wonder if it would be a good idea to mention any of this to Wakeen.

{ 151 comments… read them below }

  1. Detective Amy Santiago

    It sounds like you’ve made some definite improvements over the past year and are continually working to keep improving, which is awesome.

    I’d say that if you’re not in a supervisory position, you should stop worrying about what Fergus is doing and let Wakeen handle it. I understand the struggle of not letting things that are outside of your control bother you, because it’s something I am always working on too, but if it’s not part of your job responsibility to make sure Fergus is meeting certain objectives, then I wouldn’t even pay attention to what he’s doing.

    1. Sara without an H

      This. I, too, have trouble letting go of things outside of my control, but I would leave the Fergus issue alone. Wakeen may now know things about Fergus’s situation that you don’t. Try to limit your comments on co-workers’ performance to things that directly impact your own work.

      1. LSP

        To be fair, if OP and the rest of the team are taking on harder, more time-consuming work to avoid giving it to Fergus, then Fergus’ issues *are* impacting the work of the entire team.

        I’m not saying OP needs to say something to Wakeen, but I don’t think it would be out of line to do so.

        1. Coywolf

          From the looks of it, OP finds fergus’s work to be somewhat easy given that she can do in 3 days what it takes him 3-6 weeks to do.

          1. Jess

            I read the comment that OP completed in 3 days what Fergus did in 3-6 weeks as relating to productivity, not necessarily the degree of difficulty of the work. Although it does sound like Fergus is now being given the easier and less demanding projects as a result of his low productivity.

            1. OP

              It’s both. I take 100% of the difficult work and 70% of the easy work, but he works more hours than I do. It’s a really strange elephant in the room sometimes.

        2. OP

          Fergus and I have the same job, and the team splits the work, not our management, so it literally is my problem how the work is split. However, it’s not directly an issue. The way I would put it is, I work at the capacity I work at, regardless of what Fergus does, so it’s not like I’m taking on more work because he’s taking on less. But because Fergus does so little, it limits how many features end up in the software we write. If we replaced him with our summer intern, for example, we probably would have had one or two more features in the latest release than we have now. If we replaced him with a seasoned, competent programmer, we probably would have had three to five more features. So, the team’s work is not directly affected, but our work product suffers for it, and therefore sales suffer for it, and therefore our bonuses suffer for it. However, it’s a silent suffering, because from upper management’s perspective, the features that end up in the software are the only ones they’ll ever see. They don’t have a chart showing them “what might have been.”

          1. Kate The Manager in IT

            There could be other consideations that are actually up to management. Those may even be totally unrelated to productivity or software as such. Managers are supposed to juggle with all sorts of things.

            Fergus clearly is getting older, and slower, but is that really a legit reason to fire him? Manager may be keeping him just honoring all those years Fergus was awesome before. Or as example of stability for the whole company. Or who knows why? I am sure it’s obvious for everyone including Wakeen that your input is far not equal.

            Since upper management is comfortable with what’s getting released, there is nothing _for you_ to worry about. If you’d had troubles achieving team’s goals, that’d be another story.

      2. GG Two shoes

        yep, came here to say this. Management would have to be careful about documentation too, lest it be seen as age discrimination.

      3. Wintermute

        This, so much this. Wakeen may be privy to ADA issues or accommodation requests and other things that may give him a whole different approach. Whether something is a problem to be solved or a problem you have to live with is very much a signal your manager sends, if Wakeen isn’t making noises about it, well now you know this is A Problem You Live With.

        For what it’s worth, an example, we have a coworker of mine here that is definitely slow, and his work causes problems for the next shift fairly often. our newer employees may be frustrated with it, but I was here when he had a stroke. Doctors weren’t sure if he’d ever walk or talk and now he’s working, mostly acceptably, as a telecom engineer. For the sake of doing right by him we put up with it, he’d be in real hardship without a job and we can handle the added work and we can mostly cover for him. I dread the day an issue happens no one can cover for and the issue is raised to the great-grand-manager level (manager and grandmanager know and are accepting).

        I consider it just… being a mensch, to cover for him and make sure that he gets the latitude and consideration I hope I would get should I, god forbid, suffer a very serious injury that affects my ability to do the only job I’m qualified for. No one should end up trying to support their kids as a wal-mart greeter because their employer could get more out of a younger man, there is a certain duty and loyalty owed on both sides of the employer-employee equation.

  2. Clorinda

    I wouldn’t go out of my way to mention any age-related opinions to Wakeen or anyone else, really. There be dragons. Keep up your own good work and your social and professional development, and let the issue with Fergus work itself out.

    1. Engineer Girl

      Especially since it could be declining health, not age. There are retirement age people in homes. There are also retirement age people running Iron Mans. That’s true for tech too. I know people who are scared of smart phones. I also know people who invented them and can use them better than any 20 something.

      1. blackcat

        Before he passed, my 92 year old grandfather was sharper than my 65 year old mother (they were not related). Better health + consistently giving himself new intellectual challenges was the key for him (he aimed to learn a new language every 5 years while maintaining the ones he already knew). And while he retired in his 50s (career military), he had a full time volunteer position well into his 80s.

        It is not a given that people’s mental abilities decline with age. Some of it is luck & genetics and some of it is lifestyle choices.

        1. Artemesia

          However it is also very common for people in their 60s to be in the early not yet diagnosed stages of Alzheimers which shows up as reduced competence on the job. My father was a rocket scientist — literally; he did significant technical work in putting the first man on the moon. Yet in his 60s he would come home every day saying ‘Today was the worst day I have every spent at X Corporation.’ His boss finally took him off the substantive work and made him his ‘assistant’ and basically carried him till he retired at 65; he was diagnosed at 66 and died at 80 but the decline was well underway years before diagnosis. It is easy to see in retrospect.

          There is a fair chance that Fergus is experiencing age related decline and how someone manages him might well want to take that into consideration covertly at least.

          1. Catarina

            My father-in-law is 62 and is in stage 5 of Alzheimers. His neurologist is a gem and is very willing to talk with us. She has said that research in the field is showing a correlation between unusually high frontal lobe activity/ADHD behaviors and early-onset Alzheimers.

            My point is that this suggests the possibility that the type of person who is incredibly mentally quick and creative may be especially prone to developing these issues younger than the norm.

            1. Fiennes

              Intriguing. My first instinct is to ask whether it’s truly showing up earlier, or whether the signs are just more obvious when a high-functioning person begins to decline.

          2. Engineer Girl

            Or it could be diabetes. Or heart (oxygen) issues. Or depression. I’m really reluctant to call it age related based on a single individual with ambiguous symptoms.
            BTW, rocket science is hard on a good day so it would be fairly quick to expose cognitive decline. The hours are also brutal so it gets physically harder as you age.

            1. Soon to be former fed

              Please don’t contribute to ageism. I’m as sharp as ever, as is everyone I know my age or older.

            2. Former Employee

              I forgot what it’s called, but there is some condition that mimics Alzheimer’s, but it’s a fluid retention in the brain problem. I’m sure the guy described by the OP doesn’t have it because he wouldn’t be functioning if he did.

              I just wanted to point it out since Alzheimer’s came up in the comments. People should have a very thorough physical if there is a question of a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. I heard about a case where an older man spent years with this condition (and everyone thought he had Alzheimer’s) when he could have had a procedure and been restored to normal functioning much sooner.

          3. Soon to be former fed

            I’m 62. I don’t think it’s very common. My 89 year old aunt is sharp as a tack. My 91 year old mother gas vascular dementia. Dementia is not normal aging.

    2. OP

      Oh, yes, I 100% agree with you. I realized I ended my letter kind of ambiguously. I meant I wanted to talk with Wakeen about Fergus’s performance issues, but I should have said that I don’t plan to ever put forward any of my own theories about why those performance issues might exist.

    3. Jennifer Donovan

      In this case, it doesn’t necessarily sound like there is anything wrong with Fergus. For all we know, Fergus has always been a slacker and has always relied on others for even very basic things and has just coasted through life. Not that that wouldn’t be incredibly frustrating, but there are people at all ages and levels of their career who are like that. Where I think this creates an extra level of stress for the OP is that she seems to have a very strong set of “shoulds” and get easily upset if people/things aren’t how they “should” be. I get the feeling that OP believes that people “should” always strive to do their best and that generally people with more experience “should” know more than people with less experience. An intern who knows less than OP is not frustrating because that fits in with these “shoulds.” The intern asks questions to learn and do better, and the OP has more experience and knows more than the intern. So it’s fine for the intern to ask OP a fairly basic question. Fergus is (for whatever reason) completely the opposite. He has more experience but apparently knows less. And he doesn’t seem to be making an effort to do his very best. OP’s frustration level increases because Fergus is not doing what he “should” be doing according to OP’s “shoulds.”

      The problem is that there is nothing OP can do to change Fergus. Fergus is out of her control. What she *can* control is her response. And that may mean talking to the boss about Fergus, or it may mean weaning Fergus off his reliance on OP or just gradually being less and less helpful when Fergus asks the same things over and over.

  3. Michelle N

    I sought out specifically a Behavioral Therapist when it came to trying to change bad habits and it was a worthwhile investment. She has helped me with specific directive items I can focus on and steps to take to get where I want to be. I heartily endorse that if you are wanting to keep working on getting better. But it does sound like you are headed in the right direction.

    1. ArtK

      It sounds like someone who practices CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) would be a better match for the OP than the tell-me-about-your-childhood variety that they got.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        Yes. OP, you don’t need to dive straight back at therapy, but therapists really do differ a lot in approach and one who ‘gets’ you might give you some useful tools.

        1. GS

          It’s been useful for me to view a therapist like a car, or a house, since it’s a long term relationship that impacts my mind substantially. Research different types of therapy, ask questions, try a bunch of different ones, go with the one best suited to you. That outlook has really helped me get over my own “therapists are useless” issue I picked up from a bad one years back. OP seems like they have been making some great progress with what they’ve been doing, but it’s certainly an avenue to explore if they need a further assist at some point.

      2. Alison Read

        I came to suggest this as well!!! Psychology Today has a therapist referral site that lists the type of therapy they practice. A Cognitive Behaviorist is going to help you come up with practical things to do that will work for you to change your behaviors. This could be a self script you train yourself to repeat in certain trying times or a physical task to rewire the way you react when thinking or dealing with situations that normally would trigger you. Don’t give up on the idea of therapy just yet.

      3. animaniactoo

        This is exactly what I was coming to say. In my main comment on the original post, I said that not all therapists or kinds of therapy are created equal.

        I think it would be better for OP to identify what kind of therapy and if possible what kind of therapist she needs and focus on finding a therapist that meets those needs than to give up on therapy just yet.

        Even in CBT, you’ll end up talking about yourself and your father/parents/friends/family sometimes, but it’s generally about fishing for patterns so you can address the pattern and create a new behavior against it and see where you’re expecting the pattern and reacting to it rather than what’s actually there.

        For me, what worked best was a combination – CBT and a therapist who would just straight-up call me on my bullshit when I was bullshitting myself. “Okay, but that’s not how it works and you know it.” vs any gentler attempt to lead me up the garden path to saner thought paths.

      4. Specialk9

        I also endorse CBT, it’s action focused and not intended to drag on forever.

        And yes, it may take 2-5 therapists to find a good fit.

        But, I mean, aren’t you doing that thing to the therapist that you’re getting therapy to fix? You decided what you needed and how, but couldn’t get there by yourself so you found a professional… But then decided their way wasn’t right. I would guess that your manner *does* come at least partly from something in your family and childhood, and whatever therapy you do you’ll need to give them enough background to work with. So roll that around in your head a bit too.

        1. JessaB

          Except that the thing the OP wanted was specific scripts and behaviours, and if the therapist thought that x weeks of regular talk therapy would be necessary to hone in on how to fix the behaviours, then they should have said so. OP needs action oriented therapy. Things like the advice given in this blog actually – here’s things you can say, here’s a thing you might do that might work. Use this script. If after a few weeks of therapy OP had no scripts, no ideas, not even one suggestion of what to say or do, then that’s the wrong kind of therapy. Yes therapy takes time, but some methods are more direct than others. OP needs a more direct therapist.

        2. Trout 'Waver

          I was going to say the same thing about finding a good fit. It’s pretty typical to not click with most therapists. Try out a couple and see which one works the best with you.

      5. Mel

        Also here to suggest CBT, or any other flavor of therapy that focuses specifically on changing behaviors. There are a lot out there, and sound to be a better fit than the unstructured talk therapy you had.

      6. Else

        Yes – it sounds like they’re more or less doing do-it-yourself CBT at this point to try to work on their known poor habits. There are definitely therapy groups that use CBT – maybe one would suit better than talk therapy like they experienced.

      7. Thlayli

        I also came here to suggest CBT. OPs description of what she wants from therapy pretty much describes CBT to a T :)

      8. TootsNYC

        then again, my CBT therapist, whom I liked and who did teach me CBT exercises that I used to good effectivness, did a little too much “tell me about your childhood.”
        Some of it was important, because I was acting from emotional points of view, and exploring those emotions was important. But I felt like it was silly to say, “your pain over feeling rejected and unlovable has all its roots in your childhood,” when those are plenty painful enough for adults.

        But I agree, CBT or some other Behavioral Therapy (there are alternatives) were really useful.

      9. OP

        This thread is the kind of thing I was hoping for when I sent my update. Thanks everyone for pointing me toward CBT. I had heard of it before, but I didn’t really know what it was. I’m definitely going to look into a therapist of this kind. Thanks so much!

    2. J.B.

      Which therapist is a really personal decision, and when you’re looking at a list who accept your insurance there’s not a lot of guidance who to choose from that! I think that there is both a place for “tell me about yourself” and specific tailored practice, but it takes time to figure out what balance and who. Where the OP is now he might also benefit from workshops if he can find any.

      OP – I know you’ve worked hard so far. It’s definitely a process, but you’ve come a long way.

    3. Emilie

      Im joining the choir of people suggesting some form of cognitive therapy. It has helped me a lot when it came to coping with my anxiety. Also my therapist gave me “homework”, with things I had to practice or try out between sessions, which sounds like what you were originally looking for in a therapist.

    4. Artemesia

      Cognitive therapists or Cognitive-Behavioral therapists are if well prepared excellent for focussing on changing behavior. And when you change behavior often the underlying attitudes or predispositions change too. The only therapist who ever actually helped me was a Cognitive Therapist. Since the OP’s issue is establishing more positive habits of interaction, this is the sort of person I’d be going for.

      1. Nea

        Another strong vote for CBT. I don’t need to pay someone to talk about my relationship with my mother, I know all about my relationship with my mother. Action items on how to deal with the stresses immediately in front of me were what I needed, and CBT gave them to me.

        There’s also a more in-depth version called DBT – dialectical behavioral therapy, but I understand that finding therapists that do that are much rarer.

        1. Samata

          What’s interesting to me is that sometimes you don’t know what you need until you need it. Big, BIG fan of CBT and I was so closed to it before.

          I went to a therapist to work out my issues with my mom and the indirect ways it was holding me back in relationships. I had this image of peeling back all the layers and laying on the couch of my therapists office crying these tears of realization, but what she really did was CBT and taught me how to manage my mother and my reactions to her. I realize now those issues are ongoing and I’ll always need to deal with them.

        2. KAG

          If needed (depending on her location / free hours, and consequent availability of mental health care), OP could check out Marsha Linehan’s (sp?) book and workbook for a ‘self-study’ course on DBT.

    5. INTP

      I think this is a good idea. Often therapists have websites or the large mental health practices have a bio for each clinician. OP, look for keywords like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), applied behavior analysis (ABA), or someone that specializes in aspberger’s or autism spectrum disorders (ASD). (Because someone that works with adults with ASD will have experience in actionable coaching for social skills, not because I think OP has ASD. They may also be more open-minded to the idea that OP’s struggles don’t come from a deep emotional reason that OP needs to analyze before she can improve, which is what a more traditional therapist’s approach might assume.)

  4. Sara without an H

    Re therapy: you might look for someone who does cognitive-behavioral therapy, which focuses more on errors in thinking than on how you feel about the universe.

  5. ArtK

    Thank you, OP, for your update. I have problems in this area (*sigh*) and it’s good to hear what has been working for you. Keep it up!

  6. michelenyc

    While you have made a lot of strides I wouldn’t give completely up on therapy. It can sometimes a few tries to find what works for you. I would highly recommend a Cognitive Behavior Therapist they can give you exercises that are meant to help you with changing whatever emotion/behavior is an issue.

  7. Jenny

    I will say, I encourage you to find a new therapist if you do not like the one you saw. I mean, keep it in the back of your mind. I’ve seen four therapists in my life. Two I absolutely did not like at all and I honestly think they made my issues worse than when I started. One was just OK. She was helpful sometimes but other times I felt like she completely forgot things I’d told her and didn’t fully understand what I was talking about in other times. I found my current therapist by e-mailing two in my area and saying “Hey, I am interested in pursuing therapy. I’ve seen two previously and did not like the fact that they kept telling me to read The Five Love Languages or said I may be emasculating and “too feminist” – I had another therapist who would give me homework and things to think about and a genuine toolbox of how I could deal with the issues I was dealing with at that time. I appreciated that. If you are more like the second person, please let me know.” and one wrote back and responded in a way that I liked and I started seeing her and it is SO MUCH BETTER when you have a therapist you really click with.

    1. Coywolf

      I would be so disgusted if my therapist told me I’m too much of a feminist. How gross, I’m sorry that happened to you!

      1. Jenny

        Oh she was a piece of work on a variety of levels. Went for some relationship issues and was essentially told “You are the problem. You are emasculating. Read The Five Love Languages” and that was all she had. Just over and over “Did you read The Five Love Languages?” Yes, I read it. It’s a bunch of garbage based on a tiny nugget of common sense.

        But at least she was so awful that she inspired me to find someone else and this person is amazing. She calls me on my shit when she needs to but she’s helped me see patterns of behavior in my life that are causing me to be more unhappy than I should be. She’s helped me figure out what my triggers are and I’ve learned how to deal with a lot of them in a much healthier way.

        1. Else

          I was given that as a joke present before I got married because my cousin had been given it by a priest before marriage and found it hilarious. I’d get up and bolt if an actual therapist tried to give me that!

        2. Elizabeth H.

          I really like the love languages theory! I think it makes a huge amount of sense and it’s been such a useful framework to me for thinking about all kinds of relationships in my life. I have brought it up myself in therapy multiple times and recommended it to other people. It sounds like it wasn’t applicable for your situation but lots of people find it a really useful framework.

          1. Jenny

            I like the idea of it. I should say that. I do think that people express their love in different default ways. I can see that with my own parents and their relationship with me. I prefer words of affirmation but my dad shows his love through chores and doing things for me. So I accept this and understand it. However, with some people I think that the concept is a crutch. In a romantic relationship I think most people run the gamut of what they need in any moment and being attune to what your spouse needs is important. Yes, we all have our primary preference but there are times when you need something else and you can’t be with someone who’s like “Well, I gave you words of affirmation and that’s what you like so I just can’t please you ever.”

            But honestly I thought the book was really gendered and over simplified a lot of the concept. So I like the idea of it but the book just annoyed me.

        3. OP

          I actually read that in college during my one semester shelving books in the library. I kept reading the books instead of shelving them, so we mutually parted ways at the end of the semester. :) My memory has thrown out most of it but has retained the idea that different people like different things, so you should find the things your loved ones most appreciate and do those things for them. I’m guessing that’s the nugget of common sense you’re talking about. As someone with terrible social skills (more like anti-social skills at the time), it was actually a helpful revelation to me, and suddenly all of my relationships improved, and people stopped shouting at me about how I never reciprocated anything or cared about anyone. But, yeah, I think you’d have to be pretty anti-social to start with in order for that book to actually teach you anything new.

          1. OP

            By which I mean, anything life-changingly new, not just “Hey, some people actually think doing chores is a sign of affection? Really?” kind of new.

    2. Toads, Beetles, Bats

      Laughed out loud at the “Five Love Languages” thing. Lately, everyone from a therapist to my plumber to my kid’s friend’s mom has mentioned it to me. I’m having some weird teenager reaction where I refuse to read it on principle. I did the same thing with The Grapes of Wrath when I actually was a teenager. So there.

      1. Lissa

        I think the concept of people showing and experiencing love/friendship through different actions is a super useful concept, and it’s actually been extremely helpful in my life to look at what those are, but I’ve never read the book nor do I plan on it!

      2. Kat Em

        I received a copy as a wedding gift eight years ago, and it actually did help my relationship with my mother-in-law a lot. She’s super into gifts-as-love, and we’re definitely not, and it made me more patient and understanding.

        But it is pretty common sense. The Cliff’s Notes version would probably do just fine.

        1. Mints

          I feel this way with a lot of self-help stuff. I read the website or an in depth review, and that’s good. Including the Five Love Languages and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. A lot of different strategies would work hypothetically, you just need to commit to it

        2. Fiennes

          Agreed. There’s about 1000 words of genuinely good advice that can help you navigate relationships—but everything else is filler/fluff.

      3. a

        Right there with you, Toads! Refusing to read it on the principle that EVERYONE keeps talking about it.

      4. Jennifer Donovan

        The list of “things I have refused to read/watch on principle because everyone won’t shut up about how great it is” is very long. Eventually I come around on the things that maintain legitimate popularity over time but I am very stubborn about other things (although I might be softening on my refusal to watch Game of Thrones).

    3. Mints

      I was reading this like “What’s wrong with ‘The Five Love Languages’?” and immediately turned to YIKES. “Too feminist”?? Wow

  8. CBT

    Cognitive Behavior Therapy/Therapist is what you are looking for to change behaviors. They will help you identify and recognize negative thought patterns that lead to behavior and either teach you ways to divert the thoughts or behaviors, depending.

  9. tab

    Thanks for sharing this update! When I read about your compiling advice from the comments into a document, I laughed. That’s what I would do too, and I’m an engineer. I have the same impatience that you do, and I noticed when my job was teaching, that I would always be patient. Since the job was to teach (in the Navy), I knew that insulting the students would not help me succeed. So, I recommend that you assume that part of your job is to teach other coders who aren’t as quick as you. Congratulations on your invention, promotion and raise. I know that you’re going to have a very successful career! From one geek to another, keep up the good work!

    1. OP

      Thanks for your kind words. Unfortunately, I sound pretty condescending whenever I try to pretend I’m just there to teach someone (rather than actually being there to teach someone), so that one’s not going to work for me until I gain some better acting skills. :)

  10. Hiring Mgr

    Good on you for seeking solutions, just a word of caution that there probably won’t be any quick fix type of therapy, even from a behavioral/CBT….So try not to get impatient waiting for “actionable tips” or anything like that..

    Also if you are finding that you become irritable or frustrated often, you might want to explore anti-depressans or anti-anxiety meds (obviously by consulting a dr)…. They can work wonders

    1. designbot

      I feel like suggesting mood-altering medication is a little out of bounds here, no? After all, frequent irritation could also just mean she’s in a work situation that is legitimately quite irritating, and trying to medicate the problem away would be sidestepping the real issue.

      1. Sami

        Not necessarily. When I get anxious, I can tend to be quicker to anger and become snappish. Medication helps me. It may or may not help with the OP.

      2. Jesmlet

        Using medication does not preclude also going to therapy. Only a doctor can tell OP if it’s a legitimate option. From everything OP has said, it seems like she’s getting frequently irritated at situations that the average person would not get worked up about… after all, this was a post about being the office jerk. Also, everything Sami said. I opted out of the medication route but OP should know that it may be able to help.

      3. Anita

        I don’t think it’s out of bounds given that the OP raised her family history of autism (by way of engaging with commenters who pointed out that ADHD often presents differently in women). Since OP is discussing therapy here, I think it’s okay to mention medication as a possibility.

        OP, if you are reading this, I really hope you read more about talk therapy. I can see how it would be frustrating to go into therapy expecting to jump straight into the nitty-gritty of handling interpersonal interactions, but the treatment will change depending on you, and on whether you might have a diagnosis! I don’t see how a good clinician could really get into the kind of therapy you seem to want, without first assessing you. Would you consider giving your therapist another chance? What if you brought up your concerns with them?

        1. OP

          I didn’t feel like going into more detail in my update (because it was already so long), but there were several reasons why I wouldn’t go back to that particular therapist, which I could sum up by saying: he’s too much like me. :)

          As far as talk therapy goes, my autobiographical memory is like Swiss cheese. I think talk therapy would be more useful to people who can actually remember what’s happened to them and things they’ve done in more detail. For example, if I could wear a GoPro all the time and then replay specific scenes of my life with a therapist, that would be potentially a big help. Then we could actually go over what happened. But my general recollection of, “He was being stupid, so I yelled at him,” is not really useful. “How was he being stupid?” “I don’t remember.” “What did you yell?” “I don’t remember that, either.” Yeah. It’s just not for me.

          1. Jesmlet

            This might sound silly but it may be helpful to keep a little notebook with you (or the notes app in your phone) and just write things down after they happen. Coworker said this, I did this, etc.. Then something a bit more specific like CBT may be effective. Good luck with everything!

    2. M

      I came to therapy basically saying, “I’m stressed and anxious and I need a to do list to fix it now please” and my therapist told me, kindly, that it doesn’t work like that. There were a lot of sessions of me talking and her listening without reply. It was a long process, but it was worth it. Eventually I got my to do list items, and more. OP, I hope you find a counselor you click with and stick it out! It helps more than you might realize as you’re sitting there.

      1. Delphine

        Yep. It’s a process, you can’t jump straight to the answer. Also, your therapist needs time to understand you and the issues you’re facing.

        1. animaniactoo

          But the work can start at dissecting a current issue and figuring out what is setting you off, exploring for other current situations for similar triggers as part of pattern, and attempting to find a way to manage it the next time you bump up against that issue. It doesn’t have to start with your relationship with your parents which is where it sounds like OP ended up.

          Literally, I would walk into my therapist’s office and talk about what was going on in my life *right then* and discuss the things that had become arguments or fights or hadn’t gone right, and the things that had. Her job was to look at those things and say “Do you realize that you reacted here like you did there?” and “Okay, what was different about these two situations that made you react differently to them?” and help me find the patterns, workshop possible solutions, and so on. To teach me that I couldn’t change others all I could change was how I reacted to them, and to help me understand the boundaries of what were reasonable expectations and what weren’t and why…. but she could do all of that by talking to me about what I was doing that day/week/etc. Doing it that way took 2 years total. The other way I went through 4 years without half as much progress as I got in those last 2 years. (N.B.: 4 therapists: 1 talk variety (2 years), changed when going to school for another talk variety (2 years), changed at school for CBT variety (1 year), left school and finished up with another CBT variety (1 year).

          1. SebbyGrrl

            Yes this Ani!

            OP expressed herself VERY well and VERY clearly about what wha working and what wasn’t and why.

            While I agree with most that therapy is a specific process and talking out your stuff is important. I think it’s really valuable and honoring our AAM process to listen to OP and believe her.

            That therapist, that process wasn’t a good use of her time or money.

      2. politikitty

        This has been my experience with therapy as well.

        I took a group class on stress reduction/mindfulness about 3 months after starting therapy. It helped give me some tools to cope with my high anxiety levels, while therapy is helping me actually lower my anxiety levels.

  11. Hey Karma, Over Here

    Thanks for sharing your story and your update. I am really impressed at how self aware you are. And how you focus on what’s important to your goal of being a successful person which is treating people fairly. If being on time is not affecting that either way, let it go.

  12. Amber T

    I have no experience with CBT itself, but reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg gave me a lot of information as to why I was doing what I was doing, how to break old/bad habits, and how to form new/healthy ones. I’d still recommend working with a professional if that’s what you want/need, but this book helped me quite a bit, so I’ll pass along to recommendation to you.

    This was an awesome update, OP. Glad you’re working on everything!

  13. CM

    OP, I’m impressed that you’ve been so open with others in your office about how you realize this is a problem and you’re working on it and want their feedback about how you’re progressing. That alone would go a long way with me in working with somebody who can be a jerk.

    I agree with the feedback above that it’s wise for you to keep your age-related speculations to yourself — and in fact, I’d drop those entirely. It doesn’t matter why Fergus isn’t performing, just that he’s not performing. I wouldn’t say anything to Wakeen unless you think anything is going on that Wakeen wouldn’t be aware of and that is affecting you directly, and then only if you can focus on the impact to the team and not on Fergus’ negative qualities.

  14. FD

    Congratulations on making some changes! It’s difficult to make lasting behavioral change, and it sounds like you’re making some progress.

    Others have advised you well in regards to CBT. There are two books that I would also recommend reading. These books discuss how our environment affects our behavior and thinking, and how to make it work for you instead of against you.

    First, Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts by Mark Reiter and Marshall Goldsmith. This book is written by an executive coach. Since he only gets paid if his clients reach their goals, this book is the accumulation of years of practical experience on helping people change in the workplace. He actually describes several cases like yours in detail.

    Second, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. Ariely is a behavioral economist, studying the gap between what we know we should do and what we actually do. He brings a solid theoretical perspective along with a number of strategies we can use to reach our goals.

    1. OP

      These sound like really awesome books! I’m looking forward to reading them. Thanks for the recommendations.

  15. Not Australian

    Just joining the chorus of congratulations, OP; I’m working for myself now, but there were definitely times when I was employed by other people when that sort of self-analysis would have done me the world of good – but unfortunately I lacked the insight you seem to have. Identifying the problem is a huge step towards finding a resolution, and the fact that your colleagues can see you making an effort is not to be discounted either. I hope you continue to make progress with it!

  16. Helpful

    OP, good work. Consider mindfulness training— I have begun it and think it could be helpful to you, increasing your awareness of impatience or frustration and moving on from them. Best of luck.

    1. Zombeyonce

      I second this recommendation. You can find therapists that specialize in mindfulness in some places and they should have action-based sessions that teach you steps and practices and role-playing that will help you a lot.

  17. Astor

    You said that:

    I warned him before we started that I wanted to practice real things to do or think in order to change my behavior

    It may be helpful to approach this a little differently. Instead, ask a potential therapist how they help their existing patients practice real things to do or think in order to change their behaviour. Then, use their answer to guide you as to whether or not they’ll be a good fit for you.

    I suggest this because unless you have a very small pool of therapists to work from, it makes more sense to find someone whose existing practice is a good fit for you, than to choose someone and then spend your time with them guiding them toward being a good fit for you. I sometimes have to do the latter with certain kinds of medical professionals because there aren’t the right kind of specialists in my area, and it’s exhausting.

    Also, congrats OP. This is hard and it’s really great to see the improvements you’re making!

    1. OP

      Ooo. Your advice sounds like a really straightforward way to approach things. I have really struggled with trying to find a therapist because the pool is so large, I don’t know how to even begin figuring out a good match for me.

  18. Snark

    Man, I….I kinda understand being short with someone older and more experienced who isn’t on the ball. I mean, not that I condone it, but glass houses and stones and all that – that’s a frustrating situation to be in, especially when you have to dance around the person’s competence level all the time.

    1. FD

      It is frustrating, for sure. But at the same time, if you realize that you’re consistently losing your temper with people, that makes you look worse than them. I really respect the LW for not only acknowledging that but working on it.

      1. Snark

        Oh, absolutely! And being obviously short and rude with anybody is not excusable. I just understand the frustration.

    2. Specialk9

      When I was in college, a friend worked in a factory over summer break and was told by the other workers to stop working so hard, it was messing up the average. I was indignant then – because imagining myself in that situation, it was about me and my pride in my abilities. I would never have slowed down to protect lazy slackers. Just apply some thought and do everything better, it’s not hard!

      But… I have often come back to that imagined factory in my mind, over the years. Now that I’m older, I have a lot more compassion for people who are struggling but need to work to eat. Current me would slow down to protect my coworkers.

      1. Ann Furthermore

        I just turned 50, and I work in IT. Sometimes, I feel like I’m right on the cusp of technology passing me by. Not with the tools I use in my job, but with other things….like figuring out how to use my daughter’s Xbox, or getting her little Cozmo robot set up with the correct apps on her tablet, and so on. I try and force myself to keep learning how to use that stuff, because it’s good to keep your mind active and challenged. But there are times when I want to (and sometimes do) say, “I really don’t care about this.”

        I work at home quite a bit, and one day, my boss tried to call my cell, and it dropped the call, so I tried to call her back. At the same time, she tried to call me on Skype, and I was also in the middle of a web meeting. It was definitely a “Too much technology!” moment.

        1. Snark

          Hell, I’m 35 – and a generally nerdly, tech-interested, science-background type person – and 90% of the big, splashy apps and services and social media platforms just make me go, “………but why?”

          But I don’t think it’s because we’re oldsters. I feel like the tech industry, circa 2017, is suffering from being run, funded, and ideologically/culturally led by affluent, white man-children who think they’re going to Disrupt a Market with a web-connected juice machine or some shit like that, and things like “is this good interface design” and “is this actually necessary” and “does this provide a service necessary to anybody but affluent coastal white people” are falling waaaaay to the wayside.

          1. Observer

            Well, Juicero DID go broke.

            So did a lot of the other really inane products. So, it could be worse.

            The key, I think, is to to look at a product not “what’s with xx these days?!” and to be willing to think beyond one’s initial impression. That’s still not going to convince you that all of these things are the next savior of humanity, but it keeps you from becoming or sounding like a technology know nothing. (General you, not specific to a particular person.

    3. Observer

      Except that this really has nothing to do with “older”.

      As for the rest, yes, I get it, but it’s still not the right way to go. I’m glad that the OP realizes this and is working on it.

      1. Snark

        Yeah, I don’t mean to be ageist – it’s more that it’s frustrating when someone has more experience and should be more competent than you, but isn’t.

    4. Mints

      I relate to this in a “But you get paid several times I do and you’re supposed to be in charge” not necessarily an age thing. If it’s an older coworker who is in a lateral department I’m much more sympathetic than “my boss who decides how much I get paid doesn’t understand my job”

  19. Ann Furthermore

    OP, it sounds like you and your manager have managed to meet in the middle, which is awesome. You’ve clearly really been working on your interpersonal skills, and he’s let the punctuality thing go. Good for you for recognizing that you had a problem, and tackling it head on. It can be hard to have that level of self-awareness, and even harder to put an action plan into place to deal with it.

    The “punctuality” thing really rubs me the wrong way too, if you have a job where you really don’t need to have your butt in your seat at your desk at the stroke of 8 AM. I have a great deal of flexibility in my job, it makes my life about 1000 times easier, and it doesn’t affect my productivity. Then, one day last summer, I got to the office at about 9:45, and walked in just in front of the then-CEO, who was coming back from the restroom or something. All of a sudden it was a huge issue. Why is Ann not rolling in until almost 10:00? What’s going on? Is she getting all her work done? Blah, blah, blah. Well, my daughter did outdoor discovery camp for the summer, I couldn’t drop her off until 9, and I had to drive halfway to the middle of nowhere to drop her off. So that morning, like every morning, I was at my desk by 6, worked until 8:30, dropped her off, and headed for the office. So I was already more than a quarter of the way through my 8 hour day. I’d cleared it with my boss before the summer started, and it was working out just fine. There was before-care available, but it was $12 per day and I didn’t want to spend the money if I didn’t have to.

    So all of a sudden, it was a huge issue, and then there was all this talk about people working from home too much and not spending enough time in the office. Then there was going to be a work from home policy, and a rule about having to be in the office at least x hours per day on office days, and so on. It really ticked me off, and I was very candid about it. If there’s a question about my work ethic, or my productivity, then let’s have that discussion and get it resolved. But to be having a conversation about hours and office time vs work from home time at an IT company (of all places) in the year 2017 was asinine. Plus, the CEO lives in another state, and was only onsite about one week a month anyway, so I failed to see what possible difference it made to him where people were working, as long as they were getting their jobs done. My boss and the other VP’s told the CEO he was really going to piss everyone off if he kept pushing it, and it kind of fizzled out. He has now moved on to bigger and better things, and the founder has moved back into the CEO role. He works all kinds of crazy hours with the offshore team, and is rarely in the office, so I’m hoping things will go back to the way they were.

    1. Turquoisecow

      I feel you. The last two jobs I’ve worked they’ve had a clear “no work from home ever” policy (except for the higher ups who worked on weekends, THAT was okay), and it just strikes me as so backwards and and asinine! Of course, there are some things that I need to physically be in the office for, and some interaction with my coworkers is always good for team building. But there is NO reason to need my butt in my seat for 7.5 hours every day, and no reason why said butt couldn’t be in a seat in my home office on occasion.

      They are at least flexible about hours. My last job there was an unspoken rule that if you wanted to get ahead, you had to come in early and leave late, and if you didn’t you were spoken to. Here I come in a half hour “late” and work a half hour later and absolutely no one, even the asinine idiot who doesn’t like headphones, has a problem with that.

  20. Love in the Sun

    Am I the only one getting an incredibly narcissistic vibe from OP? It seems to have gotten even worse from the original post. I’m happy that you are being less of a jerk to your coworkers but you have a strong opinion about everything you’re talking about and are incredibly critical of everyone except yourself. You spend so much of the post trying to convince the world (and yourself) how superlative you are. And other people are only mentioned as they directly relate to you, and how they influence you….

    1. Sloan Kittering

      Hmm, I feel like there was a more helpful way to make your point. OP is a real person, and they’re going to read this comment, so this feels a little … harsh. Ironically, while you’re pointing out somebody’s else’s kindness!

      1. Love in the Sun

        OP shows they have the ability to take feedback which is a positive trait. I fail to see how pointing out how someone seems to be only concerned with how thing affect themselves is going to be overly harsh to someone who is very comfortable pointing these things out about other people. I also don’t see how any of this is ironic, as I don’t think OP is kind. Being less of a jerk is an improvement but it doesn’t imply kindness.

    2. Lissa

      Man, I wish I had the ability to tell someone’s entire character from a few paragraphs they wrote. I see people do this a lot – “but you only said X, not anything about Y”….in letters like this people generally try to keep to the important details, so yes, they are going to focus on themselves! What else do you think the OP should say about other people in a letter like this? What type of thing do you suggest she say about other people that doesn’t directly relate to herself or how they influence her in a letter like this, in order to have her come across as sufficiently selfless and kind?

    3. Elizabeth H.

      I agree with above replies that in many posts where someone writes in about an issue about *themselves* (as opposed to one they’re observing) it would be pretty difficult not to mention other people chiefly as they directly relate to you!

      I do kind of agree with you, the “czar” quotation from the intern seemed a bit self-congratulatory to me. Just because you are a highly valuable contributor as OP seems to be, doesn’t mean you don’t need to be collegial, kind and respectful EVERYONE, not just those people who are very low on the totem pole or non-threatening. I agree with one of the top level comments above that OP would probably be best served to try and let the whole Fergus productivity thing go and try to avoid verbalizing or dwelling on her judgments and opinions about Fergus’s performance and role (especially opinions about how good a conversationalist he is).

    4. ArtK

      I don’t get that at all. In fact, I read something of the opposite.

      I read someone who recognized that they had a problem that was affecting their work. They wrote in for advice on how to address it, and took that advice! Now they’re writing back to share their success. It’s not narcissistic to want to share a success like this — especially where OP seems to have started from. This blog would be horribly depressing without happy updates like that.

      With the idea that OP only mentions people as they directly relate to, or influence, I’m not sure what you want to hear. The whole point of the original letter and this one is how the OP relates to other people. I don’t need to hear the backstory on every person mentioned — OP covered what is relevant to the topic at hand. OP isn’t trying to convince anyone of anything.

      Someone makes an effort to improve themselves and you come and put them down for succeeding. That’s not at all helpful.

      1. Love in the Sun

        I didn’t put them down for succeeding in bettering themselves. I’m questioning whether they actually band-aided a serious personality problem because someone they upset in the past is now in a position of power over them. I think it’s better to question a person who has self-admitted problems getting along with coworkers when their thought process appears to be in the same place than to believe that a an improvement in behavior means that a problem is solved.

        People have no problem writing talking about themselves without being critical about everyone around them and having judgement ready for every situation. That’s why I made the comment stating my impression. I read this blog every day and I never had the same thought about another OP, yet all the other posts can describe situations involving themselves without such judgement for every other person and such praise for their own ideas and performance.

        E.g. the OP goes to a therapist already knowing what they want. The therapist tries to go in another direction and therefore OP stops going, immediately knowing that the problem was with the therapist. There is zero possibility in this recalling of events who was wrong (other person) and who was right (OP). This is also the same in every interaction OP has with other people where there is conflict.

        If you disagree with my questioning its fine, but thinking OP has “succeeded” and thinking that Im just putting them down for no reason is incredibly short sighted.

        1. ArtK

          There is nothing wrong with how the OP interacted with the therapist. If you read many of the other comments here, you’ll find that it’s very, very common to find that you don’t “click” with a therapist.

        2. Observer

          Actually, what the OP describes regarding their interaction with the therapist is extremely sensible. If you go to the doctor about migraines, you don’t want the doctor to insist on dealing with your weight first.

          The OP came to the therapist with a problem, and the therapist insisted on dealing with supposedly underlying causes instead of the direct issues that the OP needed to deal with that were affecting them. It’s perfectly reasonable for the OP to decide that it’s not a good use of their time. That’s not narcissistic or arrogant. That’s simply good self care and advocating for oneself.

    5. INTP

      In my experience, narcissists do not see themselves in articles written about negative traits, proactively seek to change their own behavior to get along with people, and show an open mind to tips and insights from other people the way OP has. Not everyone with a difficult personality is a narcissist.

        1. Lissa

          Also it’s extremely common to tell people, women especially, that they aren’t being selfless enough, that even mentioning themself or focusing on themself makes them selfish. Even in situations where you would expect it to be about them!

    6. OP

      Most of what you say about my letters is generally true. I am very strongly opinionated and critical of people, yes. I am genuinely perplexed by the request to mention people in my life in ways that don’t directly relate to me, though; I tried to only stick to things that were relevant to the issues I talked about in my original letter.

      About your main point: it’s clearly an act of narcissism to write in to an advice columnist asking for advice about the problem of yourself, and then happily bask in the attention of lots of comments telling you either that you’re a problem (I was right!) or that you’re doing a good job trying to solve yourself (I’m doing the right thing!). Being willing to publicly point out your faults is really a win-win to the ego, which is a secret known to evangelists for many decades now.

      So, yes — I’d go with, if anyone does *not* get a narcissistic vibe from my letter, I think they should really be more cautious in the future. I am both utterly sincere and mostly self-centered at the same time. Just because I’m trying to get rid of my self-centered tendencies, that doesn’t make them magically disappear. Just because I’m sincere about fixing myself, that doesn’t make me already fixed. Many people in these comments are too quick to give me an “A for effort,” when it’s results that count.

      I actually don’t feel the need to “convince” anyone of self-evident facts, whether they’re positive or negative. I wanted my update to be thorough, and it just so happened that very few bad things have happened to me this year. The big picture is, despite my many antisocial qualities and the painstaking slowness of fixing them, I’m more successful than ever. I got the things I wanted in my original letter and more. It seems like people throw money and power at ambitious, narcissistic jerks these days. I thought people would be interested to know that this kind of dynamic exists in lower strata as well as in the White House.

      Here’s an example of something I think you could learn from about how jerks like me operate, and I know this sounds pretty condescending, but I hope you can bear with me. I did not “immediately know the problem was with [my] therapist.” I went in trusting him to do what he said he was going to do, which was give me real, actionable advice. When no advice (other than “keep a journal”) materialized over the course of 10 sessions, I finally had to admit to myself that I’d chosen the wrong person. I was very stubborn up to that point and kept defending him to my SO, who kept telling me he was a poor fit for me, without ever meeting the guy. We had at least one shouting match fight about it, in which I accused my SO of sexistly trying to control my therapy decisions. So, it was really tough for me to finally admit that my SO had been right all along, and that I had made a mistake, and that I’d put my pride over admitting a mistake above my love for my SO. Again.

      My point is, your intuition about me is correct, but you shouldn’t let it lead you into drawing conclusions that you don’t have the information for. If I were in an arguing mood, I would introduce this new information as fodder to “prove” that you were just “jumping to the wrong conclusion” about me. If I were in denial, I would use it to prove to myself that everything you said could be thrown out. This kind of argument is like jerk heroin, and you’ve left yourself wide open for it by attacking a straw man version of me that I can easily refute, if only to myself.

      A year ago, I would have easily been able to dismiss everything you said without thinking about it at all. It would be easy to roll my eyes and say to myself, “This person just keeps jumping to incorrect conclusions. Look, those other commenters agree they’re being harsh. Therefore, everything they say must be false.” And then I wouldn’t have learned anything.

      1. Elizabeth H.

        Great comment – thank you for such a thorough response! That is interesting about your experience with the therapist and having more details definitely demonstrates what happened in a different light. I’ve actually had a near identical experience before of being very hopeful that a particular therapist would be a good fit, trying to focus on all the positive aspects of it, and only after some kind of tipping point where I got frustrated and admitted it wasn’t working did I realize that it hadn’t been particularly well suited for me all along. Finding a good therapist can be incredibly difficult.

        If I can speculate about some of the comments vis-a-vis writing about people only in how they relate to you yourself: I think this is probably coming from the information you supplied about your coworker “Fergus” whose lack of productivity, and declining productivity, is affecting the rest of your team. You describe a situation that’s impacting both your company in general, and other people beside yourself, and you think it may be an issue that is significant enough to the business that you should raise it to your manager as a concern. However, a lot of your description about the ways Fergus negatively affects your team/your company centers around comparisons to yourself and your own subjective judgments of him: “Three days of work for me is three to six weeks of work for him.” I think someone who was trying to be objective, which most people try to be when they’re describing a situation to an outsider, might compare Fergus’s output to the average on the team rather than their own, especially since you have told us you are a higher than average performer. You also said “For example, I have stopped expecting Fergus to accomplish anything, so now I am able to be polite to him regardless of what he does or says” – Being polite is always important and necessary, but the way you are justifying it here, it’s like you have made up a rule that it’s ok to be disdainful to people who aren’t high performers if you consider them capable of it, but because Fergus isn’t, you don’t have to feel so negatively toward him. It’s not a great look, as some say. Ideally, you would assume you should be polite to Fergus unless you felt he was willfully trying to negatively impact your work for malicious reasons. Finally when you wrote “Fergus’s attempts at participating in conversation, whether about work topics or not, are increasingly irrelevant or missing the point of what others have said. He is old enough to retire, so I privately wonder whether he is experiencing an age-related decline” this just seems purely negative and ironically, fairly irrelevant to the main points of your update. I realize it’s your prerogative to have judgments of people–we all do!!! :)–but people will probably form their own judgments of what they perceive to be an unkind statement.

        Anyway, thanks for the extra details and hope you don’t mind that I clarified what I think some people may be trying to get at.

        1. OP

          Thank you for the insight. That makes a lot of sense. Comparing him to the average of the team never occurred to me, and why it didn’t is something I should probably think about.

          Your point that one would assume politeness toward someone who isn’t being malicious — that’s exactly why I’m trying to be polite to him at all. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be spending all this effort for someone who has had me in “bitch eating crackers” mode for three years. I should have said something more like, “The only way I have been able to stay calm and polite instead of constantly irrationally angry toward Fergus is by telling myself over and over that I can’t hold him to any standard or bar whatsoever, and that nothing he does should matter to me.” My behavior has improved, but internally, I don’t really have any different opinion of him than I had before, only a different opinion of what my reaction should be. This is what I think Love in the Sun is referring to as “band-aided” or “a slightly better filter.”

          I agree that what you’ve pointed out is a “bad look,” and when I find a new therapist, I will bring it up with them so we can figure out why these are the way my thoughts go.

      2. Snark

        “This kind of argument is like jerk heroin” I just died.

        OP, yer a jerk. And I also think you’re kinda rad, because it’s somewhat rare to run into a jerk who knows they’re a jerk, knows that being a jerk is a problem, and is introspective enough to realize that they’re still enough of a jerk to respond like a jerk, but know they’re doing it and know why.

      3. Love in the Sun

        I think going from being a narcissist to being a narcissist with a slightly better filter is not a bad thing, but I think changing the way you think about other people and about yourself would be life changing for you in a good way.

        “My point is, your intuition about me is correct, but you shouldn’t let it lead you into drawing conclusions that you don’t have the information for.” This is ironically what you do in your retelling that made me stop and think something was really off when I read your post. And again you seem to be happy discussing and analyzing yourself and what you like, but I really really really hope you get help.

  21. RiskyResearcher

    In addition to a behavioral therapist (which has helped me substantially, I have a horrible temper and can have a problem with authority as well), I would recommend Mediation Training! It is perfect because it provides role-playing and observation sessions, and gives you the skills needed to bring disputes (even within yourself) to a resolution. The college in my town offers courses in this, and you might even be able to get your work to cover the costs!

    1. OP

      I never even thought about that, but it makes a lot of sense. I think you’d learn a lot in mediation training about how people are supposed to resolve things, versus how people actually resolve things.

  22. Phoenix Programmer

    I use to be in your shoes!

    The root of my problem was I cared too much about work. Detaching some not only improved my mood, but my percieved performance went up even though I was doing less work.

    Alison has a great article link.

  23. SubwayFan

    I was very glad to read this update because secretly, I think I’m the office jerk too, and have spent a lot of time this year working on fixing my behavior towards others. I saw a lovely social worker therapist and we worked through the Feeling Good book on CBT (which is dated but fairly useful).

    What you say about expectations and control also really hits home. I am a perfectionist, and a lot of my conflicts stem from everyone else not meeting my (admittedly unrealistic) standards. Around May, in a 1:1, my boss said to me (paraphrased) “You should try and readjust your expectations. Not everyone performs to your standards. I know if I hold up a target and tell you to hit it, you’re not just going to hit the circle in the middle, you’re going to hit the pinpoint in the middle of the circle. But you can’t expect everyone to do that. So you have to set expectations that even if you want the end result to be the very center circle, you will probably only get someone else to hit the ring outside it, or close to that ring. And you have to be okay with that, and still recognize that others are working hard, even if they don’t hit your target.”

    Every time I work with someone else, and it doesn’t reach my results, I imagine that target in my head and I ask myself, realistically, where did this effort fall? Where was I asking them to aim? Having that visualization has helped me tremendously.

      1. teclatrans

        I hold everyone to the same standard because, I am realizing, I am pretty binary– there is Right and Not Right, and I get all up in everybody’s business trying to help us all reach Right.

    1. SebbyGrrl

      Thank you for sharing this it’s great.
      I might add, some people don’t even know there IS a target and/or other people are focusing on their own target – it’s a very basic internal process for most people but inadvertently everyone is aiming in a million other directions while also being focused on the stated goal.

      1. SubwayFan

        I am so glad to see how many people like the target analogy. I like my boss a lot, and I think I am going to share this with him. :-)

  24. Thlayli

    OP you might enjoy a book called emotional intelligence. I read it when I was in college and it really has helped me in a number of ways, including realising that the ways I am smart (I have a very high IQ) are not the only ways to be smart and that I should value other types of intelligence more than I previously did. It also explained to me sooo much about how and why people interact the way they do. I always joke that I learned how to interact with other humans from a book – this is that book.
    You remind me of myself a little – I don’t think I’ve ever been as much of a jerk (at least I hope not) – but I’ve certainly felt that frustration with people who just don’t get what is so flipping obvious to me. I really think you will learn a lot from it. It might not all be totally applicable but it will explain a lot to you. I’ll post a link in a comment it may take a while to get through moderation.

  25. Susan K

    Thanks for the update! I remember this post and I was really hoping for an update, although I have to say I’m disappointed that your therapy was not as successful as you hoped it would be. It is really awesome that you worked on your own to find ways to improve on this, though!

  26. Close Bracket

    “For example, in a meeting where I am trying to find the right words to explain a technical concept, my focus on good behavior starts to dwindle, and then the jerk habits come out, despite my strong conscious desire not to act that way.”

    I’m the office aspie, and this describes me. When I have too many things to concentrate on at once, I lose my ability to act neurotypical. I am *not* diagnosing you, but I wonder if you would benefit from the kind of skills training that is available to people on the spectrum, since you experience similar problems. Just something to think about.

  27. Sunshine Brite

    Just remember too, that therapists generally don’t give advice but seek to find the root change of a problem by seeing what in the pattern needs to change. Giving out action steps before getting a clear picture of the problem is misguided at best

  28. Rock Room

    I’m curious about the punctuality issue and how serious it is. If you are just 10 or 15 minutes late, that’s not really a problem (assuming it doesn’t happen when you have times you absolutely must be there for something). However, if it’s more than that, I’d encourage you to work on it further. It may not matter to you when your work gets done, but if other people want to collaborate with you/ask you a question/whatever and you aren’t around when you are supposed to be, it can cause problems. It also makes it harder to plan meetings if people don’t know when you will show up or if you can’t be counted on to be there at your assigned time. Also, fair or not, if you can’t get it together to be close to on time at least most days, people will notice and it will color how they think of you, fair or not. You may not care what people think, but it’s likely that sometime down the line, it will matter and will influence how you are perceived by someone in a position to give you a raise or a promotion.

    Again, I’m not saying you have to fuss about a few minutes here or there, but I do think it will be best for you in the long run to work on this issue. If the problem is getting motivated in the morning and your schedule is flexible, try something as simple as setting your start time later.

    1. OP

      I think your figure of 10-15 minutes can really vary from place to place. I’ve mostly lived and worked in places where you’re only on time if you’re early. My current job is an exception to that because it doesn’t really matter when I arrive, most days — it’s just that, when we have meetings in the morning, I tend to arrive just after the meeting has already started. For a long time, I was 2 minutes late to the same morning meeting every day, which is why it annoyed Wakeen. He wanted to know, why couldn’t I just leave the house 2 minutes sooner? How could it be that hard? I really have no idea how it’s so hard for me.

      Back when I had to catch a bus, I was running to the bus stop every morning and just barely arriving on time almost every day. When I was in school, I was always walking into class just a minute after the tardy bell. I’m in a choir, and I consistently arrive just as everyone’s about to start warm-ups, and I have to walk in with everyone staring at me and be the last one there every time. It’s really frustrating, because this habit gives me a lot of anxiety every time, and yet I keep doing it for some mysterious reason. I was hoping the therapist would be able to help me find the reason why I’m doing this, but instead, he shared Wakeen’s attitude about it: people should just be able to overcome these small problems through force of will.

      Also, it doesn’t matter how early or late my start time is. I’ve had start times of 7AM and of 10AM, and I’m consistently 2-5 minutes late to whatever time I happen to believe is the deadline by which I need to be to work. The 7AM job had a time clock and a very strict boss, so that was particularly frustrating. It’s a totally irrational way to be, and I beat myself up about it frequently, and yet I can’t seem to change it. I’ve tried all the tricks I can find on the internet, and nothing works. I think I really have to find the root of it in therapy.

      1. MM

        I’m the same way (actually worse: my margin for “chronically late” is several more minutes than yours). I think for me it’s at least partially an ADHD thing–it’s so, so easy to just lose a couple of minutes here and there reading something on my phone, or getting lost in a train of thought–but I also just chronically underestimate how long things actually take. If it took 15 minutes to make it to the office at 6am with no traffic, I will internalize that as “how long the drive to the office takes” even though I rationally know that at, say, 1pm it will take more like 25 minutes. I think this is because I’m very cerebral and naturally drawn to abstraction and cognitively-intense activities, so mundane tasks like commuting (or showering, or getting dressed, or the other things one has to do before heading out somewhere) just fundamentally bore me so much that I’ll do anything to minimize them, not think about them, or put them off just a little longer.

        The main coping mechanism I’ve found for this is just to try to think only in increments of an hour or half an hour. It doesn’t matter what I think; I must do my best to behave as though the drive to the office takes half an hour. Similarly, it doesn’t matter that yesterday my shower took 20 minutes; I must behave as though it takes an hour. Then when I inevitably try to buy time from myself or otherwise self-sabotage I have some slack built in. (This isn’t a perfect system, since that form of lying to myself becomes pretty hard to believe in when I just want 30 more minutes in bed! But it’s helped.)

      2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

        That sounds so stressful and I hope you can find a solution soon. For me, it was a combination of physical health issues and ’emotional stuff that needed working out’. The ’emotional stuff that needed working out’ wasn’t in any way logically connected to my inability to be on time. But dealing with the emotional stuff made a huge difference in my ability to be on time and not rush. That’s still so bizarre to me, but there you go, humans are weird and delightful.

        There are also health issues that affect people’s inability to get going in the mornings, such as low cortisol, low iron, thyroid imbalance, and/or low B12. The problems can persist for a really long time and we don’t realise them until many years later. I’m not saying you’re dealing with any of this (in fact, I hope not!). But if you think it’s a possibility, it might be worth looking into.

        I have also found meditation helpful, although you may have already tried that.

        Thank you for the update and I’m glad things are improving for you. Good luck and if you feel like updating us again in the future, please do so. It’s always heartening to read about people’s successes and journeys.

  29. KAG

    I have a very similar problem (in fact, I’ve been wondering if I *was* you and posting in some sort of fugue state) – for me, it’s about being resistant to others’ unreasonable demands.

    Which then morphs into anxiety, which then makes punctuality physically impossible, which leads to more complaints, wash, rinse, repeat. Echoing other commenters, CBT is the way to go.

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