#8 Managing Brilliant Jerks with Katrina Burrus

Katrina Burrus

 In this podcast, Katrina Burrus explains: Who is a Brilliant Jerk? What are their destructive behaviours? How does it impact people, teams and organisations? What can you do if you report to a Brilliant Jerk?

Who’s a Brilliant Jerks?

A Brilliant Jerk is motivated to having outstanding results and is interpersonally blind. Take the metaphor of driving a car, a Brilliant Jerks has a very clear 2020 vision along with blind spots of their interpersonal behaviour which are very destructive. They are people who are very brilliant, sharp and they bring valuable competence to the organization.

What is the cost of such managers?

Individual level: People get less creative as they start reacting to the Brilliant Jerk’s mood instead of what’s best for the company as they are scared of their outburst. So, they become wary of what problems they can share with this manager based on the mood of the day. So as leaders brilliant jerks don’t know there is a problem before there is a crisis.

Team level: Especially junior people don’t dare to share new ideas as they are afraid to be humiliated, so ideas don’t surface in a team. Katrina has seen managers who bang on the table and say “They are not bringing any ideas”. Brilliant Jerks don’t realise that being aggressive is not going to help others express themselves to share ideas or problems.

Organizational Level: Often there is a higher turnover. Especially talented people who are not well utilised by such managers leave as they can be ostracized because the Brilliant Jerk see him/her as a competitor. So talented people who are unable to bring out their talent leave. Some others who are aggressed fall sick and there are absenteeism.

What are some behaviors of the Brilliant Jerk?

In the podcast Katrina shares very interesting scenarios and examples, do listen to them at [4:25] seconds.

  • In her 1st example the Brilliant Manager made humiliating remarks and made others feel insignificant.
  • In the 2nd example the Manager was Micro Managing to the extent that it removed any kind of motivation and interest from the person to do a productive job.
  • In the 3rd example, the Manager humiliates other people in the meeting in front of the big leader to stand out as status is important.

They have a strong drive to perform and be recognized. Competence and Status are very important to them.

They cause stress to people.

The difference between misbehavior and a Brilliant Jerk is that their behavior is repetitive, over and over again and its not linear.

They can be absolutely charming with clients to get what they want and then all of a sudden they can did, dig and dig and this causes confusion.

The question to really ask oneself is – How to you feel after the interaction?

What is the difference between a Brilliant Jerks and a Demanding manager?

When such managers feel that the other person hasn’t done the best they can or has not done well; they attack the person. In comparison to the animal world of  flight, fight or freeze reaction, the Brilliant Jerk's preferred reaction is the Fight strategy.

Because they are afraid that it will show badly in their results!

On the contrary the Demanding Manager analyses why the person is not performing. They analyse the performance – they check if it is a problem of motivation or skillset.

A Brilliant Manager attacks!

A Demanding Manager analyses!

A Demanding Manager demonstrates empathy and sees why the other person didn’t succeed. They provide support and mentoring and look for the success of the other.

How do you manage a Brilliant Jerk?

Animals see other animals as predator or prey. With a Brilliant Jerk you don’t want to be seen as a predator as they will get the fighting mode out. You don’t want to be perceived as a prey because they will start playing with you or attacking you. It’s a fine line.

Sometime you need to confront them and say: “Look I see you are not in the right mood to have this discussion I’ll come back at a later day.”

What’s important is not to be perceived as a prey. Come in as an equal.

If your customer is Brilliant Jerk, they need to be reassured that they are great, but don’t become prey. Don’t be frightened by them as they like to feel power over a person.

If your boss is Brilliant Jerk, you’ve got to be careful. Because it’s like poison, if the poison stays at the top of your skin it’s ok, if it starts to get into your system its going to make you weaker and weaker and weaker.

Stand up and try different strategies and if its really getting to you and affecting you physically, you get a specialist in the case or get out of the place.

Want further support – get in touch or read managing Brilliant Jerk – How organisations and coaches can transform Difficult Leaders into powerful Visionaries

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Samskara Dec 2021 Issue #08

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