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10 Ways Jerks, Whiners and Bullies Ruin a Business Working in an office filled with self-absorbed, blame-deflecting do-nothings makes you long for when the robots will take over.

By Steve Tobak Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Customer relationships are critical to any successful business, but inside a company's four walls, work relationships take on far more nuance and complexity. That's where most issues that destroy team performance occur.

Within the hierarchy of any company, big or small, there are no relationships more important than those among team members and between employees and their boss. Those interrelationships determine organizational effectiveness.

Successful interactions are based on understanding each other's needs -- putting yourself in the other person's shoes, as it were. If everyone did that, organizations would be far more effective. For whatever reason, not everyone does. Don't ask me why; I don't know and I don't care. All I know is, it's true.

Regardless of the reason, we can remedy the situation by understanding what kind of behavior destroys those all-important peer-to-peer and employee-boss relationships. This is the kind of behavior that diminishes group performance and holds everyone back.

1. Egotistical.

People who lack confidence, feel small or are easily threatened often overcompensate by pumping up their egos. The problem is that's not authentic behavior. It causes them to act smarter than they are and more confident than they should be. They write checks that reality can't cash, and that's never good.

2. Negatron.

Constructive conflict is beneficial, but contrarians are not. They make it their mission in life to shoot others down and point out why something can't be done or can't be done a certain way. Negatrons are the self-appointed keepers of the status quo because they single-handedly stop innovation in its tracks.

Related: Please Cover Your Mouth Before Infecting Everyone With Your Negativity

3. Defensive.

If you're going to feel threatened whenever someone challenges or disagrees with you, you may as well put up a physical wall around yourself. Being defensive cuts off debate, genuine understanding and optimal decision-making.

4. Disingenuous.

If you simply can't stop yourself from making things up, acting like a know-it-all, sugar-coating the truth, or misrepresenting the facts to make yourself look good or cover your own behind, it will come back to bite you someday. Whatever the reason, the method or the situation, lying is never the right thing to do. It won't kill you to be genuine, you know.

5. Spineless.

Business is a full contact sport. Have the guts to put yourself out there and take risks. If you don't -- if you're a wimp, a yes-man who readily gives in, gives up, takes the easy way out or tells people what they want to hear -- you'll drag everyone down to your level.

6. Teflon coated finger pointing.

Some people are so smooth that it seems nothing bad, including accountability, ever sticks to them. When things go wrong, there's always an excuse. It's always someone else's fault. It's never their job or their responsibility. They won't own or own up to anything. But that never stops them from taking credit … from others, of course.

Related: 3 Easy Steps to Personal Mastery and Emotional Health

7. Incompetent.

If you can't or won't hold yourself accountable, it doesn't mean you're dumb. You probably lack the ability, the drive or the work ethic to do your job and do it right. Either that or, for whatever reason, you make commitments you can't keep. Whatever the problem, fix it. Incompetence drags down the entire organization.

8. Over-reactive or non-responsive.

It would sure be nice if everything went according to plan, but that's just not how things work. Business is full of problems, but the key to solving them with minimal disruption is by being proactive and responsive, not pushing the panic button or making believe everything's hunky dory.

9. Dysfunctional.

Some people are mini-dramas personified. Wherever they go, trouble follows. Of course everyone has issues. Nobody's perfect. But it's another thing entirely to act out in anger and take your childhood problems out on coworkers. Leave your issues where they belong … at home or, better still, buried in your subconscious.

Related: Rampant Bullying Found Across Workplaces

10. Bullying.

Bullying used to be the sole domain of egotistical bossholes, but there's a new type of bully on the loose: the thin-skinned, entitled victim who's offended by every little thing and demands that others kowtow to their increasingly narrow definition of acceptable behavior. Usually they are the first to whine about being bullied.

In case you're looking for a catchall label for all this bad behavior, it's called bureaucracy. If you've ever wondered why effective executives and business leaders almost never end up in politics or any kind of government-related or administrative position, now you know. The bureaucracy would drive them absolutely bonkers.

Steve Tobak

Author of Real Leaders Don't Follow

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive, and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur (Entrepreneur Press, October 2015). Tobak runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting and blogs at, where you can contact him and learn more.

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