The Future of Work With Jacob Morgan

Today’s conversation is with Dr. Jody Foster, author of The Schmuck in My Office and a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry. Our discussion centers around dealing with difficult people at work and learning to look for the reasons behind their annoying behaviors.


Dr. Jody Foster is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Vice Chair for Clinical Operations in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Pennsylvania Hospital. She attained her MBA, with a concentration in finance, from the Wharton School. She is also the author of the recently released book, The Schmuck in My Office

Dr. Foster was involved in forming a program to deal with disruptive physicians which became publically offered due to interest in resolving the same issues in other settings outside of the medical field. After the program became public, Dr. Foster was approached to write the book to share the program’s main ideas to the general public.

We all have traits that make us who we are. None of these are problematic by themselves, however when we allow these traits to interfere with our work or our relationships with coworkers, they can become an issue. In Dr. Foster’s book she lists out 10 types of traits that are often observed and can become disruptive to a workplace if they get out of control:

  1. Narcissus – their ego fills the room
  2. Venus Flytrap – their initial appeal may draw you in, but anger later surfaces
  3. Swindler – the rule breaker
  4. Bean counter – the controlling micro manager
  5. Distracted – has real difficulty in time management, frequently has unfinished projects
  6. Mr. Hyde – someone who struggles with an addiction problem, one that was not apparent when hired but then another ‘person showed up’
  7. The Lost – one who is experiencing cognitive issues, and who is getting sloppy
  8. Robotic – one might say they were a ‘person on the spectrum’ – very little social skills
  9. Eccentric – the person has odd or magical belief patterns - the beliefs are ‘strange’
  10. Suspicious – thinks that there are conspiracies, looks over their shoulder

Dr. Foster states that the most common are those titled, narcissus. They may demonstrate behaviors that seem like they feel entitled, seek attention and exaggerate their accomplishments.

One key way to deal with them is to attempt to understand them. It may be that the person has a low and fragile self esteem. They may be afraid to be found smaller than average, in some way. They also may not realize they are dominating the conversation – they are used to controlling the conversation and they may not even have full realization they are doing it. Giving some positive feedback and acknowledging their story may be helpful.

Dr. Foster says, “You want to find a culture that is right for you.” It could also be that the disruptive person is working in the wrong setting for their personality type. Sometimes a worker that is labeled as disruptive is actually just in the wrong workplace culture. “What is considered disruptive to one person may be attractive to another”, states Dr. Foster.

Dr. Foster gives tips for dealing with difficult people. First of all, she says, you have to accept the fact that people don’t want to be disruptive. It is important for us to work to understand the people around us. We also have to understand that what is disruptive in one culture may not be disruptive in another. You should try to call out disruptive behavior when you see it, waiting just causes hard feelings to build up to the point of anger.

You should take a step back and examine why a certain behavior is bothering you, in some instances it could be because you see something in a person that is a trait you don’t like in yourself. Another tip Dr. Foster gives is, if the other person doesn’t see a problem then you have to set limits. And finally, ask the question, ‘Am I the schmuck in the office’? Are you going from place to place and continuing to ‘see the same issues’? If you are, you could be the problem.

What You Will Learn In This Episode:

  • Tips for organizations for dealing with ‘schmucks’
  • Personal life ‘schmucks’
  • If you aren’t happy in your job why it might be time to do some reflection!
  • Why Dr. Foster wrote her book
  • What are the 10 types of people and how can you identify them
  • How can we get to a point where we can understand the truth behind someone’s actions
  • Real life examples of how to deal with others
  • What roles does the environment play vs. the individual
Direct download: Jody20Foster20Podcast_DONE.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 2:49am PDT