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Monday, November 9, 2009

Dealing with Mr. A-Hole!

I’m here to tell you that the only thing worse than the self-proclaimed expert/consultant is the ‘asshole.’ We encounter them all of the time. At the office, in the car, at Starbucks, at your kid’s soccer game, and more. In the media game they’re almost everywhere because of the inherent entitlement issues that are rampant in the industry.

In the media game, people love to get assholes together and let them duke it out. If you aren’t picking up what I’m putting down, then think about the fish owner who likes to put two betta splendens (aka Siamese fighting fish) in the same tank and relishes in their distress. Now you know the mentality of the media game. Every morning when they wake up and the first thing they say is, “I really think there needs to be more feuds.” And I’m not being sarcastic – the more feuds there are, the better it is for sales reps, gossipmongers and rival companies. There aren’t a whole lot of epic guy feuds going on right now. Generally they just punch it out and move on.

So imagine my surprise last week when the ultimate industry asshole unleashed wholly hell in his top rated blog. In his nasty note, this big wig went after a colleague who’s on a bit of a roll and is inciting jealousy. His Asshole Blog (as we call it now) spent copious and precious Internet space calling our “colleague’s ugliness…oddly fascinating” in a debate over whether he could land a Kendra Wilkinson-type without having secured a “top cosmetics account in questionable fashion just a week prior.”

One might assume that our affable colleague would shrug off the insult with a friendly, Big Bird-ish chuckle, but behold, his amazing response when asked about the incident: “Yeah, that guy’s a real asshole. I actually ran into his office whipping boy yesterday at a Coffee Bean and he’s like ‘you know, I’ve got to kind of apologize because apparently the guy who runs our agency doesn’t like you so much.’ And I said ‘well I have reason to believe because I think your boss is a moron with a small member from all I can understand so it makes sense he doesn’t like me.’”

I definitely don’t blame him for being pissed – that would flat out hurt most people’s feelings. It just seems more in his “Big Bird-ish” nature (wonderfully apt description, by the way) to at least pretend to be fine with it and maybe even add a self-deprecating joke or two. I’m not sure I would have, but the first role in dealing with an asshole is to develop a thicker skin.

After all, the asshole loves to incite an incident. That’s his manipulation. His reward, if you will.

Mistake #2 is trying to get Mr. Asshole to like you. No matter how nice you are to him, Mr. Asshole will still act like an asshole. That is, Mr. Asshole was still confrontational and disagreeable about almost everything. I say that an asshole is always one because there is crap coming out of their mouth. There is no reason to befriend Mr. A. You should know by now that you can't make everybody like you and/or respond favorably to you. Now just kill him with kindness and let him embarrass himself at the absolute worst time.

Sometimes you need powerful arsenal to deal with certain types of people in your life. The reality is that most assholes are created over time. You, on the other hand, have the regrettable fortune to cross his path. If you’re blessed, you can make it a ‘one-time’ meet and greet, then avoid the person for the rest of your life. But, then, there are the jerks we can’t avoid. These people may come in the form of a loan officer or client.

When it’s a client, you may be screwed in the short-term. The Asshole Client loves using the avoidance tactic. I had this one client who loves to get us rolling on projects and then disappear at horrific times. I remember one time having a dozen press people call looking for itineraries. My office was in panic mode looking for answers.

“Where’s the client?” one associate asked, demanding an answer.

“Oh, he’s in France,” I said.

“FRANCE?!” she shrieked (yeah I know, but it was a shriek).

My reply: “They were floating around the excuse that he might not make it due to volcanic ash that I guess is still affecting flights from the UK, France, and Germany all the way to North America. He’s hiding out because he’s an asshole. I saw the advance tip sheet for a party happening tomorrow night and his name was ON IT. So if he’s not supposed to be back in LA, how come someone told the party organizers that he’d be showing up?” Because his plan all along was to have a jerked-out adventure in France. Wouldn’t it be awesome if he stayed there, a la Roman Polanski? Maybe he’d turn into another fugitive from justice.

“Anyway forget about him for a minute. Let’s get on the horn with press and ask them to hang tight and will have answers shortly.”

The way I look at it is this—if someone is being an asshole, it's really just your job to make sure that the collateral damage is controlled and the agency’s reputation is protected. Really? Have I ever let the client and the press down? Never.

My ego may not like that I can't succeed in getting the Client Asshole to think the way I’m thinking or be accountable to the projects at hand, so you move to plan C without shrieking about it or muttering "asshole" under your breath. I don’t know about you, but I’ve given up trying to understand The Nation of Insufferable People.

So after all of these ramblings, what’s the answer? Truth is, I don’t have one. Just keep your Felix the Cat magic bag of tricks loaded with patience, a dash of sarcasm and a boatload of plan B’s and C’s.

Hugs and Kisses,

P.S. If you’ve noticed, I’ve called the assholes here all “hims” and “hes”. I hope you don’t think I’m an asshole for avoiding the other gender. If I did, I’d need another secret identity to hide out from the marauding angry mob.