by Colton Campbell

When dealing with difficult people at work, clinical psychiatrist Dr. Jody Foster has one key piece of advice.

Dr. Jody Foster Don’t get caught up in the drama.

She should know. She literally wrote the book on it.

Foster, the author of “The Schmuck in My Office: How to Deal Effectively with Difficult People at Work,” visited the University of West Georgia recently for the next enlightening installment in the BB&T Lectures in Free Enterprise series, hosted by the Richards College of Business.

Created eight years ago, the series – forged by a partnership between the Richards College of Business and the BB&T Foundation – generates a dialogue about the ethical foundation of capitalism and free enterprise.

In her lecture, Foster summarized her book and highlighted a few of the typical personality types she’s found in her work as a behavioral consultant in corporate environments, including the narcissist and the bean counter. In her words, these “schmucks,” or contemptible individuals, upset the workplace, confuse coworkers and cause concern throughout the office.

“Conflict can be anywhere and everywhere, any time we interact, from the boardroom to the communal refrigerator in the breakroom,” Foster said. “That’s totally normal, but when managers wait too long to intervene with disruptive behavior, that’s when other members of a team can become frustrated, meaning one disruptive character can infect a team and even the entire workplace.”

Dr. Jody Foster Foster said the cost of a bad hire can be conservatively estimated at 15 to 20 times the person’s base salary, meaning the inadvertent hiring of a disruptive person can cost a firm a substantial amount of money.

“We’ve all had a conflict at work that’s affected how we feel about going to work the next day or at least distracted us from doing our jobs, which affects productivity,” Foster said. “That’s why it’s extremely important to address these issues because they can be very destructive if the person in question isn’t confronted.”

As for that confrontation, Foster said it’s better to have it sooner, rather than later.

“Don’t get caught up in the drama,” Foster said. “Call out what you see, when you see or feel it. Be concise and direct. Limits have to be set around the person so they know where they have to stop if they want to keep working at the firm.”

Foster listed the 10 types of difficult people she expands upon in her book, noting people generally fall into multiple buckets, rather than fitting neatly into one personality type. The 10 types Foster identified are Narcissus, The Venus Flytrap, The Swindler, The Bean Counter, The Distracted, Mr. Hyde, The Lost, The Robotic, The Eccentric and The Suspicious.

Foster closed her lecture with a tip on what to do if an individual encounters countless “schmucks” in their work life.

“If you’re going from workplace to workplace and finding that every single person is a schmuck and you’re never the problem, at some point in your life you would do well to note the common denominator,” Foster said. “Instead of freaking out, see that self-acknowledgment as a gift.”

L-R: Kyle Marrero, UWG president; Tammy Hughes, corporate banker at BB&T; Richard Carswell, market president at BB&T; and Dr. Faye McIntyre, dean of the Richards College of Business
L-R: Kyle Marrero, UWG president; Tammy Hughes, corporate banker at BB&T; Richard Carswell, market president at BB&T; and Dr. Faye McIntyre, dean of the Richards College of Business

Jody J. Foster, MD, MBA is a clinical professor of psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, vice chair of clinical operations for the Department of Psychiatry in the University of Pennsylvania Health System and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Pennsylvania Hospital.

Her clinical practice includes general psychiatry, with a special emphasis on treating acute inpatients, psychopharmacology, and corporate development that provides support and evaluation services to executives.

The BB&T Lectures in Free Enterprise focuses on core values and ethical foundations of free enterprise and issues facing business management and policy-makers. Two select speakers a year are invited to UWG’s campus to provide a talk on these topics. Events are free and open to students and the general public.

“We're always excited to offer the next installment in this exciting and pertinent lecture series,” said Dr. Faye McIntyre, dean of the college. “Dr. Foster presented a timely, powerful message to the UWG community, and I’m thankful for BB&T’s support in bringing speakers of this caliber to campus. We’re always striving to attract great opportunities like this to our campus, and Dr. Foster’s insightful lecture is a testament to what our partnership with BB&T provides.”

Posted on April 16, 2018