Open Thread: How do you Deal with Jerks in the (Web) Workplace?

My community of friends on Twitter has been expressing some angst lately about rudeness they’re dealing with online. Anyone who works online — no, anyone who works anywhere — has to deal with jerks sometimes. No wonder The No Asshole Rule is selling so well.

The article Building the civilized workplace published online in the McKinsey Quarterly today [registration required] suggests that jerkiness is not only harmful in the workplace but may be contagious:

The most important single principle for building a workplace free of jerks, or to avoid acting like one yourself, is to view being a jerk as a kind of contagious disease. Once disdain, anger, and contempt are ignited, they spread like wildfire. Researcher Elaine Hatfield calls this tendency “emotional contagion”: if you display contempt, others (even spectators) will respond in much the same way, creating a vicious circle that can turn everyone in the vicinity into a mean-spirited monster just like you.

Experiments by Leigh Thompson and Cameron Anderson, as they told the New York Times, show that when even compassionate people join a group with a leader who is “high energy, aggressive, mean, the classic bully type,” they are “temporarily transformed into carbon copies of the alpha dogs.” Being around people who look angry makes you feel angry too. Hatfield and her colleagues sum up this emotional-contagion research with an Arabic proverb: “A wise man associating with the vicious becomes an idiot.”

We all know that certain website cultures encourage rudeness and others promote a sense of community and civility. I’ve found in my blogging that the vast majority of comments are friendly and useful. It’s the outright attacks that stick with me though. On my personal blog I’ve added a note to the comment entry form that “rude comments will be edited or deleted.” There are too many well-meaning people online to spend time giving the jerks attention.

Have you been bothered by jerks online? What do you do to protect yourself and to promote a culture of respect?