A colleague has been a jerk to me. We used to work on a same project but now are on different teams. I hold him in contempt.

1) He does not help even if you ask him the smallest of doubts or favors.

2) He seeks to pull you down.

Recently, he has started asking me for help (understanding things). I have stonewalled him with answers that I am too busy - etc.

I don't plan to help him. I doubt whether any answer can change my mind.


Q1) Would any good come out of helping him ? (Are there positive points to favor the argument of helping him? I don't see any.)

As a side note, generally - does any good come out of helping jerks in the work place? I believe in keeping a professional relationship with them.They begin treating you as door mats if you are nice to them.

  • 1
    What country and what industry? Dec 2, 2019 at 19:55
  • 1
    @MatthewGaiser India Software Industry
    – user112370
    Dec 2, 2019 at 20:04
  • 2
    So now you do not help even if he asks you the smallest of doubts or favors? Dec 2, 2019 at 22:50
  • 3
    Don't be nice - be professional. Dec 2, 2019 at 23:37
  • 2
    Have you asked him? Why should I help you when you've been so unhelpful to me in the past? And why should I help you when you've put me down so many times in the past? No doubt, he'll give you a BS answer. Then you can just say, don't tell me you're going to be nicer, be nicer right now. Then, maybe, just maybe, I might change my mind a couple of months from now after I've seen you change your behavior. Dec 3, 2019 at 12:29

5 Answers 5


Too much depends on personalities we don’t know to give a definite answer, but even if it’s deserved, being a jerk back rarely improves the situation.

Start with replacing “jerk” with “coworker” in your question. This establishes a baseline for how you should at least normally treat people. How you are viewed by others will be heavily influenced by how you, in turn, treat others. So there’s at least an argument for being the bigger person here.

Next, consider what could come of it. Some bullies become best friends when the olive branch is offered. It may be his own insecurity leading him to be as he has and your willingness to look past that could mend the relationship a lot and make everyone more productive.

If you’re concerned about being walked over, then lead in with that discussion. “[Jerk’s name], I’m quite willing to help. First off, I need to clear something up. I asked a similar favor of you weeks ago and you seemed to go out of your way to belittle me. It may have been unintentional or maybe was just a bad day. Whatever the interpretation, things will go better for all of us if we can cooperate. Now let’s take a look at this issue.”

Similarly, you might consider covering yourself with your manager first. It’s a similar conversation, mainly just laying out you’ve had a serious challenge with this guy. You are planning on moving forward and helping him, but you will not be able to if he continues to treat you in the same fashion as before.

Add-on based on your comment

It sounds like this is just how the guy treats you.

The feelgood answer is “You should’ve thought of that before you treated me like an absolute jerk. Good luck finding the answers on your own little island.” Best case scenario here is everyone else feels the same about him and it puts him one step closer to leaving. It’s definitely understandable, probably even deserved. But what if others didn’t perceive the same treatment? What if he goes to his manager and explains what an absolute jerk you are for not answering a simple question? He may not be right, but sometimes the powers that be may not hear it the same as you perceived.

I’d start with your manager as above. Make it clear you’re being the bigger person and give him the opportunity to tell you it’s not your project and you shouldn’t get involved. At this point, you go into the next conversation with your manager on your side. Then go to the jerk and tell him your view on the situation before helping him.

2nd edit (TL; DR)

I apologize as it is not my intent to be rude but I fear this will seem to be.

You seem to not be asking a question more than wanting us to fuel your rage. Pettiness and combativeness rarely make for a better overall work environment. Yes, it is within your capabilities to be as ignoring or mean as you wish. This back-stabbing may work in some cultures and corporate environments. In healthy ones, it does not.

I believe in letting my work speak and bringing my manager solutions - not problems.

That general philosophy is good. But you may misunderstand what management wants. Keeping your manager in the dark about a potential problem can be much worse than if you diffused it from the start. Your job is rarely to decide what’s best for your manager. It is to keep him informed of the good and bad. If you find a bomb on your bus but don’t know how to diffuse it, would you not tell anyone? Sometimes it’s better to get problems out in the open—even if you don’t know how to be the hero.

His manager is not my manager.

I’m sorry if I indicated I assumed he was. It’s plausible if you don’t open this up to your manager, that the day can come where he makes you look like the bad guy and his manager comes and talks to yours about your insolence.

He's not using any work emails to ask me questions but doing it in person.

I am unclear as to how this is germane. Yes, recorded proof may help, but regardless, turning this into a finger-pointing session, documented or otherwise, rarely makes his manager OR yours happy.

Let him gossip about how mean I am. […] At the end of the day,he'll get tired and go and bore somebody else.

And possibly tarnish your reputation along the way, too. Maybe not. But only you can decide if it’s more important to you to be unbending than cooperative.

  • I was on a project with him- I know him and it wasn't a one off affair. Secondly,why isn't he asking a colleague on his current team?
    – user112370
    Dec 2, 2019 at 20:18
  • His manager is not my manager.He's not using any work emails to ask me questions but doing it in person.Let him gossip about how mean I am.I believe in letting my work speak and bringing my manager solutions - not problems.At the end of the day,he'll get tired and go and bore somebody else.
    – user112370
    Dec 2, 2019 at 21:15

Would any good come out of helping him ? (Are there positive points to favor the argument of helping him? I don't see any.)

On one hand you want to be a good person. On another hand you don't want to "reward" bad behavior. The good that you would receive from helping someone that is a jerk would be:

  1. Strengthening your own knowledge by teaching someone else,
  2. Building your reputation for expertise in a given area, and
  3. Maintaining or building relationships between teams.

The challenge here is that if you help a "jerk" you likely won't reap a lot of the benefits of 2 and 3, because they won't really help spread the word about your good deed and more likely pass off your knowledge as their own. As Adam Grant says in his book, Give and Take, to be a successful giver, you need to be able to spot the takers and be more cautious with them. If you give blindly, you are doomed to be a doormat.

I would personally recommend only helping this person as necessitated by your role and focusing on helping others more deserving.


The good that would come is that you can work together, despite personal differences, and achieve a common good for your company. You could be seen as someone who rises to the occasion, and has difficult conversations with difficult people. You could be a better employee for the approach you take here.

On the subject of your plan here, I highly doubt the leaders of your company would be good with your attitude and see you as a valued employee. I would tread very carefully if you feel you cannot work with this individual and want to maintain your current demeanor. Even if he is a "jerk", he may be a well connected jerk who will stir the pot against you with your other co-workers if you give him the cold shoulder treatment, and you may end up having a discussion with HR about your attitude before they ever are called in.

  • He's a colleague and he's not on my project team.As for rising to the occasion,I'll argue that having people like him around me decreases my productivity.
    – user112370
    Dec 2, 2019 at 20:21
  • 1
    +1 The world is full of jerks. The ability to work with them in a professional manner is an important skill. It might make sense for you. @RedDragon, to use this situation as an opportunity to develop that skill. "Colleague is a jerk" is a problem for you to work around, just like "Horrible debugger" or "Unclear specification". All those things affect your day-by-day productivity.
    – O. Jones
    Dec 3, 2019 at 18:28

It is really pretty simple: Treat others how you want to be treated. Similarly: your response is your responsibility.

You are trying to justify you being a jerk because you perceived his actions as anti-social. That does not work. Help him, help him more then others. Praise his accomplishments in front of others. If your organization harms you because of those actions you didn't want to work there anyway.

A wise leader will notice what you are doing. If there are no wise leaders where you are, you can know that you are making the world a better place.


Stonewalling may not be a good answer because you create a paper trail showing you are not cooperating that your colleague can take to your boss and damage your standing.

Another reason is that both of you were hired to generate value to your boss. It is this value that pays your bills. If your colleague fails, that failure may hurt the profitability of the organization and unprofitable organizations fires people. Since you didn't help the colleague with the issues it had there is a good chance that, when the blame game begins, the fired one will be you.

You must log in to answer this question.