Expanding the database of work jerks

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Stressed businessman at the office

Stressed businessman at the office (Peter Dazeley, Photographer's Choice/via Getty Images)

Description: Talker-Downers are quite superior to the rest of us, but they're kind enough to acknowledge our existence by talking to us like we're brain-damaged Labrador retrievers. They often speak slowly and in excruciating detail so lesser beings might have a chance at grasping even a fraction of their genius.

Defense: Challenge them. You don't have to be mean about it, but if you respond to the Talker-Downer by firmly saying something like, "Hey, Phil, we understand how this works, you don't need to talk to us like we're 12," the person might think twice before doing it again.

After calling the person out, you can have a one-on-one chat with her or him and, as collegially as possible, let them know that they tend to condescend and it's bothersome. It's either that, or let them keep talking down to you.

The Email Engineer

From EC in Palatine

Habitat: Somewhere on the other end of the email stream.

Description: The Email Engineer responds to an email but adds several names to the "To" or "CC" lists, creating an email train that would awe Union Pacific. The additions usually have little "need to know," but they're often higher-ups. So what began as a simple question or exchange is elevated to a matter of quasi-importance.

With each iteration, the Email Engineer adds more names until people become bored and start disregarding the matter.

Defense: Because email does not come with a rule book, it's difficult to tell someone they're doing it wrong. If you can ignore Email Engineers and accept them for who they are, that's best.

If it's too exasperating, you could contact a superior who often gets pulled onto the email train and ask whether they might be able to derail this behavior.

The Meeting Ghost

From Rose in Oak Park

Habitat: Conference rooms, the manager's office.

Description: The Meeting Ghost never utters a word in a meeting — even when asked. But as soon as the meeting adjourns, these ghosts begin whispering their opinions, openly disagreeing with decisions that were made.

Defense: Once you've identified a Meeting Ghost, zap that person with a Proton Pack from "Ghostbusters." Kidding, of course. But there's nothing wrong with pulling that person aside and nicely pointing out what he or she is doing. The Meeting Ghost may not be aware of its own spookiness.

If that doesn't work, you may just have to believe that ghosts don't exist.

UPDATE: In last week's column, I excoriated a new CBS reality show called "The Job," saying it trivialized the nation's jobs crisis. The day that column ran, CBS cancelled the show. I take full credit for this development. You're welcome.

TALK TO REX: Ask workplace questions — anonymously or by name — and share stories with Rex Huppke at ijustworkhere@tribune.com, like Rex on Facebook at facebook.com/rexworkshere, and find more at chicagotribune.com/ijustworkhere.

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