Garden gnome with a go away sign

Don’t be a jerk.

This blog is part of a series for Be A Better Human and Respect Now Always at UNE.

Before you keep reading, please be warned… we’re going to be pretty blunt and use a few descriptive words in this blog…


Is there someone whom you have to work/interact with regularly who makes you feel…

  • De-energised
  • Belittled
  • Feeling worse about yourself
  • Or even humiliated?

It’s not hard to see that the said person is a straight up a-hole. These sorts of behaviours are everywhere, and they can have a huge impact on your productivity, however, it is important to understand that how you respond to them can make all the difference!

The Sydney Swans have been implementing the “no dickheads policy” (ND policy) since the early 2000s, as have a lot of other leaders and organisations who have taken on the initiative to help lift performance and engagement. At UNE under the Be a Better Human Campaign – we call this “Don’t be a Jerk”

As humans our we gain energy off independence, ideas, and goals, and so it is important to realise what interactions and activities energise and de-energise you.

First things first, what are the characteristics of an ‘a-hole’?… now I’m sure we have all been guilty of acting in a poor manner when life gets a little stressful, but it is the reoccurring behaviours of the following according to ‘BalancedCurve.com’ that make for unacceptable behaviour:

  • Demeaning others – rolling eyes, dirty looks, sarcastic comments, ridiculing, personal insults, rude interruptions
  • Displaying anger – raising their voice, shouting, making threats (both verbal and non-verbal), and generally being rude
  • Sabotaging others – undermining, ignoring, refusing to participate in discussions, consistently being late for meetings, passively obstructing or actively resisting, gossiping, unnecessary micromanaging
  • Controlling – Always having to win, be right or have the last word, (micromanaging fits here as well)
  • Being unreliable – failing to follow through on commitments
  • Glory seeking – fail to acknowledge and recognise others, taking all the credit

Do any of the above ring a bell with someone you’ve interacted with? There are ways to help you cope when you have to deal with someone who makes you feel a little dull.

One of the core beliefs of the “ND policy” is that if you think someone is acting wrongly, you should pull them up on it.

No matter how short or intense an encounter may be – it all contributes to the culture of your workplace/friendship group/sporting team/college/ or self, and so it is important to find the strength to stand up to it before it begins to affect you.

Let’s explore this… 

Example 1 – someone in your friendship group who makes you uncomfortable:

One of your ‘friends’ chooses to continually gossip about another friend in the friendship group to you.

Ask yourself: “How does that make me feel?” Does it make you dread having to hang out with the gossip friend?

Some ways to stand up against them is, speak up next time they speak nastily about your other friend:

  • “I’d prefer if you didn’t gossip behind that persons back”
  • “If you gossip about them, does that mean you do the same about me when I’m not around? That’s not a true friend.”

Example 2 – someone on your sporting team who belittles you:

A team member on your sporting team makes fun of how you missed a pass.

Ask yourself: “How does that make me feel?” Does it cause you to feel unmotivated to carry on? Does it make you angry and want to be rude back?

The hardest thing is to not let it get to you, and that is why standing up for yourself is so important when applying the “ND policy”!

Some examples of what you can respond with are:

  • “I don’t appreciate you putting me down like that”
  • “This is a team and you aren’t acting part of it”

And/Or, speak to your coach or captain about it.

Example 3 – someone in your workplace who makes you or someone else feel humiliated:

A colleague who is notorious for behaving like they are better than everyone else confronts you in front of a group of colleagues in the tea-room. The perpetrator puts down a job you just did saying it wasn’t adequate and goes on to tell you how incompetent you are:

Ask yourself: “How does that make me feel?” Do you feel frozen in how to respond, or do you feel intimidated by the other person to respond and because they have been working longer than you, they are probably right?

Even if this colleague is older or more experienced than you, the ND policy does not discriminate.

Some examples of what you can respond:

  • “Sorry, but I don’t appreciate the way you just spoke to me”
  • “Please speak to me in private if you have an issue”
  • “Please speak to my supervisor if you have an issue with the way I completed a job”

It may also be wise to let your superior know of the interaction.

It is just as important to stick up for others when it comes to the ND policy – because any of the above situations may not be directed entirely at you but you could be witness to them. And, isn’t just nice to have someone back you up when you’re faced with a meanie?

A huge part of the Sydney Swans ND policy focused on the idea that you should “leave the place better than when you came,” so try to imagine this next time you have an encounter with someone whose attitude is a major downer and don’t forget to Be a Better Human!


If you have experienced any form of bullying or intimidation at UNE, there are support services for you!

Our experienced team at Advocacy and Welfare have confidential support for students in need. Come in for a cup of tea or you can contact us here.

Student Success also has confidential counselling for students, you can find them here.

Lifeline is also a 24/7 hotline and you can call them on 13 11 14