Jody Foster

Speech Topics

Everyone knows the “schmuck” in the office—a difficult, disruptive person who upsets the workplace, confuses coworkers, and causes concern. It’s hard to understand why schmucks act the way they do, but one thing is certain—they seem to come in all shapes and sizes. . . .
– Narcissus—the condescending attention-seeker who carelessly steps on everyone’s toes
– The Flytrap—the bringer of chaos whose emotional instability causes an office maelstrom
– The Bean Counter—the orderly perfectionist who never gives up control, even when it’s full-steam-ahead to disaster
– The Robot—the unreadable stone wall who just can’t connect

Sound like anyone you know? These are just a few of the more prominent types of difficult people at work. In this lecture, Dr. Foster explains the entire spectrum of people we may think of as schmucks, how they can decrease productivity, destroy teams, and generally make everyone else unhappy. She helps us understand such people, figure out how to work with them, and ultimately solve workplace problems. She also makes us consider the most difficult thing of all: despite where your finger may be pointing, sometimes you are the “schmuck”! Dr. Foster will teach you how to make your workplace a happier and more productive one.

Three character types from Dr. Foster’s book “The Schmuck In My Office” are likely to have the most overt difficulty in the office—to cause the biggest shows, to produce the most openly egregious pain, and to be the first you think of when considering this topic. These individuals may seem overwhelmingly dramatic, emotional, or erratic to the people around them. They may appear abusive, insincere, entitled, and lacking in compassion. At the same time, they do require our empathy, as difficult as they may be. In this lecture, Dr. Foster describes how to recognize these types and helps us with strategies for how best to work with them.


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Jody J. Foster, MD, MBA, author of The Schmuck In My Office: How To Deal Effectively With Difficult People at Work,  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. She attained her masters of business administration, with a concentration in finance, from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Her clinical practice includes general psychiatry with a special emphasis on corporate development that provides support and evaluation services to executives. Dr. Foster serves as the Executive Medical Director of Penn Behavioral Health Corporate Services and leads the Professionalism Committees at the member hospitals of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. She manages the Professionalism Program at Penn Medicine, a publicly offered consultation service, as the Executive Clinical Director. Dr. Foster is a noted educator and has received numerous awards for clinical excellence and teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. She was elected to Penn Medicine’s inaugural class of the Academy of Master Clinicians and has been named a “Top Doc” by Philadelphia Magazine.

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