10 Types of Difficult Coworkers and How to Cope

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At one time or another in our professional careers, the likelihood of encountering a difficult coworker is considerable. In many instances, a talent for ignoring and letting things go comes in quite handy. There are, however, those situations in which coworkers need a little “handling.”

Here are 10 types of difficult coworkers, along with some helpful tips for addressing the problem areas with each:

1. The Waffler
Wafflers study everything to death, always seeking that mythical single last bit of information that will make a decision into a no-brainer. If your project hinges on a waffler, establish a deadline, with a default if no course of action is chosen.

2. The Competitor
The competitor defines the world as a zero-sum game. He must always feel that he’s won and that someone else has lost. To deal with him, channel that competitiveness into helping his team win (and somebody else’s team lose).

3. The Dramatist
Dramatists (aka, drama queens) draw energy from the drama they create because it makes them the center of attention. Unfortunately, giving them attention only increases their appetite, so your best bet is to ignore the histrionics until they run out of steam.

4. The Iconoclast
Iconoclasts break even the most sensible rules (social and business rules alike), just to show that they can get away with it. To deal with iconoclasts, distance yourself from them as soon as possible, both socially and organizationally.

5. The Droner
Droners are always ready to give a presentation—usually one that everyone has heard before. To cope, try to avoid any meeting to which a droner has been invited. If that’s not possible, answer emails on your tablet or laptop under the guise of “taking notes.”

6. The Frenemy
The frenemy pretends to be your biggest cheerleader but subtly sabotages everything you do. Example: “You did so well in that meeting, almost nobody noticed the typos.” Best strategy: Cool the “friendship” and avoid them.

7. The Vampire
Workplace vampires suck all the energy out of the room by always having a reason that something won’t work. Just as traditional vampires avoid sunlight, workplace vampires avoid ridicule. Just say: “Oh, you’re just being negative.” Then move on.

8. The Parasite
Parasites wait to see what ideas become popular and then position themselves as the brains behind them. To thwart them, always keep an “audit trail” of your contributions to a project in the form of regular status reports.

9. The Genius
These are legends in their own minds who talk and talk about their accomplishments but never seem to get anything done. To work with them, lay out frequent (even daily) milestones, and complain loudly to the genius’s boss when deadlines are missed.

10. The Volcano
Volcanoes appear calm and cool, but under the veneer is a roiling cauldron of anger and bitterness, which will eventually explode. Your best strategy: Be elsewhere when the volcano blows.

Ultimately, the best way to look at irritating coworkers is with a sense of humor. Especially since your coworkers probably think you’re pretty irritating sometimes, too.

 

Adapted from Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know by Geoffrey James.

Geoffrey James is a veteran business journalist who now writes a daily column for Inc.com. His latest book, Business Without the Bullsh*t, won the following praise from Publishers Weekly: “The author’s pithy and frank style matches his title…a quick, impactful primer for anyone wanting to be more effective on the job.”

For more information, please visit www.geoffreyjames.com.

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