More Co-Workers from Hell: Dealing with Difficult Colleagues, II

by Staff - Original publish date: January 18, 2012

Every workplace--and every department--has difficult people. In the first part of this article, you met five common difficult personality types, and learned strategies and tactics for dealing with them. In this article, Part II, you'll meet five more.

By the end of this article you'll know exactly what to do to neutralize even the most annoying of co-workers.

The Complainer

Meet Nellie Negative. Nellie constantly whines, complains, and points out the downside to every situation. Complainers distrust everyone around them, and have a knack for maligning even the best intentions of co-workers and supervisors.

Complainers are exhausting and can dampen high spirits faster than you can say "office party." They can also delay projects and other work as they argue about why something shouldn't be done, or why it shouldn't be done in a particular way.

Managing the Complainer

Most complainers possess the deadly duo of insecurity and imagination. They believe others don't value their opinions, so they exaggerate them loudly. When the complainer puts down an idea or person, don't argue. Instead, stick to the facts. Reiterate positive aspects.

The Perfectionist

Meet Peter Perfect. Peter constantly strives for perfection, and expects everyone around him to do the same. But because perfection is generally unattainable, Peter torments himself--and others around him--when his expectations aren't met.

Perfectionists constantly make changes in an effort to achieve perfect results. In addition to trying the patience of those around him, the Perfectionist can also hamper productivity.

Managing the Perfectionist

Because perfectionists tend to be indecisive, they must be given very strict parameters. It is up to co-workers and project managers to tell the Perfectionist how many rounds of changes will be allowed, as well as when final rounds of changes are due. If the Perfectionist isn't capable of walking away and calling a project finished, walk away yourself. Remember, this is the Perfectionist's hang-up, not yours.

If the Perfectionist is your boss--or if the Perfectionist tries to throw you under the bus--the situation can become more serious. In that case, you may have to discuss what's going on with that person's supervisor.

The Passive Aggressive

Meet Molly Manipulative. When Molly doesn't like a task she is asked to do at work, or doesn't agree with a situation, she'll never speak up. Instead, she'll get her point across by sulking, procrastinating, or by being sullen, stubborn, or inefficient.

The Passive Aggressive quite often manipulates you into getting what she wants through these behaviors, because if you don't react to them she acts wounded, persecuted, and portrays you as someone who is "out to get her."

Managing the Passive Aggressive

People who fit this profile have serious difficulty expressing their feelings, and when confronted with their behavior they will often sulk, give you the silent treatment, or simply walk away. The first step in dealing with a Passive Aggressive is to ignore covert manipulation, and not give in to it.

If you do confront the Passive Aggressive, focus on your feelings and not on his or her character or behaviors. Because passive aggressives feel that others are out to get them, focusing on their character or behavior will bring out passive aggressive traits even more.

The Credit Grabber

Meet Thaddeus Thief. Thaddeus is an ambitious fellow who is quick to grab credit wherever and whenever he can. He undermines the help of others, or doesn't mention it at all.

The Credit Grabber is a particularly dangerous difficult personality, because he creates a suspicious atmosphere at work in which people are not willing to share their ideas, thoughts, or work.

Managing the Credit Grabber

The Credit Grabber thrives on being the center of attention, so simply don't allow him to be. The next time he takes all the credit or praise for a job well done, quietly call him out by mentioning how others contributed to the success.

Don't be confrontational, attack the character of the credit grabber, or brag. Simply state the facts, and then move on.  When the Credit Grabber realizes he's being revealed, he'll stop.

The Non-Team Player

Meet Louise Loner. Louise is quiet, removed, and seems apathetic toward work. While Louise doesn't cause conflict, she also doesn't contribute to the department's success.

The Non-Team Player offers no ideas, thoughts, or solutions at meetings, and tends to complete duties assigned to her with little, if any, enthusiasm. The Non-Team Player makes reaching goals very difficult because, as the adage goes, you are only as strong as your weakest link.

Managing the Non-Team Player

Never “make up” for the non-team player’s lack of performance. Instead, point out how their apathy and lack of engagement has hurt efforts. Try to engage the Non-Team Player by asking for her opinion and thoughts, and giving positive feedback when she engages.

If you discover that the Non-Team Player is really just an extremely shy individual who prefers to work alone, find valuable things for her to do that gel with their preferred approach.

No workplace is without difficult personalities. Chances are you've recognized at least a few co-workers in Parts I and II of this article. While difficult personalities are ... well ... difficult to deal with, with the right tactics they aren't impossible.

With thoughtful strategies you can manage difficult personalities, and make work a more pleasant, productive place.