From the co-worker who slightly tap dances on your nerves to the co-worker from hell, dealing with a nuisance at work can totally deplete your work energy and negatively impact your career. Whether you’re just entering the job force or have been in the game for a while, sooner or later you will encounter challenging personalities in the workplace. The bad news: Unless there’s a job change in your near future, there’s no escaping the people you spend 40 hours a week with. The good news: You can learn to defend yourself appropriately and change the situation. Take a look at five difficult personalities you may come across and strategies on how to handle them.
1. The Shade Thrower
The shade thrower is constantly throwing nice-nasty shade or backhanded compliments your way (think Phaedra Parks from Real Housewives of Atlanta). Truth is, the root of your co-worker’s shady slandering is probably filled with insecurity. By subtly picking at your vulnerabilities, they are merely trying to make themselves feel more powerful.
How to Deal: Stand up for yourself. If you remain silent, the rude co-worker may take that as a sign of insecurity and lack of assertiveness, which can cause the situation to escalate. When a co-worker’s behavior becomes unacceptable, confront her in a professional manner and nip her hating ways in the bud.
2. The Gossiper
Do you work with the office equivalent of Wendy Williams? The gossiper thrives on the latest stories so much, you may as well call her Channel 9 News. From top-secret company information to your supervisor’s extramarital affair, everything is fair game. While you may be tempted to indulge in juicy gossip, nothing is worse than getting involved in work drama, especially if it catches the eye, or ear, of your boss.
How to Deal: When the conversation starts to go left, change the subject immediately. Tell the gossiper that you aren’t interested in discussing or even hearing the topic at hand. Also, if you remain super low-key in the office, the gossiper will be forced to find other listening ears. Your name is Bennett…and you know the rest.
3. The Slacker
While you’re busting your behind all morning, the slacker strolls in late, takes an extra-long lunch and then leaves early. Working alongside him/her is like being back in high school with the one person you knew wasn’t going to participate in the group project. Now the rest of the team, you included, have to work overtime to pick up their slack and make sure the assignment is completed.
How to Deal: It’s all about strategy here. Create a paper trail of your collaboration with the slacker to prove your contribution to your boss. Not allowing this lazy coworker to fall short will make him take responsibility for his performance and actions, or lack thereof.
4. The Copycat
The only thing more frustrating than a teammate who refuses to pull his weight is one who takes credit for a project he had no part in creating. Often too lazy or afraid to come up with his own ideas, a copycat has no problem with stealing your creativity and passing it off as his own. While they say that imitation is a form of flattery, watching your co-worker pitch your brilliant idea to the executive team can threaten your career success in an enormous way.
How to Deal: Approach this copycat co-worker and resolve the situation directly. If your co-worker is constantly stealing your shine, it may be necessary to have a discussion with your boss so he or she can be aware and help prevent this situation from happening again.
5. The Overachiever
From the beginning of time, we’ve all dealt with an overachiever. From elementary school all the way to college, the overachiever was constantly vying for the top spot. Back then it was teacher’s pet, now its boss’s favorite. He makes it his mission to trump you at everything, all in the name of employee of the month.
How to Deal: Stay focused on producing quality work. Competitiveness is often about making the other person doubt themselves. When desperately trying to one-up you, confuse the overachiever by remaining cool, calm and collected. He’ll be thrown off by the confidence and job satisfaction that you exude.
Jamie Harrison (@JayNHarrison) is a freelance writer whose work has been featured on xoJane.com, Ebony.com and a number of Florida newspapers and publications. Jamie frequently writes about health and wellness, professional development and social issues. She currently works full-time as a communications specialist in healthcare and holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Florida.