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Jan. 31, 2020

5 Types of Difficult Coworkers and How to Deal with Them

Whether you work at a small startup or a large corporation, chances are you’ve dealt with at least one difficult coworker. People with different personalities, backgrounds, and working styles often clash or rub each other the wrong way at work.

Stress caused by annoying coworkers may not be completely avoidable, but you’ll be a lot happier if you know how to handle it and move on. Here are five common types of difficult coworkers and how to deal with them.

Difficult Coworker 1: The Chatterbox 😄

The Chatterbox always has a tale to tell anyone who will listen. You may try to avoid them in the halls because they’ll talk your ears off and before you know it, you’re late to your next meeting. You haven’t figured out a way to politely tell them that their stories—though entertaining—are keeping you away from your work.

How to Deal

There are a few simple ways to politely curb this talkative distractor.

If you’re sitting at your desk: If your workplace allows for it, consider wearing a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. The headphones don’t even need to be plugged in, but they will signal to passerby that you don’t want to be disturbed.

If you’re walking down the hall in a hurry: Don’t stop walking! Instead, say something like “Hey, off to a meeting with the boss. Fingers crossed it goes well.” They’ll take the hint and find someone else to engage.

If you’re walking down the hall with a few minutes to spare: Give them a time limit. Say something like, “I only have three minutes before I have to finish my presentation, but how are you doing?” When the time is up, it’ll be much easier to slip away since they aren’t in the middle of a ten-minute story.

Difficult Coworker 2: The Bully 😡

Some people naturally have a dominant personality that might be politely described as opinionated, driven, or results oriented. On the flip side, this personality can also come across as aggressive and rude. You may have even been on the receiving end of a comment that resulted in tears or thoughts of quitting. We call this person the Bully.

How to Deal

As much as it sounds like a cop-out, the best way to deal with the Bully is to ignore them. As long as you’re doing your job correctly and giving it your all, they’ll have nothing to hold over you. Their personality is not a reflection on you and it does no good to get worked up.

However, if their behavior is truly inappropriate or crosses the line into verbal or physical abuse, that’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Save relevant emails and keep a list of people who witnessed any heated interactions. Take that information and talk to your HR department right away.

Difficult Coworker 3: The Critic 🤨

You hate proposing ideas to them because there is always something wrong. No matter how many hours of work and energy went into the project, they will inevitably find something to criticize or point out how it could have been better.

How to Deal

Honestly, this coworker probably doesn’t realize how their well-intended feedback can sound like criticism. Some people are fact and data-driven with sharp eyes for details. They can’t resist the urge to pick things apart in order to ensure they’re done perfectly. But while they are busy thinking critically about your work, you’re silently steaming and wondering how they can possibly be satisfied.

Criticism can be good, if it’s constructive. Ask the Perfectionist for concrete answers on what needs to be improved.  They’re likely just trying to help the project be the best it can be, even if it doesn’t come across that way.

If the overly negative criticism continues, talk to their supervisor. They might benefit from receiving training on how to give constructive feedback. A persistent negative attitude might signal underlying issues that need attention.

Difficult Coworker 4: The Underperformer 😴

This coworker seems content to do the bare minimum. They seem to skate by while still maintaining the duties of the job, so they’re in the clear. But because they’re technically doing what they’re supposed to, you can’t really say anything.

How to Deal

Give the Underperformer the benefit of the doubt and offer them a chance to step up their game.

Maybe they don’t realize that there is more to be done or that other coworkers need help. Something as simple as “Hey, Kainoa mentioned that he was drowning in spreadsheets. I’m busy right now but if you have a few minutes to spare I know he would love an extra hand!”

After a few encouragements to check in with other colleagues, they may get the hint that it’s an office standard to pitch in with work that isn’t always on their direct to-do list. If they don’t get the hint, you can consider speaking to a manager, but you may just need to end up working around them.

Difficult Coworker 5: The Loveable Screwup 🥺

They are the nicest person in the office, and you would never hear a mean word come out of their mouth. But as sweet as this coworker is, the Loveable Screwup can cause serious headaches with the amount of double-checking you need to do.

How to Deal

Have you considered pairing them up with the Perfectionist? If they’re working together, the Loveable Screwup will be forced to pay attention to the details.

However, if this is going on for too long and nothing seems to change, you need to consider talking to your boss. Their mistakes could cause serious problems for you and the rest of the team if they aren’t addressed.

Working with different personalities can be difficult. But with the right attitude and preparation, you can handle anyone that comes your way!

Are you looking for a different work environment with new coworkers? ALTRES Staffing can help!

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