How To Deal With Difficult Work Personalities

Robin Schwartz

How To Deal With Difficult Work Personalities

It would be nice to go to work every day and like all of our co-workers equally. Unfortunately, many of us will run into difficult personalities in our workplaces. We cannot avoid these people, but we can learn how to deal with them.

The Gossip

Office gossips are easy to recognize. You may see the same person speaking in hushed voices to multiple people during the day. Gossips will also approach new hires with “helpful information” or background on the company. The gossip in your office isn’t trusted by his/her co-workers. Worst of all, their focus is often not on their work.

How To Deal With

When a co-worker tries to approach you with a bit of company gossip, ask them for their source. If it’s a rumor about the company’s raises for the year, you might ask “Did you receive an internal memo?”. Asking for a reliable source will indicate to the gossip that you are only interested in facts.

If the gossip is discussing personal information about other co-workers, you might discourage him/her from talking to you by saying “I’m not familiar with his personal life” or “I don’t feel comfortable talking about people I don’t know well”. Not showing interest will quickly end the conversation.

The Complainer

You will hear a complainer before you see them. These people find fault in almost everything at work. They may complain about being overworked or about the break room vending machine. Complainers won’t try to find a silver lining to anything. Changes in the workplace will usually be met with vocal criticism.

How To Deal With:

Depending on what the person is complaining about, try to help them see the positive side.

  • If work implemented a new policy he/she hates, talk about how you think it will help improve processes and decrease workloads.
  • If your co-worker is complaining about an interaction they had at work, help them talk through the situation to see if there was anything he/she could have done differently.

Chronic complainers may just feel unheard entirely so will put a negative spin on everything.

The Drama King/Queen

Drama Kings or Queens are hard to miss since they are often the center of attention. This is the person who has the most work to do or has the least amount of time to lend a hand. The dramatic personality types will call out sick from work but still call in to a scheduled meeting. They will cough, sneeze and apologize for the “worst flu ever” but insist they have way too much to do.

How To Deal With:

The Drama King/Queen will be a difficult person to have a conversation with since they may take things very personally or blow things out of proportion. If you feel a co-worker’s dramatic behavior is disruptive to the team, talk to your manager. Get his/her opinion on how to talk to your colleague.

If a drama king/queen keeps talking about their huge workload, recommend they talk to their manager about what can be done. Only their manager will be able to help them find solutions if they truly feel overworked.

You can also refuse to give the kind of attention a drama king/queen craves. Ignore the behaviors you find dramatic and focus on your work. Don’t let them take the spotlight away from you when it should be yours.

The Narcissist

A narcissist in your office is an extremely difficult person to work with. These people truly believe their abilities are greater than they often are. They see themselves as essential to the company with no one able to do their job as well.

Narcissists in your office will focus on their own contributions and put down those of their co-workers.

These people will also insist on being recognized for their work and may even take credit for the work of others.

How To Deal With:

Avoid letting your emotions take over. If you are concerned about the narcissist taking credit for your work accomplishments, determine a way you can track your successes more openly.

You don’t want to spend the same amount of time talking about yourself and your achievements as the narcissist does. But, you should have the confidence to give yourself credit where it is due.

If you work on projects with a narcissist or have to take instruction from him/her, follow up in writing. Doing this doesn’t give a narcissist the chance to backtrack on conversations or agreements.

Challenging a narcissist’s memory is a losing battle. Being able to refer to emails or notes will reduce the chance of arguments.

The Short Fuse

Some people have explosive personalities. In the workplace, dealing with a manager or co-worker who easily becomes angry is very difficult. It can be intimidating or even scary to have to work with this person.

The short fuse will take to yelling, throwing things, slamming doors or being overly sarcastic. These people may resort to passive-aggressive behavior like snide comments or eye rolls.

How To Deal With:

It is important not to let those with disturbing or intimidating behavior get away with it. If you are not in a position to talk to them about it, talk to your HR representative about your concerns.

HR will be able to judge whether the person’s behavior is severe enough that further action is needed.

When you need to communicate with a short fuse, start the conversation with “Is this a good time for you.” If the answer is an angry “No!”, ask when would be a better time.

You could also ask if there is anything you could help with. That might stop them from being too aggressive towards you.

Working with different personality types isn’t always easy.

When you encounter difficult people at your job, it’s important to remain professional. Focus on being the best employee you can be and avoid getting pulled into office gossip or drama.

Set boundaries for those you have to work with that complain excessively or always seem to be in a bad mood. Don’t let the negative personality of someone else affect the way you feel about your job.

About The Author

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz has nearly a decade of experience providing HR expertise to employees and management in higher education. Her broad experience includes benefits, compensation, performance management, employee relations, payroll, talent acquisition and management. She received her masters degree from American Military University and maintains a PHR certification.

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