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Top 10 Difficult Co-Workers

Written by: Editorial Staff

June 7, 2012
Filed Under Relationships 


difficult co-workersContributed by Info Guru Paul Seaburn

I’m currently a sole proprietor, which means I have no difficult co-workers – unless you count the guy who gives me dirty looks in the restroom mirror.

Before this, I’ve had my share of jobs at corporations both big and small and found that difficult co-workers are everywhere. The best you can do is identify them quickly so you can be on the alert to either avoid them or deal with them. Here’s my field guide for spotting difficult co-workers.

10. The Expert


These people have all the answers, rarely wait to be asked to share them and are offended when questioned. Their unbending belief in their knowledge makes them difficult to reason with. Arm yourself with facts and ask them to explain positions in greater detail – you can sometimes catch them in smaller errors.

9. The Procrastinator


Procrastinators try to be nice by never saying no, which often gets them over-committed or accepting jobs that are too difficult. Rather than admitting they’re in over their heads, they put things off. Either try to identify the problem or put them on a clock and hold them accountable for deadlines, but don’t attempt to trick them by setting early due dates – that rarely works.

8. The Brutus


By the time Julius Caesar saw Brutus with the knife, it was too late to stop the backstabbing. The Brutus is always watching for you to make a mistake so he can be the first to let everyone know. Do you job and hope he moves on to someone else. If you suspect the Brutus is out to sabotage you, keep notes and speak to HR or your manager.

7. The Boxer


The Boxer is combative out of fear or a need for attention. They’ll try to box you into a corner so hit back not with force but with alternatives for them to consider. If you must confront a Boxer, do it privately without an audience so that they can’t feed off of the attention or feel forced to defend their ego.

6. The Whiner


You may not see the Whiner coming but you’ll definitely hear the high-pitched siren a mile away. While a few complaints may be legitimate and tolerable, the nonstop barrage from the Whiner will consume your time and energy if you attempt to deal with them. You can’t change the Whiner’s negativity and attempting to fix their problems will only validate their gloom, so tell them you’re busy and show them the door.

5. The Did-You-Hear


Did you hear about the Did-You-Hear who knew everything that went on in the office except what she or she was supposed to be working on? Gossip is not only harmful, it’s also addictive. Keep your water cooler conversations to neutral subjects and ignore the Did-You-Hear when the topic turns to gossip.

4. The Promise Maker


“I promise I’ll send you that data in an email right away,” promises the Promise Maker. I promise that you’ll have to bug them many times before you finally, if ever, get what you were promised. They keep just enough promises to leave you off guard, so they’re difficult to refuse. Get the promise in writing and copy a manager or co-worker so you at least have some support.

3. The Absent-Minded Professor


The Absent-Minded Professor is always distracted by something more important than what you need and you hate to argue with one because they seem so smart that they surely must be able to multitask. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Their brilliance often saves them from their absentmindedness, so go to them when only when you need what they’re known to be good at.

2. The What-Do-You-Think

what do you think

You’ll never get a decision out of a What-Do-You-Think because they don’t want to make the wrong choice and disappoint you. Don’t be flattered when they ask what you think – they’re just passing the buck. What-Do-You-Think is one of the few difficult employees who can be changed or trained – show them how your decision-making process works and encourage them to try it.

1. The Bully


Bullies are bad in the playground and worse at work, especially if they’re your manager. Fear and intimidation are their tools, generally defended by a position of authority or by past performance. If the bullying turns to harassment, get human resources or management involved. Otherwise, stick to the facts and avoid getting emotional. Avoid a direct challenge by using indirect statements like “There’s no need to talk that way.”


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