All your life you thought the only people you were stuck with—non-negotiable—were your family. But then, you entered the work force, and encountered a whole new category of people who, even if they drive you to buy a voodoo doll and stick pins in it at night, you can’t get rid of: your coworkers. Luckily, there is usually a way to make even the most unbearable cubicle-neighbor more bearable. Here are the 10 worst coworkers you’ll encounter, and how to handle them.
This is the coworker who “forgets” to cc you on an important email, or “accidentally” throws away an important memo on your desk, or pays you backhanded compliments like how great you are at totally menial tasks. This person is just threatened by you, so you have to show them you are equals (even though they are beneath you with that kind of immature behavior). So become their buddy with lunch invites and conversation topics you can both get into.
This is the coworker who couldn’t do his part of a project because “Kinkos was closed” or the “dog ate the documents.” Somehow, the rest of the office does their work on time, but this person always has an excuse to turn things in hours or days late. You have to sort of baby this person. Example: tell him a meeting starts a half hour before it actually does, or offer to pick him up and drive him to a conference to ensure he leaves on time.
This person talks about her MBA from a fancy school, has apparently visited every country, and has had unrealistically high titles at other companies. She talks big about how much she’s going to crush a project, but then the work is insufficient. Yet she manages to keep her reputation high with others, and put yours down. Just keep all correspondence with this person to email or the written word, so if she tries to make you look bad or lie about events to a superior, you have the facts in writing.
This person complains about other coworkers being incompetent, tries to talk badly about the bosses with you, whines about how stupid certain tasks are and in general finds a problem with everything. This person’s negativity can really derail a team: he always has a reason why something won’t work out. You just have to be ready with positive comebacks and encouragement, and when he thinks something can’t be done, you have to show that it can so he has to shut up.
This person is waiting in the shadows ready to outdo you any time you accomplish something. Even if he wasn’t assigned to the task! Whatever you do, he’s waiting to do it bigger and better. Of course, underneath this is serious self-confidence issues. Don’t ever let this person help you with a task: he will take all the credit. Be cautious of even letting him know what you’re working on or how you’re doing something, because he’ll find ways to say he was responsible for your achievements.
Slackers are actually very ambitious and clever…at slacking off! But just know, they know exactly what they’re doing, contrary to appearances. They trick you into doing their work and picking up slack for them by pretending they “didn’t understand instructions” or “didn’t know they were supposed to do that.” You just have to let the slacker fall on her face. If you know she won’t do her half of a project, don’t do it for her and make it clear to your superiors that the missing work is her fault, not yours. Picking up slack only enables her.
This person picks up a caramel mocha for the boss every morning, or pays over-the-top compliments to superiors, or offers to do jobs nobody should have to do—like babysit for the boss. He’ll make perfectly good workers look lackluster. Outdo the suck-up with honesty: be a good hard worker and develop real relationships with coworkers and superiors. They’ll respect you if they know they can expect honesty from you, even if honesty means not always hearing what they want to hear. If your words are always constructive and helpful, they’ll begin to resent the relentless compliments from the suck-up.
This person always has huge ideas and huge enthusiasm, but doesn’t have the energy to pull these ideas off. She’ll get everyone excited for and even working on a grand project that she hasn’t thought through, and that often falls apart. With this person, you always want to make sure she does the groundwork on her big ideas. You don’t want to make five people dedicate time to something that might not work out.
This could also be the drama king, but this person treats tiny setbacks and issues as end-of-the-world, throw-the-towel-in obstacles. When she’s having an issue or feels under-appreciated, she wants everyone in the office to hear about it. With this person, be sure to check facts with others before accepting what she tells you—nothing is ever as bad as she makes it out to be. Most importantly, don’t engage when she – or he – is being dramatic: stay calm and cool so that in comparison, she feels silly and calms down herself.
Whether this person has a crush on you, is simply bored, or is looking for a reason to slack off, he’s always standing nearby, looking for any chance to tell you a long story about his weekend or drag you into a personal conversation. Keep communication brief, and keep it to emails or group meetings if possible. Give one word answers whenever you can so he doesn’t feel like he has an in with you for a long conversation.