Work Relationships. At best, they are invigorating and, at worst, they can make your days a living hell. The fact of the matter is that they are there and must be dealt with – good or bad.  Although situations can differ from workplace to workplace, the earmarks of a difficult co-worker remain the same. I’ve picked out 5 main personalities or profiles of the difficult co-worker, as well as some strategies for coping with them. Take a look through them and then also feel free to share some yourself.  After all, we’re just all trying to make it till the weekend.

The Gossip

This co-worker may seem like a lot of fun, but it doesn’t take long before you realize just how lethal their actions can be. These coworkers love drama, spread lies or half-truths behind the backs of others–they like to keep the pot stirring. There may be times when you’re tempted to engage in the back-stabbing, particularly when someone else has you disgruntled. The problem is, before you know it, your words may be twisted and turned in ways you never could have imagined, causing a rift between co-workers you could have never anticipated. My advice with these folks is to simply keep your distance. Don’t engage in their “small talk.” Set an example of professionalism, no matter what.

The Put-Down Patrol

The Put-Down Patrol is somewhat similar to the gossip, however, the difference is, these guys have no problem letting you know your faults, to your face, and in front of everyone. Their favorite comeback when confronted is the “can’t you take a joke?” refrain.  Yeah, sounds about like what the bullies in grade school used to say. These types can be aggressive and intimidating or passive and underhanded. Either way, they can really put a damper on the workday and your productivity as you find yourself mulling over their latest jabs.

If there is one thing the put down patrol hates more than anything else is a person who exudes a quiet confidence. As hard as it may be, try not to find yourself ruffled by these types, and if it comes to a place where a confrontation must take place, try to handle your difference with as little publicity as possible. Keep things professional and, if necessary, bring your boss into the mix – but keep as many other people out of it as you can. If it does come down to needing the boss to intervene, make sure you have attempted to settle the problem outside the boss’ office first. Document your attempts so that you can come into the meeting relaxed and level-headed.

The Credit Stealer

Ever find yourself in a spot where you’ve worked hard on something, or come up with a unique idea, only to have it stolen by a less creative co-worker who quickly assumes it as their own – taking with them all the credit. In many ways, these are the hardest kind of problem coworkers to deal with because it can be difficult to prove your point without making it seem as though you’re acting jealous and childish.  In addition, these types are quite adept at making themselves look great and, unfortunately, many are fooled by them—including the boss. The best way to combat credit stealers is to document everything. Keep a running and dated journal of ideas you have discussed and developed. If things get sticky, you have the proof of ownership.

The Helpless and Slackers

These are probably the bunch I have the least tolerance for. You know the type. They go around looking and acting incompetent and yet still manage to stay employed. In fact, at times, you feel they have more job security than you, and you are busting your tail!  These people will often ask for help but then you end up doing the job while they get to sit back easy. They are the last to arrive and the first to leave and always seem to have some ambiguous medical appointment or family commitment that makes them completely unreliable—just the way they like it!

With these folks, the best thing to do is to be friendly and professional but set your boundaries.  When they ask for help, provide it, but make sure guidance is all you are offering. Keep the work load solidly on their shoulders. If they act helpless, suggest they take notes, or some other means of remembering, but let them know – kindly, of course – that you have a job to do yourself. After all, the best way to become better at something is to get in there and do it yourself! Remind them of this, and then move on to your own work. Before long, they’ll realize you can’t be manipulated and move on to another victim.

The Know-It All

These co-workers are tricky because some of them actually do know it all, while others just pretend to. Either way, when the Know-It All co-worker enters the room, you often find yourself wanting to plug your ears or roll your eyes just about anytime they speak. These people look down their noses at their co-workers, acting superior and often making others feel stupid. They rarely want help with anything, and will often dismiss others’ ideas as less than worthy.

The best way to combat these types is to engage them. Deep down, whether they really do know it all or are just pretending, what they are really after is confirmation of their skills and worth.  Engage the Know-It All by asking questions like, “Would you tell me more?” or  “I know my idea may be somewhat faulty, but could you help me understand where the faults are?”

If you show “respect” for the Know-It All’s knowledge, you fulfill a need of theirs while also lowering defenses. In addition, you may even find yourself learning a thing or two in the process!

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