4 Types of Difficult Coworkers and How to Deal With Them
How to Deal With Grumpy, Know-It-All, Tattletale, and Lazy Coworkers
If you have a job, chances are that you've come across at least one person who is difficult to work with. In fact, most of us, over the course of our careers, will have encountered many of these difficult coworker types. I sure have! While working with difficult coworkers can be stressful and really take the fun out of our days, it's important to remember that dealing with these challenging personalities is unfortunately part of having a job. That is unless you work for yourself, but that's a whole different story.
Read on because I am going to identify four types of difficult coworkers and ways you can deal with them.
1. The Grumpy Coworker
You know the type—they walk into work in the morning, don't say hi, and won't even make eye contact with you or crack a smile. While we do not all have to be best friends at work, it is pretty awkward when you can't interact with these people the way you would with a normal person who will at least say hello. What to do:
- Try to find some common ground: There's got to be something—anything—that you have in common with this person, and if you're able to find it, you just might be able to crack them. Maybe you and she have the same favorite TV show—you could ask her what she thought of last night's episode! Maybe you both have kids starting school this year—ask how that's working out. The point is to find something to get that person talking so she feels like you're both on the same side. She still might not say hello to you in the morning, but you might get a glimmer of a smile every once in a while that can lighten the tension.
- Ask if something's wrong: When people are grumpy to the extreme, there is usually something wrong on a personal level. If you're not afraid to have your head bitten off, ask if something is indeed wrong and if there's anything you can do to help (only if you mean it). This might be a brave approach depending on who you're dealing with but can once again help open the lines of communication and might lead to a smile down the road. Maybe the person just needs to feel like she has an ally.
- Don't take it personally: Chances are that if you find this coworker cranky and difficult to work around, you're not alone. Realize that some people are just like that no matter what you do and try not to let it bring you down.
2. The Know-It-All Coworker
Nobody knows everything, but don't tell your know-it-all coworker that! What's tricky about these people is that they're hard to reason with because they carry on as if the only ideas that are "right" or "the best way" are their own. It's especially difficult when this type of coworker is your supervisor who gets to call some of the shots that affect the quality of your job and your day. What if you come up with a better way of doing something that could benefit your whole department? Maybe what's been done for years isn't really the best way, and in order for things to change, you have to convince this person. Here's what to do:
- Make them think that your idea is really their idea: No, you're not gonna get credit if you take this approach, but if you can get past that and are just looking for end results, this method works pretty well. You might say something like, "Remember your ABC idea? (which is actually YOUR idea) I think that will work well for us because of XYZ." You'll probably only want to try this for ideas that are only slightly different from theirs and not a paradigm shift; otherwise, your know-it-all coworker could catch on (but you might be surprised—people who think they know everything and are unwilling to budge are often not that sharp).
- Show your evidence. Prove it: Even the most knowing of all know-it-all coworkers may find it hard to hold onto their ideas if you can provide all kinds of evidence to show that another idea or another way may be better. Tread lightly on this one and make sure that your battle is worth it.
3. The Tattletale Coworker
Lo and behold, you're called into your manager's office because you were tattled on by your tattletale coworker for something that doesn't really matter anyway. Tattletale coworkers are really like spies because they are very good at slyly discovering every little tiny mistake you have ever made at work and then going and telling on you, thus making them look good and you look bad. Is there anything you can do? Yes:
- Make sure they like you: It might make you sick to your stomach to try to be work friends with this person, but if you can do it, it is in your best interest. This is especially true if you have to work closely with the person and know that she will always be "watching you." There's a chance that if this person feels a friendly vibe between the two of you, she might move onto another target who hasn't made that effort to be friends. Since nobody likes a tattle, they don't usually have many friends. Use this to your advantage.
- Be on your best behavior: Sure, if you know the tattletale is sniffing around, just carry out your work according to the books and to the highest code. If you do everything absolutely perfectly, there won't be anything to tell on.
- Avoid, avoid, avoid: If you really don't have to associate with this person, don't. It's as simple as that.
4. The Lazy Coworker
There is nothing more frustrating than doing all the work while your lazy coworker(s) sits around and does nothing. Ideally, someone in charge will see the light, and your lazy coworker friends will eventually get fired, but we all know that it's nearly impossible to fire someone these days, so don't count on it. Instead, you might try the following:
- Suck it up: Yes, you work, and your lazy coworkers don't, but one approach is just to acknowledge that fact and move on. In other words, as they say, "do your work and go home."
- Don't pick up the slack for the lazy one: You might find yourself taking on extra duties that were initially meant for your lazy coworker without even realizing it. Stop doing that! Once the workload starts to pile up and you resist the urge to dive in and finish it off, even your coworker may take notice of the backlog and pitch in to help. And if they don't, say . . .
- "Help me! I'm overwhelmed! There is work to be done here!": Sadly, you might have to spell it out to your lazy coworker just like that. Lazy coworkers are not all bad people, but sometimes they are oblivious to the fact that there is work to be done, so you really just might have to tell them.
Well, there you have it. Hopefully, you can go to work tomorrow with a few new ideas on how to deal with those difficult coworkers that are always going to be there. Please comment below and let me know what's worked for you in the workplace!
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.