What do you do when you come across colleagues who get on your nerves, don’t share your values and ethics, bring the mood down and don't deliver?
A workplace takes all types, so you can’t always avoid the prickly personalities that come your way. There are, however, some steps we can take to work with them as effectively as possible and minimise the impact on your workday.
Here are six types of difficult workmates and how to work with them effectively.
1. Nosey Nigel
Nosey Nigel pokes his nose into your business, wants to know what you’re working on, when you left for lunch and what time you are back. He chimes into your conversations when not welcome and asks details of every conversation you have with your boss. There are days when you just want to tell him to butt-out, but you hold off for fear of starting a major conflict.
How to work with Nigel
A nosey colleague is typically nothing more than an annoyance, but occasionally you will come across someone who crosses the line. You can try answering questions with questions, using humour to deflect the uncomfortable conversation, excusing yourself if you feel the communication is becoming intrusive. You can also have some standard answers, so you aren't caught off guard or tempted to lie. If that isn't working, you may have to politely and gently say – "I'd prefer not to talk about that" to set your boundaries.
2. Political Penelope
Political Penny has her eye on the top job and will stop at nothing to get there. She has the down-low on everything in the business, seems to have the boss’s ear and suggestively puts her colleagues down to make herself look more impressive. You don’t want to hang out with Penny as you feel that by her mere presence, she has an ulterior motive.
How to work with Penny
If political play is not your thing, then make a commitment to continue to be your kind and ethical self. Remind yourself that you’ll be able to get ahead by doing things a little differently.
Embrace the positive kinds of politics, such as knowing how things are done – how people get assigned to great projects and how they get promoted. You can network and influence without being underhanded. Be so good at your job that your light outshines any "Political Penny's" and lead by example because what we put out into the world is what comes back to us.
As for Penny, keep close enough that you don't have her offside but retain a professional distance. Have other trusted friendships at work, support and encourage each other and create a haven amongst the political madness.
3. Argumentative Arthur
You say it is black and Argumentative Arthur will say it is white. You have an idea for how to make things better and Arthur shuts it down. Arthur has an opinion on everything, and it is guaranteed to differ from yours. There are days when you want to argue back – but you hold it in; otherwise, you know you will come to blows.
How to work with Arthur
Argumentative behaviour is either rooted in boredom or unresolved anger. Boredom is easily solved by distracting Arthur with a new task. Unresolved anger is a little more challenging as it is easy to buy into the argument - one which is impossible to win.
Keep in mind the argument isn't personal. Arthur will argue with anyone. Recognising this fact alone may make you more understanding and tolerant in their company. Remind yourself that people who continuously argue are seeking control and power over others. Simply withdrawing rather than engaging in battle will be your best defence.
4. Whingey Wendy
Wendy talks about hump day, TGI Friday, and how long and miserable the day is at the start and how she can't wait to go home when its 4 pm. She’ll often bail you up at break time to complain about everyone and everything. You know that as soon as you leave the conversation,she will be whinging about you to the next person too.
How to work with Wendy
It is easy to be drawn into Wendy's clutches as misery breeds company, so make a conscious decision not to get drawn in and share in her negativity. Wendy will sap you of every ounce of energy if you let her thus avoiding any non-essential contact could save your soul. Set limits as to how much you are prepared to take and then politely excuse yourself from the conversation. Change the subject to more positive ones when the opportunity arises.
5. Smelly Sam
You and Sam don’t share the same views on personal hygiene. While you regularly shower, wash your clothes, wear deodorant and brush your teeth, you aren’t sure that Sam does. The odour can be so overwhelming that you struggle to be near him and focus on a constructive interaction. You are embarrassed for him, don’t want to be mean or rude, but truthfully their personal hygiene is an issue for you too.
How to work with Sam
Personal hygiene is one of the most challenging issues to tackle at work. Ignoring the problem may lead to your colleague feeling isolated and left out and puts you in an unpleasant working environment. The aim is to make Sam aware of the issue in the kindest way possible.
If you do choose to address the issue directly, then be private, express your awkwardness and be polite. Be aware that your colleague will likely be embarrassed and could take the conversation very personally.
If you do have a Human Resources team, then it may be best to speak with them. Some organisations have grooming policies and programs to help the employee in a respectful and professional manner. Your Human Resources area can also be seen to handle the situation a little more objectively than a co-worker.
6. Incompetent Ian
Ian doesn't have a clue, and you wonder how he got the job. He is unable to deliver on his tasks and relies heavily on his peers to bail him out. He can be heard blaming the tools or the business and doesn't invest in his learning. You feel really sorry for Ian and want to help him out, but picking up his workload is becoming tough on you.
How to work with Ian
While you may have done it in the past, picking up Incompetent Ian’s slack is actually masking the problem, so it is time to set some boundaries. Letting Ian know that you can’t do the task for him but are happy to show him how to do it is a win for both of you. Ian gets the learning he needs and hopefully becomes less reliant on you.
And, as tempting as it may be to rant to your co-workers or your boss to let off steam, try and avoid it in this case. Your boss may already be aware of the problem and you running to them could make you seem petty and not a team player.
If you want to be part of a fantastic workplace culture with great workmates contact a recruitment agency like Trojan Recruitment Group and get advice from the experts in labour-hire, temp recruitment, permanent and contract staff.