HUMAN RESOURCES / MAR. 21, 2015
version 2, draft 2

Common Dysfunctional Coworker Types

Work types
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The workplace can be a source of intellectual stimulation and general satisfaction; for the lucky ones. For others, it can be a cesspool of venomous, oxygen-sucking, dysfunctional adults, doing their best to show you that they’re out to get you. Well, forewarned is forearmed. The following characters can adversely affect your productivity, so it pays to recognise each type and stay away, if possible.

See also: The Eight Classical Types of Workplace Behaviour

The Arrogant

Warning signs

  • Pontificating over matters that don’t really concern you
  • Constantly putting other people down in order to raise themselves up
  • A transparent disregard for the feelings of others; a general lack of sense or sensibility
  • A fondness for using nonsensical criteria to judge the ability of colleagues: length of tenure, academic pedigree etc.

The Short Fuse

Warning signs – if you need them:

  • Blowing up without any apparent reason
  • Nasty stares/scowling if you’ve inadvertently said the wrong thing
  • Didactic emails with ‘barked’ instructions.

The Contrarian

Warning signs

  • You’re always wrong. No two ways about it
  • Unwilling to compromise or collaborate
  • Nothing is ever good enough
  • Trotting around the office with a raised’ you’re-up-to-no-good’ eyebrow and a patronising demeanor

The Black Hole

Warning signs

  • Meetings with them never end
  • They typically show up at meetings with an angry red pen and a thick pad of paper on which to write their numerous ‘issues’
  • If they’re in a supervisory position, they usually require lengthy processes and systems. They are single-handedly responsible for your work overload
  • They have an unhealthy addiction to emails: these are the types that will CC the entire company and use the ‘Reply All’ functionality to every single email thread
  • Black Holes are usually either on their phone or firing off emails: they don’t do much else
  • The word ‘final’ is not part of their lexicon

The Sycophant

Warning signs

  • A visceral feeling that you just can’t trust them
  • They’re super-friendly with everyone, especially C-suite members with whom they’re on first-name terms
  • Parading around the office with a ‘thumbs up’ sign even though everyone’s up for redundancy
  • A fondness for using ‘luvvie’ terms, eg ‘sweetie’, ‘darling’ etc. Yuk.
  • Always saying “yes” to requests but regularly failing to deliver, typically spinning a yarn to explain why they haven’t produced the goods

The Saboteur

Warning signs

  • Grabbing the credit for the contributions of others
  • Rarely giving praise where it’s due
  • Widely perceived as being very selfish individuals
  • A disruptive presence in the department/organisation through their behaviour, for example they will frequently pit team members against each other or blame others for their own mistakes

The Tool

Warning signs

  • They’re too sexy for their job
  • They spend an age preening themselves in the bathroom
  • They strut around the office like peacocks, basking in the glow of their own fabulousness
  • Tools contribute little at meetings – they’re too busy checking out their reflection in the window
  • Tools will typically have a protein shake or bar on their desks
  • They look down on anyone who isn’t as concerned about appearance as they are, with scant regard for the obviousness with which they wear their disapproval
  • They don’t send emails: they send me –mails (when they’re not on their i-Phones)

By recognising these traits in your coworkers you can choose to either minimise the interactions you have with them or consider these interactions a golden opportunity to brush up on your leadership skills. The toughest challenges we face lie in the relationships we have so if you can manage to forge productive relationships with your dysfunctional coworkers, a future in leadership probably awaits you.

See also: 5 Types of Employers You Should Avoid

Would you add any other character types to the list? Comments below please

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