Is it really your physical work that has you sitting in a corner, sucking your thumb while staring blindly into space or is it more likely based on other extenuating factors…like your co-workers? You see, the reality is we’ve all been caught muttering about a horrible week at work to our loved ones or even friends over happy hour.
But more often than not our frustration isn’t due to the physical aspects of our job but rather all of the ancillary stuff that goes with it…like dealing with all of the different personality types we encounter at work.
While it would be nice if we could just ignore folks whose style was different (and therefore offensive!) to ours, it’s simply isn’t the natural order of things. Below you can find a few tips to deal with folks who think, look, act and perform at levels different than you. While I hope you’ll find my some of my specific thoughts helpful, ultimately it’s all about appreciating folks for their differences and seeing the bigger picture.
The Underachiever. As a strong Type A, I know it can be frustrating to deal with someone who is more than happy to just check the boxes and float through the day with no initiative, professionalism or determined career path. But many years ago a mentor told me a story about an Indian tribe that forever adjusted the way I deal with “Underachievers.” You see, initially this tribe was one of the most powerful in the land, but over time they ceased to exist while other “weaker” tribes assumed their place of prestige. When I asked the cause of their fall, he succinctly shared that everyone in the tribe wanted to be the Chief and no one was happy just being an Indian. When dealing with “Underachievers,” it can sometimes help to realize that a successful team includes people with all different skill sets, priorities and agendas. Teams without the right mix rarely attain great levels of success.
The Know it All. Chances are good that you work with at least one “know it all.” You know the type…they have the best ideas, the quickest solutions and the best results. While chances are they aren’t really a superstar in any one’s mind but their own, there’s also a distinct possibility that they have some area of knowledge that can benefit both you and your career. If you want to build a bond with these folks, find an area of their expertise that you can respect and truly appreciate and then ask for their input.
The Warrior. If you’ve ever worked with someone that was constantly ready for battle, “the Warrior” is likely a well-known figure to you. These folks constantly align their allies, document their case and in general prepare to stage a revolution. The problem is that upper management is typically very wary of these individuals because they continually stir the pot of contention and in general cause a decrease in productivity. So, the last thing you need with this group is the perception of management that the two of you are best buds. But distance yourself too much and you may become their target. Needless to say, you want to be friendly to this person while still keeping them at arm’s length.
The Tender Heart. In the 1992 movie, “A League of their Own,” Tom Hanks shares the often quoted line, “there’s no crying in baseball.” And if you have ever had the misfortune of dealing with a “tender heart” in a work environment, you’ve likely muttered something similar. But unfortunately simply telling someone to save it for the drive home doesn’t help much. Nor does it get you any closer to accomplishing your career goals. While empathy is a desired trait for leaders (not to mention decent human beings!) invest your time cautiously with the “tender hearts.” Coaching them up can easily consume your day and take your eyes off more important targets.
The Party Animal. It seems like every work team has one of these guys. You know the type that’s so busy planning the celebration he forgets to do his part of the work?!? And of course he’s blabbing about all of it on social media. Unfortunately, there’s no quick and painless way to deal with this one. Complain too loudly (or frequently!) to management and you might find yourself labeled with reputation of trouble maker. But completely turning your head has the potential to embarrass your boss. Consequently, it’s best to mention it subtlety once to your boss and then move on. Chances are good that management is already aware of the situation and simply documenting and building a case to send the animal back to the zoo.
The Backstabber. We all have a personality type that we struggle with worse than others…and my personal trouble spot is the backstabber. Perhaps it’s because I was raised to work hard and take responsibility for my own actions good or bad (thanks Mom!) or maybe because backstabbers just represent so much wasted effort, but these folks represent the lowest of bottom feeders in my mind. But sadly, every work environment has them and they are one of the toughest to address. Whether they chose to broadcast information shared in confidence or take your idea as their own the only real defense against this type is to keep them from entering your personal circle. Simply put, work with them when required, but keep personal sharing to a minimum and be sure to cover your back with documentation.
The Climber. Some employees merely want to do a good job and receive enough compensation to sustain their lifestyle, while others won’t be satisfied until they’ve climbed several rungs higher on the ladder. The trick to dealing with the “Climbers” is to understand their motivation for coming to work each day. In most cases, it’s rarely to simply get the job done. Instead, this group looks for ways to gain the favorable attention of management….always! And as long as they are climbing that ladder based on their personal work ethic and accomplishments, dealing with them can be as simple as accepting that we all have different goals in life. If you aren’t interested in climbing the ladder, don’t obsess over the fact that someone else can’t wait to reach the next rung.
Ultimately, the easiest way to deal with all the personalities in your workplace comes back to you and your ability to be adaptable to people and their differences. Sure there are some things which may be non-negotiable but bending your style to match theirs on topics where you can will quickly build your reputation as a team player….and ultimately your overall success!
What personality style is the hardest for you to deal with?