4 of the toughest work personalities — and how to deal with them

Unless you work all on your own in a cave somewhere, you’ve probably had your share of difficult coworkers over the years – from the guy who thinks he knows everything to the person who sees work as an interruption to her day-long socializing. But there are ways to deal with difficult coworkers reasonably effectively, or at least to minimize the amount of aggravation they cause you.

At Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I talk are four of the most common difficult personalities you might encounter at work, and how to neutralize them. You can read it here.

{ 171 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Anon On This One

    I’m pretty sure I’m none of those. Hopefully. But would add the Perpetually Positive. Like, even when things are NOT positive and are pretty crappy (like after you find out a coworker on medical leave died last week) and they’re still SO CHEERFUL and you can’t stand it.

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    1. KathyGeiss

      I’m a genuinely cheerful and positive person but even I can’t stand this person! My brother used to do this growing up simply to irritate my sister and I in the morning. Flashbacks to thrown hairbrushes and slammed doors enter my mind when I meet this person.

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        1. MsChandandlerBong

          +1,000,000

          My husband has been out of work for four months, and things are terrible for us financially right now. My MIL keeps giving him all of these pie-in-the-sky suggestions (“Managers are people. They want to give you a chance. March right in there and tell him you’ve got a family to support and really need a job!”), and then she thinks we’re “being negative” when we gently try to say that telling a hiring manager you are desperate does not bode well for your job prospects. We’re not being negative; we’re being realistic.

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          1. Not So NewReader

            This is a good example of how positive people scare me. Not only is there a total disconnect, but even if you explain it to them they still do not understand.

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            1. MsChandandlerBong

              That’s a good way of putting it. I’m a positive person, in terms of not complaining and trying to see the best in everyone, but I don’t bury my head in the sand and try to pretend things are great when they’re not.

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          2. Anony-turtle in a half shell!

            I was just scrolling down to post something similar about my MIL. No matter what happens, you will be told that “I’m sure it’s not as bad as you think it is!” I have given up trying to talk to her about serious issues, because the rose-colored glasses come out and nothing is allowed to be bad around her. (I guess that should read that I’ve given up trying to talk to her, because I’m not a sunshine and bluebirds kind of person anyway.)

            I’ve worked with someone like my MIL once, and it drove me nuts. Sometimes really bad things do happen, but then you have to deal with them. Working with this woman was frustrating, because she had a huge blind spot for problems and insisted that no problems existed. When something went wrong, she ignored the entire issue, leaving everyone else to clean up the mess, even if she caused it.

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      1. EvaR

        Anyone who tells other people to smile in any context other than taking a cheesy photo or a film director or something is a rude, thoughtless person.

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    2. CMart

      I’ve definitely learned to hold my tongue at my restaurant job due to being Annoyingly Positive. Sometimes people just want to vent and get some soothing commiseration–not a suggestion of how to put a positive spin on a situation.

      Though I will say that being The Perpetually Positive one does have its benefits when something finally gets under your skin: people take it *really* seriously because holy hell, what could possibly have ruffled your feathers?

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      1. AMG

        I like this about people. I’m going through some hard thugs in my personal life and it’s hard to stay positive. It’s nice to be around people who are–it’s a relief.

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        1. Anon On This One

          Generally being positive doesn’t bother me. Although I’m generally neutral or a little negative, I like it. I know some people who are just happy and positive and they are fun to be around. But I also know one specific person who I’m pretty sure substitutes positivity for any negative thoughts and that’s both annoying and unhealthy.

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      2. So Very Anonymous

        I have a colleague who is about the most chill person you could ever meet. If he gets upset about something, it’s probably BAD.

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    3. Not So NewReader

      Maybe it is just me, but a perpetually positive person is not someone I’d seek advice from very often. I don’t know if they don’t have solutions or don’t know how to work through a problem or whatever, but there seems to be a disconnect of some sort.

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      1. Anony-turtle in a half shell!

        This is it exactly! I don’t understand the disconnect, but for the ones I’ve met it always has to do with simply denying that whatever problem is going on actually exists. The disconnect is scary, because it’s often denying the reality of a given situation.

        Something terrible happened in my family at one point in the past few years, and after talking to my MIL about it, she just said, “Oh, I’m sure it’s not as bad as you think it is.” A minor was removed from her home due to someone doing something that should never have been allowed to happen, and it caused a rift in my family that will never be healed. The minor has had therapy to deal with this situation, but still has anxiety and nightmares and fear in addition to being an outcast in a sector of the family for “causing problems” (for something that was done to them, not something they did). But, okay, I suppose it isn’t as bad as I somehow imagined it was. (This was the event that made me and my husband basically give up talking to her about anything.)

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    4. NYer

      You know I’m a very positive person, even at work, because I’ve never seen being stressed or negative ads anything to a tough situation. I’m not delusional and certainly am very logical, but I definitely aim to be positive despite the situation.

      No need to make a situation worse by dreaming out right?

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  2. Cathy

    Oh my goodness, the Eeyore. I worked with one of those at my last job and it was SO draining. According to her, everything was awful, nothing we did mattered, our manager was an idiot, and the young women at the office were only successful because they ‘dressed like whores’ or ‘had their jugs out.’ Plus, she was a blatant racist to boot. The most miserable person I’ve ever met in my entire life.

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    1. Charityb

      I’ve seen that variety. Some Eeyores use pessimism as an excuse to be unrelentingly nasty to other people, either behind their backs or on their face. Usually they try to mask it as a, “No B.S.” or a “Just telling it like it is,” thing, but it’s important for managers to see past that and head it off. Skepticism can be very useful in a workplace but the venom, personal attacks, etc. never have to be a part of it.

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    2. Menacia

      I work with not one, but two Eeyores. In fact, the Eeyore who was here first was instrumental in getting the other one hired, I guess he saw a kindred spirit and jumped on the chance! What I find myself doing around these types of personalities is considering what they say, and then not reacting to it. Or reacting to it in a humorous way. I found this web link related to The Eeyore Effect and found it spot on…

      https://bepaulin.wordpress.com/2012/08/18/the-eeyore-effect/

      You can’t let these types of people bring you into their doom and gloom, in fact, I find myself striving to be more friendly, more helpful, more positive when I deal with this personality. So in effect, they make me a better person! 

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      1. Stranger than fiction

        I’m doing much the same thing with two coworkers currently. One is my friend and totally different outside of work but here she’s negative Nelly about almost everything, so using a combo of humor and changing the subject has gotten her to ease up a bit. The other one just stopped coming to me with her marital issues because I think she sensed I was running out of sympathy after saying to her several times to just leave him if she’s not happy (to clarify: she really can leave him and can afford to and all that but it’s a codependency issue and she seems to love the drama).
        Of course everyone needs to vent now and then but there’s a time and place.

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    3. PlainJane

      I wish Alison had included some tips for shutting down this particular type–and for managing them. I usually go with changing the subject or countering with something positive. I’ve also found that for particularly awful variants like the one Cathy describes, denying them any attention can help. Change the subject, suddenly find something else you need to do, turn around and walk away, etc. Sometimes calling them out on their negativity can work, but most of the time it doesn’t seem worth the potential fallout.

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      1. Nethwen

        I’m by no means an experienced manager, but I had something of an Eeyore and things have improved. What I did was either ignore the negative comments or counter with a positive one. Once I noticed a pattern, I increased the positive comments. For example, an invoice doesn’t get paid immediately but it’s not yet overdue and the person might say, “They never pay our invoices when we send them. I know they don’t like us.” I might respond, “They usually do; this is one out of many weeks with no problems and only one invoice out of the entire stack” or “I don’t think it’s personal; we sometimes misplace paperwork, too.”

        I am/was careful to speak positively, but not in a way that denies the difficulties. This can be tricky.

        I also explained to the person about how I was trying to cultivate a culture of positivity instead of one full of suspicion and negativity. When things go wrong, it’s not a personal attack. We want to give other departments the same ability to be human as we want them to give us.

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      2. Kai

        I work with a few Eeyores, and one tactic I use is to try and bring up solutions. “Well, that does sound bad, but what if you tried this?” Usually, if their only goal was to complain at someone, they’ll leave me alone after that.

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      3. EvaR

        Sometimes I have been accused of being this. The thing is… “countering with something positive” Is the WORST thing you can do when I act like this. I behave like this when there is an ongoing program and I never see anyone taking steps to fix it. What I need to know from my manager is that someone other than the people directly working with the teapot machine CARES that the teapot machine is slightly broken, and that it is expected to be fixed within (reasonable period of time) and that the message to be positive is not just a way of shutting down dialogue about the broken machine because no one is ever going to fix it. This has happened to me, especially if few people besides me also with with the teapot machine in question. My number one source of stress in the workplace is putting out the SAME FIRE over and over and knowing that no one else thinks of it as a fire, they think of it as turning the oven off. Basically, acknowledge the problem and then change the subject, I guess.

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    4. Midge

      I worry about being perceived as the office Eeyore. (Not that I make comments like the ones Cathy mentioned!!) My colleagues are passionate and enthusiastic, but often they do not think about logistics, or even logic. So I’m frequently the one who points out why something won’t work, or what’s wrong with an idea or plan. I’m doing it to make our work better, not for the sake of being negative. But I probably come off as a downer sometimes.

      Any thoughts on voicing problems without seeming negative?

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        1. BRR

          Ooh I would love to read this. Mostly because my husband does this though :P. His suggestions though sometimes cross over into “that is so statistically unlikely I have a better chance at winning the lottery” territory.

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          1. neverjaunty

            1) Find some reason to be strategically absent
            2) Quietly line up a new job
            3) Watch them fail when they no longer have their Designated Realistic Person wiping their butts for them
            4) Enjoy popcorn

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        2. Dr. Johnny Fever

          I would love this! I’m similar in that I will point out things that won’t work at first blush, and suggest modifications, and I had a former boss who would always tell me not to be so negative. I wasn’t intending to be – I meant to be realistic and helpful. Eventually, I realized his “negative” was shorthand for “disagreement”, reframing the entire exchange.

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          1. Clever Name

            Heh. I’m known as being meticulous, detail-oriented, and the voice of reason at my office. I’m known to say, “Wait. Have we thought about x, y, and z?” in meetings where people excitedly talk about new ideas. So I’m now helping to build the company’s QA/QC plan and process. :)

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        3. Not the Droid You are Looking For

          I would love, love, love this column.

          I work for a “yes woman” on a team of perpetual dreamers. I’m forever having to point out how something won’t work, or what we would have to sacrifice to make it work.

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      1. SG

        Maybe because I’m in the face of such negativity for no reason everyday, but I feel like people want someone to be the voice of reason. Often people can get so excited they forget what is actually possible.

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      2. Not a Real Giraffe

        This is me! I don’t think I’m negative, but I like to be practical and talk through all the logistics before deciding that this is the Best Plan Ever. It can probably come across as negative or me being a downer, but I just want to be realistic and not get ahead of ourselves. Alison, I’d LOVE to see this as a separate post.

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      3. Ad Astra

        I worry about this too! I am an excellent editor but only an average writer, and that’s something that expands into most assets of my life: I’m better at figuring out what’s wrong with an idea than I am at coming up with a better idea on my own. On good days, I can at least improve upon someone’s idea the same way I improve someone’s writing. On bad days, I’m an Eeyore. I try to come up with solutions instead of just pointing out problems, but it’s tough because I just don’t have very many good ideas.

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        1. EvaR

          My boyfriend is like that, and sometimes it can be frustrating, but in the long run, it’s nice to talk over ideas with him because that’s not my best strength.

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      4. Cath in Canada

        Heh, I’m that person with one group of friends. I’ve told them that it’s my job to identify and mitigate risks, and that every grant proposal we submit includes a section on “what we’ll do if our original plan doesn’t work”, so that’s just how my brain works – and they just look at me with pity! Luckily, at work, we all think this way to some extent!

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        1. CM

          I was going to say the same thing — if you can define this as your role, and get other people to acknowledge it as your role, then it comes off as less negative and more, “I’m doing my job, and helping the group by providing a reality check so we don’t go racing off in the wrong direction.”

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      5. A Bug!

        I’m not generally an advocate for going to lengths to soften a message, but sometimes it’s the kind thing to do.

        You want success just as much as your optimistic coworkers, but as you recognize, they might not be hearing that over the sound of their bubbles bursting. And for some people, it’s not going to matter how you say it, if you’re bringing their attention to a problem that sinks their idea. But for many people, a little bit of spin will be enough to keep you from being seen as Midge, Senior Wet Blanket, Slayer of Hopes and Dreams.

        On a basic level, try to avoid saying explicitly that an idea won’t work or that there’s something wrong with it. Instead of “X won’t work because of Y,” try “how can we deal with Y so we can do X?” Put the problem on their radar and let them figure it out. It won’t guarantee that they won’t blame you when they ultimately see that the flaw makes the idea unviable, but it would take a much less reasonable person to do it after doing the math themselves.

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      6. Temperance

        Could you offer a more feasible solution? Like, I don’t think it will work to do X, Y, or Z because of 1, 2, and 3, but maybe we could try something else?

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    5. SG

      I work with an Eeyore. My family knows her as Eeyore. I spend most of my day wanting to strangle myself. Literally nothing is ever good, the company is out to get us, everyone else’s life is garbage because she has lived a more interesting and artistic life than everyone else, no one but her friends matter.

      I was running an event once and I asked her to do something, and she literally pointed in my face while shaking and said “I’ve worked on bigger and better events than you ever will in your life.” And it’s like well ok lady, but the fact is you’re working this event now and I’m running it so please watch the door.

      Reply
        1. Not So NewReader

          It sounds to me like she fears she will become a washed-up has-been.

          Whatever it is, it’s way out beyond Eyeore.

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    6. Sara

      My officemate and I are both Eeyores in the morning, but we are both really conscientious about flipping the switch when our work day officially starts. I don’t think I’m generally a negative person, but I sure do enjoy a minute or two of cathartic complaining with my morning coffee.

      Reply
  3. Bob

    The slacker is by far my least favorite type of employee. They tend to be experts in doing the bare minimum to not get fired. And because managing a slacker can be so frustrating, many managers just give up and distribute any extra work to everyone but the slacker. If you want something done, give it to a busy person.

    An argument can be made that the slacker will get their punishment in the long run with smaller raises and no promotions but it really depends on the job. Some jobs simply don’t have any advancement options and everyone pretty much gets identical minimal raises.

    Reply
    1. LadyMountaineer

      I work in local government and this is by far the most frustrating thing. If someone negotiated themselves into the 3rd quartile upon hire then they can just sit pretty until they retire. The rest of us will see 3% raises (if we’re heroic) and the slacker will see 1% raises. We will never catch up and the slacker is better off in the long run working 37 hour weeks and collecting a salary the rest of us won’t ever see. Unless the manager is super diligent we’re all stuck.

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    2. Anonymous Educator

      Oddly enough, when I read through the four descriptions, my first reaction was “If I had to pick one of the four to work with, it’d be the slacker.” I’d much rather pick up the slack (and know that things are getting done right) than deal with chatterboxes, Eeyores, and know-it-alls. Of course, if I can avoid all four types, all the better…

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      1. Charlotte Collins

        You’ve never dealt with a Super Slacker. They cause more work than they produce. When you realize that more gets done when the Slacker is out on medical leave, you have probably found a Super Slacker.

        I’ve known two. They create Eeyores – this is their only productivity.

        Reply
        1. EvaR

          Yes, especially if other people have to consistently pick up extra work because of them and it’s not acknowledged, or worse, the super slacker repeatedly asks for “help” teaching them to do basic tasks they do every day to avoid doing it themselves, so then the Eeyore is expected to drop their own work to “help” the superslacker.

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    3. Charityb

      If you ever try to get rid of them, you’ll usually get some version of, “Well, if we get rid of Goofus we’ll never be allowed to replace her.” That usually leads into the age-old debate about whether it’s better to have someone doing slightly more than nothing or better to just do without that position entirely.

      Reply
      1. Argh!

        Or “the replacement could be even worse”

        As long as they are making some kind of minimum contribution, they are safe.

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      2. CheeryO

        Ugh, this argument is the bane of my state-government-employee existence. Luckily our slack-iest slacker just retired. Surprise surprise, it wasn’t too difficult to distribute his workload.

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    4. neverjaunty

      That argument can be made, but it’s a bad argument. The slacker who isn’t responsive to management needs to be let go ASAP before they cause bigger problems.

      The last time I worked with a slacker, it took MONTHS to undo their damage.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        My best? slacker was one who not only did work wrong, he neglected to do some work entirely, totally misunderstood even the most basic concepts of the job, made no sense in conversation, tucked his work in with other people’s work annnd might have tried to hit me once. (He was so confusing in everything he did that it was hard to tell. Witnesses said it looked like an attempt to hit me. I thought so, too. Yes, I reported it, because even if it was a mistake, it was a VERY LARGE mistake.) I could go on, but the overall idea is I had no clue how he lived to be age he was. It defied logic.

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    5. Stranger than fiction

      Yep I have a few slackers as coworkers too, but I blame their manager, who clearly doesn’t care or has some secret plan I’m not aware of, so when the Eyores come to me for the thousandth time about the slackers, I say “we’ll have you talked to Manager about it?”

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    6. Lee Ann

      Combine the Slacker with the Chatterbox and you’ve got someone who doesn’t work, delays people depending on the work, delays the people he’s chattering with, and makes people who only hear the chatter think he’s as great as he says he is.

      Reply
      1. Yolo

        Okay, so which co-worker of mine are you – ‘fess up!

        That is exactly the problem we have on my team. However, we’re getting a new boss and the Slackerbox is going to be working directly with him…and I don’t think that’s going to last very long before there’s a “shape up or ship out” directive. Fingers crossed!

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      2. ASJ

        I used to work with someone like this. Most frustrating person to work with EVER. She literally spent the first 2 hours going from coworker to coworker chit chatting, then would spend about an hour on the phone with her daughter – then she’d turn to email. I’m pretty sure there are weeks where this coworker did nothing work-related. But somehow…. she never got in trouble for it. I think it’s because her supervisor was pretty checked out, and everyone else would end up taking care of her work so that our clients wouldn’t get the downfall.

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    7. ASJ

      I work with someone like this right now – I’m one of two admin assistants and the other is just useless. She only works four days a week, but will frequently call out sick the third day. And I’ve often heard people complain she spends a lot of time online shopping while things sit on her desk. Which means that time-sensitive things, such as courier packages, get dropped on my desk instead. I mean, it does make me look awesome in comparison (I have slacker tendencies on some days myself) but it’s very frustrating. There are some days I just do not have time to deal with her stuff too. But she’s been here for years….

      Reply
  4. AMG

    The toughest one for me is actually the bully. Fortunately, Alison has a couple hundred posts about dealing with them–not including commenters.

    It’s funny how we recognize each other in these types of situations. I can take one look at a slacker and vice versa, and we repel like magnets right then and there. I work with an Eyeore–In fact, I nicknamed him that. I bribe him with candy and pretend to be over-the-moon completely cheerful until he cracks and starts smiling. It won’t work on all of them but it works on him.

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    1. Clever Name

      What I recently discovered about our office know-it-all was that he’s actually wrong a lot. I never say anything, and he just bloviates about a topic he’s not very expert in. :/

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    2. Bend & Snap

      The thing that drives me crazy is that she’s just compelled to interject. I was presenting today and she started weighing in as if she knew things that I didn’t.

      Um I have the floor and I already listened to you yap for 30 minutes about nothing. Shut up.

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      1. ScarletInTheLibrary

        And it’s tough when the know-it-all is pretty high up the food chain. Shutting down and ignoring he or she may not be all that effective.

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    3. Not So NewReader

      I had one job for a looong time. Of course, you learn a few ins and outs then when something else comes up you can kind of deduce what to do with this new problem/issue because of dealing with the previous stuff. It was WORK. It felt like my on switch was always on. Then after a bit I realized that more people were coming to me with their problems. I did not know the answers but I’d worked it through with them to some type of conclusion. Tired does not fully describe, it was a brain drain.

      That is when I started checking myself to make sure I was giving out fishing poles, not fish. The longer you are at a job the more important it is to hand out fishing poles. If you just pass out the fish, it could kill you in the end. Okay, more accurately, it could put a hurt on you big time.

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  5. Temperance

    I would add: The Delegator. You know the type – the person who does whatever he or she can to reassign projects (especially tedious, boring ones) to anyone who might have the tiniest relation to the job at hand.

    The Delegator is how I once ended up with a project foisted on me that I could not logistically handle … because I was running another program at the exact same time. I let this person know multiple times that she should handle or find someone else, but in her mind, asking/telling me was enough, even though I made it clear that I would be doing X work with Y client population at the EXACT. SAME. TIME.

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    1. Golden Yeti

      The Delegator can be especially tedious if it’s something that they could easily do themselves.

      I once had a boss ask me to enter an extra line break on a Word doc and send the updated version back to him.

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        1. Karowen

          My old boss would type up an email to me asking me to follow up on one of her emails out to person A because XYZ and we need Q, and to let her know what they say so she could move forward with it. Literally didn’t want me to do anything else with the project, just wanted me to send an email that she could’ve easily sent herself by cutting out the explanation and addressing the email to the person she wanted the info from. It was infuriating (though, to be fair, it wouldn’t have been infuriating had she been a quasi-decent boss the rest of the time).

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      1. OriginalEmma

        I worked with a senior employee (not my supervisor, although they tried to muscle into that role) ask me to send them an e-mail….that they had sent me in the first place. It was when I finally realized they were The Delegator and simply instructed them to search their Sent folder.

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        1. Stranger than fiction

          If I had a dollar for every time my coworkers asked me to resend an email they couldn’t be bothered or didn’t know how to search for, I’d be a very rich person.

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    2. AMG

      She’s be screwed at my office. The credit-stealers would jump on it and she’d never see her role or project again. I have to all but sit on my project work to keep someone from taking it over.

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      1. Temperance

        This woman in particular would probably love it. She’s an office mngr, though, and whenever she can offload something, she absolutely does. There’s really no glory in handling “special events” or “special projects” here.

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    3. Jenny Next

      This is actually a productivity tip that I’ve seen! Look at your workload, determine what you can and want to do (or what will advance your career), and delegate the other parts.

      Umm, to whom? I don’t have a staff.

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      1. Temperance

        I’ve seen it, too, and it’s maddening – yes, we’re all overworked, but damnit Jane, if you can find time to do GLAMOROUS FUN PROJECT, you can do boring expense reports!

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  6. Gene

    Another possibility for the Chatterbox is that they process everything verbally. That can be bearable if they just talk themselves through things – one of the people in my dive club does this. If you listen, you can hear her talking herself through things the entire time we’re underwater. She’s not in demand as a dive buddy.

    It’s harder to deal with if the verbal processor needs to process at someone, especially if he is your manager and you are the person he prefers to process at. Welcome to my work life. Interestingly, he’s married to the above example.

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    1. fposte

      I’m a bit of a verbal processor myself, but I don’t think I’ve ever done it underwater–that’s dedication.

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    2. Bailey Quarters

      Suggestions on how to deal with these personalities, especially the chatterbox, that you report to would be welcome!

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        1. Mike C.

          This reminds me of those cooking competition shows where the hosts start talking to the competitors about what they’re doing while they’re neck deep in actually cooking and you can tell they really need to concentrate.

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    3. Clever Name

      My son is a verbal processor. He narrates practically everything he does. Sometimes it’s adorable and sometimes it drives me up the wall. We’re trying to set him up to do youtube walkthroughs of Minecraft (the best ones are with people who talk the whole time and have big reactions to stuff happening in the game- which my son does) so we can monetize that trait. ;)

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      1. Not So NewReader

        It’s not so adorable in a 60 y/o relative. “Will you stop talking so I can THINK?!” ugh, ugh, ugh.
        But then, I have had coworkers that ask a detailed question and KEEP talking while I try to think through my answer. “Why is it taking so long for you to answer me?” “Because you KEEP talking and I have to stop thinking and listen to what you are saying!” grr.

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    4. ThursdaysGeek

      I have two friends (fortunately not co-workers) that have interesting variations on the chatterbox personality. One repeats and overlays their conversation, so if I pulled out and arranged all the words, I could probably get almost the same conversation multiple times. The other flits and jumps, leaving gaping holes in the conversation, and I will sometimes be able to figure out what is happening and sometimes not. I have a visual of each in my head: one with multiple lines all at once, the other with a dit and dash here and there.

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    1. Temperance

      Someone at my MIL’s workplace was recently fired for punching another coworker in the face (clearly NOT OKAY). The rest of the staff rallied behind the puncher, because apparently, the punchee was an “instigator”.

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      1. Not So NewReader

        I have heard of places where coworkers failed to help a certain coworker in trouble OR allowed the coworker to fall into a pit of trouble JUST because the whole group disliked that person so very much. I have also heard of it being done to bosses.

        It pays to treat people with basic human decency.

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  7. some1

    Worse than the obvious slacker is the slacker who goes incognito – the coworker who seems to be busy at first glance but actually is prioritizing tasks that *should* be very low priority (or doing the work they WANT to do) so they miss deadlines or try to get others to do their work.

    Reply
    1. North

      Yes, this is a very specific variation on the slacker that is making me nuts right now: the slacker who creates SO MUCH busywork for him or herself by flipping priorities all over the place, creating forms that need to be filled out before they’ll do anything, involving 15 people in every decision, doing things poorly the first time so they need to be corrected, and so on, all while complaining that they have way too much work to do. They give of a perpetually harried air and act like they are working at light speed when they’re not actually doing much at all, or what they do needs to be redone.

      Reply
      1. Ollie

        We work at the same place? My coworker talks all day long so the boss thinks that he/she is busy, and they make everything into a crisis so that all the tasks they do not want to do are delegated to me! Whom they gossip about “doing nothing all day” because I can finish those undesired projects in a fraction of time that they can. Needless to say, I am job searching, as this coworker is the golden child yet gets away with just gossiping all day long.

        Reply
    2. So Very Anonymous

      Then there’s the “Tom Sawyer” slacker who wants to convince you that it’ll be SO GREAT for you if you do this particular task/project that oh happens, to be theirs. But it’ll be so awesome for you if you do it! Painting fences is so much fun and will expand your skill set! You’ll get all that great fence-painting experience, and they’ll be sure to acknowledge you as one of the people who made their fence-painting credit so much easier to get!

      Reply
  8. Charityb

    This is the kind of person who (depending on their level of dishonesty) can drive others into recording their own calls, taking copious notes on every interaction, and insisting on at least three neutral witnesses (one of whom must be the Pope) any time you have a casual conversation with them. Because sometimes that’s the only way you can be sure they won’t turn it on you and say, “But Jim PROMISED to take care of that presentation,”

    Reply
  9. Long Time Reader First Time Poster

    An extension to the Chatterbox is the “Talks Just To Fill Space” person — I work with someone that just. cannot. stop. talking. There can never be a moment’s pause in a meeting or call, the person has a nervous tic that makes them start jabbering whatever thought comes into their head. Sometimes if words fail this person, we get… sound effects. It’s insane. Unfortunately this person is higher up the chain of command than I am, so all I can do is grin and bear it.

    Reply
    1. Argh!

      You can politely ask if they can keep quiet for a few moments so you can focus your attention on thing-that-must-get-done. You have a shared commitment to the employer that you can point to. You can also make it your problem – “I’m sorry, I’m really easily distracted and I am having trouble keeping up with my deadlines…”

      Reply
      1. Ollie

        I did this and regret it. The person I spoke with always is making some kind of noise – talking, smacking gum, gasping when taking a sip of water! They were the most obnoxious person I have ever worked with and turned vindictive when I asked them to be more succinct in an explanation, and to please not smack their gum.

        Reply
    2. Gene

      I admit to quietly whistling when I’m deep in thought or concentrating on a task. Sometimes it’s whatever tune is stuck in my head, sometimes it’s no tune at all, just improv. I stop if I become aware of it; my wife says it’s how she knows I’m happily doing whatever I’m doing.

      Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati. “I’m a man, but I can change, if I have to, I guess.”

      Reply
    3. EvaR

      The worst is people who, when it’s FINALLY Quiet, sits there and suddenly borderline shouts “It’s SO QUIET IN HERE!!!”

      Some people enjoy quiet. If you have something to say, that’s fine. But “It’s quiet.” is not something.

      Reply
      1. Ambassador Troy

        It’s like I’ve finally met My People. My office noisemaker FINALLY required and it’s been heaven. People stand and sit without grunting and muttering “sugar!” People eat and drink without slurping or saying “AHHHHHHHHH.” No one slams their coffee mug down after every sip of coffee, no one bangs the receiver down, no one hums loudly after you’ve just asked them to stop whistling, no one banging their papers loudly on the desk to line up the margins. Sweet, blissful, quiet heaven. The noisemaker is by far my least favorite officemate.

        Reply
  10. Argh!

    I’ve dealt with an eeyore & know-it-all in the same workgroup. They fed off each other.

    The know-it-all was also a food nazi, always telling everybody the nutritional value (or lack therof) of their lunches.

    I’ve managed a few slackers, which really means I’ve micro-managed a few slackers. They feel no sense of urgency for their job duties, so it’s been my duty to create it in the form of deadlines & write-ups.

    Reply
        1. Kathlynn

          me too. I can access the main page. but as soon as I click on the blog link I get “forbidden”. Maybe because I’m from canada? I tried it in both firefox and chrome.

          Reply
    1. Alex Forbes

      Hi Heather, and everyone below who was having 403/Forbidden issues on The Fast Track blog. I wanted to let you know we believe the issue has been resolved. It was a configuration issue on our new hosting provider’s side. Please let me know if you continue to have any problems reading our articles. We’re working through a few post-launch issues as quickly as possible that our testing was unable to detect on test servers. Thank you for your patience. Please feel free to send feedback to TheFastTrack@intuit dot com. I try to respond within hours depending on my schedule/day, but do read them all. Thank you all again for alerting us and providing details of Browsers, Versions, Devices and even IP when needed to help them resolve.

      Best,
      Alex
      Editor-in-Chief
      The Fast Track

      Reply
  11. Sarasaurus

    I would like to add The Flake. This person consistently forgets conversations, misses emails, neglects to pass along important information, and has to be reminded of simple requests (“please send me document x,” “I need a contact number for Jane,” etc.) over and over and over again. Maybe this person just has too much on her plate, or maybe she’s incredibly forgetful. Either way, it makes everyone around her look incompetent and like we don’t know what we’re talking about.

    Reply
    1. Lia

      I have worked for Flakes. It’s a big part of the reason why I archive my email, and vastly prefer email to phone, because then I have a paper trail of “Actually, I sent the documents to you on the 23rd, and here is that email again for your reference”.

      Reply
    2. Temperance

      Oooh – I’d like to add the “Allergic to Email” as a subset of “The Flake”. I used to work for someone in a shared-office space format who wanted all of my interactions with vendors, customers, etc. to be via telephone. She hated how “impersonal” email was. Then she made a promise to a potential customer that our building could provide him with an access code for his clients to enter after-hours (doors locked to everyone without a building pass after 6PM). I followed up with a confirmation email with the details after she asked me to follow up, she reprimanded me for not calling …. and then promptly apologized when the customer moved in and the system didn’t work, and their staff played dumb about the whole conversation they had with her. My email saved our tails.

      Reply
      1. Jillociraptor

        Oh yes. I think there’s a bigger umbrella here of people who can Only Be One Kind of Thing. “I’m a relationship person, so I don’t do [all those annoying but necessarily logistical things like filling out timesheets and doing expense reports].”

        Reply
      2. Julie Noted

        I had a coworker claim harassment on the basis that I sent requests by email rather than doing everything on the phone. Detailed technical requests that I needed to be able to show the answers to other staff before work could progress, not passive aggressive things that could be just as easily conveyed in a quick phone call.

        She had a long history of later denying what she’d agreed orally, which had led to months of delays to core projects. I’m certain that refusal to use email was a tactic more than a communication style.

        Reply
  12. Ihmmy

    The Flim Flam Wo/Man – promises the moon, can’t deliver a slice of pie. Always over promising and under delivering

    The FlipFlopper – someone who oscillates dramatically between too busy and too involved. Often a manager or boss type who one week will be too busy to review anything and the next needs to micromanage every last detail

    Reply
    1. Clever Name

      I worked for a flim-flam man. I remember having a phone conversation with a coworker who said that Fergus tended to promise a Cadillac…..and then his voice trailed off, so I offered, “but it’s actually a Kia?” Coworker roared with laughter at that. :)

      Reply
  13. Rat Racer

    I would like to add the “Not my Jobber” who is the Yang to the Yin of the “Delegator/Dumper.” I would love to see the two of them get into an endless loop of tossing things back and forth over the wall.

    Reply
    1. Temperance

      I had to BECOME a “Not My Jobber” because a few “Dumpers” in my office decided that I should be handling X, Y, and Z task on their behalf when it was legitimately not my job.

      Weirdly, once I was assigned to a nicer office, the Dumping largely stopped. ;)

      Reply
    2. Not So NewReader

      Oh, this is great. Let’s pair the people up for a Perfect World type place. I want to pair up the slacker with the know it all.

      Reply
  14. Lizzy

    Throughout my career, I’ve come across too many You-Have-To-Read-My-Mind types. These are generally managers and senior level execs (though I have seen this with regular staff) who are vague with expectations and explaining things. When you ask for more details, they become even more confusing and you wonder if they even know what they want. Worse, they become very high maintenance and defensive if you end up going about it your own way, and suddenly they want things done in a very particular way. Apparently, it was YOUR job to read their minds in the first place.

    Reply
    1. Clever Name

      Yep. Have a mind-reader at my office. He also treats people like tools, so I’ve explicitly stated that I will not work for him at all.

      Reply
    2. I'm a Little Teapot

      Those are the wooooooorst. Especially when you’re their assistant and have to work closely with them all day. In my experience they tend to fire assistants over and over, fruitlessly looking for the person who can read their minds.

      Reply
      1. MsChandandlerBong

        “Go to Calvin Klein and get me some skirts.”
        “What kind of skirts?”
        “Please bore someone else with your questions.”

        Reply
    3. A Non

      That was my ex-boss. If you did manage to get specific details out of him, two days later he’d reprimand you for doing things that way and deny that he’d ever requested it.

      Reply
  15. Kate

    I would be careful listing these as personality types. Personalities are who are and cannot be changed. The majority of what people are describing including Alison are behaviors (what we do) that can be change and managed.

    Reply
    1. Rat Racer

      I agree somewhat, but willingness to pitch in and help one’s colleagues is to some extent a description of character. Of course one person’s “not my jobber” is another’s “I am getting dumped on constantly and at my wit’s end,” just as one person’s Eeyore is another’s Realist. It’s all circumstantial.

      Reply
  16. NicoleK

    Former BEC coworker = flake + perpetually positive + think she knows it all + flim flam + flip flopper + loves to talk about herself.

    Reply
  17. Anonsie

    So, did anyone else find themselves trying to match up the four personality types with the four people in the stock photo?

    (Surfer-shades guy looks like the slacker type to me.)

    Reply

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