5 Toxic Personalities in the Office and How to Work With Them

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5 Toxic Personalities in the Office and How to Work With Them

A healthy work environment is crucial to maintaining a good workforce. However, no matter where you work you are bound to encounter someone who makes work life a bit difficult. Use these tips to set boundaries, protect your mental health, and stay productive while navigating toxic personalities at work.

1. The Office Gossip

Spot it: The drama starts here! The Office Gossip is where rumors begin and information becomes embellished for effect. He or she doesn’t care if the tidbit is work-related or of a personal nature. They just want the attention of being in-the-know.

Stop it: The best way to stop gossipers is to starve them of 2 things: attention and information. You can also stop the spread by not engaging in gossipy conversations. Change the subject or simply excuse yourself. And to limit the amount of times you are gossiped about, don’t share any confidential information with them about yourself or others.

Staying away from The Office Gossip can be hard for those of us who tend to be people-pleasers. We’re not comfortable with calling out another person’s behavior and don’t want to appear rude. Using “redirection” is probably the best bet if this sounds like you! Simply saying “Yikes, well I hope s/he is ok because I like them. Hey, what did you do this weekend?” or something along those lines lets The Office Gossip know that you’re not willing to talk bad about that person and that you are willing to continue the conversation, it just needs to be about a different topic.

2. The Constant Complainer

Spot it: This person is never happy. The Constant Complainer will make sure you know everything that is wrong with them, the office, your colleagues, and you. These critics cannot help but point out the negative. It’s a draining prospect to talk with them.

Stop it: First, don’t take anything they say personally. Constructive criticism is not what they’re dishing out. Take any truths that may be found in their complaints you can improve upon and leave the rest alone. Second, realize this is a “them” problem. Maybe they have low self-esteem or maybe they are surrounded by complainers in other areas of their lives. Be kind and sincere in your interactions with them so they can see there is a better way.

The biggest thing to remember is that you need to protect your own peace of mind from The Constant Complainer. They will take a great morning and turn it into a dull, horrible existence so fast your head will spin. You’ll keep finding yourself in a situation where you wonder why you’re suddenly grouchy. It’s imperative that you protect your peace!

3. The Lone Wolf

Spot it: Teamwork is not in their vocabulary. The Lone Wolf doesn’t need your help or your feedback because they already know everything. This know-it-all attitude hinders collaboration and personal growth. There is likely also an element of control that they don’t want to give up.

Stop it:  It may be a test of humility on your part but acknowledge the Lone Wolf’s talents and contributions. Let them know you admire their skills and would like to learn from them. Building a rapport with them will open the door to future collaboration.

Here’s a secret: Ask The Lone Wolf for help. This is one of the fastest ways to bond with more difficult personalities, like The Lone Wolf know-it-all, in an office setting. Asking them for help or advice, allows them to display their talents and will give you an opportunity to build a connection that will help you have more open communication in the future.

4. The Lazy Leech

Spot it: It’s the person nobody wants on their team. The Lazy Leech is unhelpful and has no initiative. Not only will they not come up with innovative ideas, but they might also not even complete the assigned tasks. Persistent procrastination is also a red flag.

Stop it: Try to find the Lazy Leech’s strengths. Have them focus on tasks they can already do well and acknowledge their efforts. This can boost their confidence to try new things. If you simply have an apathetic employee, then discipline might be necessary.

The Lazy Leech can quickly have you at your wits end. Before you say something you might regret, start asking them questions that make them think more about their behavior. Here are two questions that force The Lazy Leech to look closer at their actions:

  1. If you’re a coworker: I’ve noticed you haven’t worked on this project. Can you tell me what it is you’re not understanding? Maybe we can find someone to explain it better.
  2. If you’re a manager: I’ve noticed you haven’t completed your assigned tasks. How is work going? Sometimes when a person procrastinates, it’s because their job isn’t a great fit for them. How are you feeling about your role here?

5. The Finger Pointer

Spot it: Nothing is ever their fault. The Finger Pointer has an excuse for every problem whether it’s true or not. They will loudly shift the blame to you or something that was out of their control. Even if they have to fabricate details to look innocent, they are willing to do it to save their own skin. You may rightfully feel like your reputation is not safe with them.

Stop it: One step you can take is to ask for proof of their claims. There should be emails, phone logs, or work history that can prove or disprove their excuses. It’s possible The Finger Pointer has a fear of being fired or ridiculed. In that case, you want to be clear that solving problems is more important to the company than casting blame. Create a work environment where people feel safe to admit mistakes.

Want to make The Finger Pointer feel safe enough to put their finger down? Watch how you talk and how you handle your own mistakes. If you own up to your mistakes and talk openly about how you’ve learned from them and how you’re preventing it from happening again, then you’ve successfully changed the narrative. From now on, a mistake is a way to make process improvements at work, with our own habits and routines, and in our personal lives. This also creates a real-life example you can use when you sit down with The Finger Pointer to show them how to handle it better next time.

We’re All Human

For all of these “problem people” the biggest thing to remember is they are human, just like you. If you think about it, it’s actually kind of crazy to take a bunch of people with completely different backgrounds, traumas, insecurities, boundaries, goals and expect them to work in harmony. We wish it worked that way! Unfortunately, it’s usually the opposite. Using an open, kind approach when dealing with toxic folks will keep you in a better headspace while building a company culture you’re proud of.

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Consider using a recruiter to help guide the process. Here at Westphal Staffing, it is part of our culture to make connections, recognize humans as individuals, and collaborate with professionals. Today, more than ever that culture is transforming the staffing experience, making us a different kind of staffing company. Call or text us today at (715) 845-5569!