Growing up, we often meet people that say mean things, spread rumors, take credit for other people’s work, and do other uncouth things we figure adults would never do. Turns out that’s not the case, and years later, we encounter these same types of individuals in our professional lives.
What’s a decent, honest person to do? A good start is reading freelance writer Jamie Harrison’s Black Enterprise piece titled “Five Tips for Handling Tough Workplace Personalities.” In it, she calls out some of the troublemakers we’ve all met in our professional dealings and shares great advice on how to rise above the drama.
First on Harrison’s list: “the shade thrower.” This is someone who slanders you with backhanded compliments and snarky remarks, and as Harrison writes, these types of people are insecure and “merely trying to make themselves feel more powerful” by bagging on others. The solution: confront them in a courteous and professional manner and put a stop to things. If you remain silent, you’ll seem like a pushover, and things will only get worse.
Next up for Harrison is “the gossiper.” While it’s sometimes tempting to whisper about your coworkers and all the crazy things they’re up to, doing so is dangerous — especially if the boss finds out. Harrison’s advice: Next time the gossip gets going about who’s dating or doing whatever, change the subject. It also helps to keep a low profile at the office; that way, the gossip will know better than to engage you.
Arguably worse than gossipers are “slackers” — people who put in minimal effort and take credit for everyone else’s hard work. These freeloaders have been coasting since grade school group projects, and Harrison’s suggestion for dealing with them is a good one: Create a “paper trail” showing your bosses just how little the slacker has contributed to the team.
“Not allowing this lazy coworker to fall short will make him take responsibility for his performance and actions, or lack thereof,” Harrison writes.
Similar to the slacker is “the copycat,” someone who doesn’t just silently benefit from other people’s toiling but rather tries to take credit for it. If someone is winning praise from management by pitching your ideas, begin by speaking with them. If that doesn’t work, it might be necessary, Harrison writes, to involve the boss and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Finally, there’s “the overachiever,” that hyper-competitive colleague who always wants to beat you at everything and be the boss’ favorite. Harrison’s advice: Keep your head down, focus on yourself, and do the best work you can. “Competitiveness,” she writes, “is often about making the other person doubt themselves,” so don’t let this person throw you off your game.