5 Difficult People You'll Meet at Work and How to Deal With Them

young business woman working on ...
young business woman working on ...

We may have a choice about our job, our company or (in some cases) our boss. But often, we don't have a choice about the people we work alongside.

In some cases, our desire to take a moment in the coffee room or stop for a mid-morning water cooler conversation can result in a face-to-face confrontation with one or more of these characters: The Weasel, The Jerk, The Climber, The Gossip or the Lone Wolf.

The first thing to remember is that much of the challenge comes from the way we perceive the people in our lives.

One man's "Gossip" is another man's wife and even the "Weasel" has a mother. How often have we wondered, How on Earth did that guy find someone to marry him?, only to find the answer is that he probably is not a "jerk" all the time or with every person?

But for some reason, this person is in your life, behaving in a certain way. You have a choice: You can either allow him or her to make life unpleasant, or you can embrace the opportunity to learn from the experience while maintaining your sense of humor, integrity and sanity.

And this phenomenon is not just restricted to the workplace. Anyone who has significant involvement in a school or religious organization knows these personalities show up everywhere!

So, how do we stay above the fray, play nice with others, do our job and feel good about it all at the same time? We may have to be creative and find a positive spin to keep our work world from being turned upside down.

Here are five common difficult personalities you'll encounter at the office and how to deal w ith them in a positive way:

1. The weasel: This guy pretends to be your friend, but will drop you like a hot potato if he gets scared of losing something. He has zero self-confidence and is constantly worried that someone will find out who he really is and fire him. Sympathy is the way to go here. See if you can communicate to his "higher self" in an authentic way -- just don't divulge any state secrets.

2. The jerk: This gal pushes people away by being mean-spirited and judgmental. She wants space, so give her space, but resist the temptation to give her a taste of her own medicine. That will just add fuel to the fire. Remember that none of her anger or spite is about you and if you are not reactive to her, she will go away.

3. The climber: This fellow has one goal -- to move forward as quickly as possible. He will step on and over whomever is in his way. He thinks that there can be only one winner at the power game and is determined to be "it." Let him go -- what do you care? You have your own path and you know something he does not know: the game has many winners.

4. The lone wolf: This woman is on her own. She is not interested in sharing information and has no facility for collaboration. To her, it does not matter that two heads are better than one, she is flying solo. This may be one of the hardest personalities to negotiate with, because the communication goes one way only. The best way to handle her is to put your energies elsewhere -- focus on collaborating with people who know how to collaborate. Let go of any expectations that she will be any different than she is and you won't be disappointed.

5. The Gossip: This chatty guy needs a more interesting job. He would love to spend his days talking to you about the boss, your other co-workers, who is sleeping with the new V.P. and whether or not the Head of Accounting got a face lift on her vacation. He is harmless if you don't share anything with him that you don't want the entire company to know about. He is fun at the office party and usually has lots of good jokes. Enjoy him for his strengths and keep it superficial.

We cannot avoid these people. In fact, learning to deal with challenging personalities can be an opportunity. As we hone our skills, we add tools to our toolboxes that we can use in the relationships that are truly important -- the ones we have with family and friends. Remember to focus energy on the people who deserve it -- including yourself.