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On Guard! How to Handle Poorly Behaved Coworkers

Any workplace is rife with personality and behavior diversity. How we each uniquely perceive the world determines the wide range of behaviors and emotions we witness, or express. Poorly-behaved co-workers can ruin our life balance and motivation quicker than just about anything else. It makes no difference what industry: manufacturing, banking, education, insurance, production, retail etc., because the common element is people.

Be on guard for those with a “skewed” view of basic civility. The ability to manage work relationships is a vital part of overall work success. The value of knowing who gets things done, who can inspire and motivate others, who has wise personal advice, and who to stay clear of are all essential elements in navigating the world of work.

Be mindful of these work behavior types:

The Reactor  
This person is best described as a “strong personality!” Those with strong personalities usually have a lot of opinions and views about, well, everything. Furthermore, they are comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings quite easily. They are usually very quick to respond, intense, and comfortable with heated verbal exchanges. 

Oh yes, they can be extremely rude or sarcastic when angered, or challenged. However, they usually have no desire to ruin any one person, or purposefully lie or sabotage another worker. They essentially react or snap quickly in the moment and don’t mind face to face disagreements. 

The good news is, they can be managed by a savvy manager. These people usually have strong work knowledge and skills. They care deeply about their core job duties. They just cannot hold their tongue when upset. They usually like others who agree with them, or praise them. If you decide to go toe to toe with them in a heated exchange, stick to facts and try to not get all worked up over their strong emotional posture.

The Destroyer
This individual may have all the elements of the reactor, but also has no problem lying, or setting another worker up for failure! They keep score of who has wronged them and plan creative ways to get even. They derive particular enjoyment from making others look bad whenever possible. 

They may have superficial social and relational skills sufficient to fool many in the leadership ranks, but the troops in the trenches know the real scoop! Make no mistake; stay clear of these poisonous people when possible because they will cause undue hardship for their prey.

Now for the bad news: if management is unwilling, or not skilled in managing such a difficult worker, don’t expect things to change. Unless it is absolutely imperative to take them on, don’t! Most importantly, remember to keep a safe distance and lower your expectations of them to subatomic levels.

The Deviant
These people may have some elements of all tough work personalities. However, what separates this person from all the rest is that they commit criminal acts. They are capable of theft, harassing others in and out of work, using work property for personal use, embezzlement and well, you know the rest. Of course, many of us don’t personally experience these people very often, but a few unlucky ones do!

Trust your instincts around people who give off bad vibes and even if you have no proof, proceed with caution. If you blow the whistle on them, be sure to request anonymity and make sure you will be seen as credible in the eyes of key company leaders. The last thing you want to risk is their word against yours. I always recommend having as many facts instead of he-said-she saids. In addition, a list of any others who may back your story.

Most people are usually decent in and out of work. However, you are bound to encounter an unrepentant jerk or two in your career, and preparation is key to your survival.

By Mark Hyde for WorkHerWay