The 10 Worst People in Every Office (And How to Deal With Them)

 

Because there is no way to monetize eating Cheetos and playing Call of Duty, most of us will have to get a job one day.  Some of us may even want to be really really good at that job so that we can get promoted and get more of this “salary” thing everyone seems so crazy about.  The problem is, the world is full of idiots, that number increasing exponentially the closer you are to the water cooler.  Unfortunately, since rage-fueled murder by Bic pen is still illegal (I know, right?) so you are going to have learn to identify and deal with the worst people in the office.  People like: 
 

The Clouseau

 

 

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The Clouseau is always suspicious that his coworkers are up to something, usually not working as hard as he is.  Elaborate investigations are launched and prying conversation is engaged in as he snoops around your cubicle and asks how far you’ve progressed on that project since he last asked ten minutes ago.  Ironically, they’d probably get a lot of work done if they weren’t so concerned with how much everyone else was or wasn’t doing. 

Where They’re Likely To Show Up:
Silently over your cubicle walls, asking if that was a solitaire window you just closed 

How To Deal With Them:
Presumably “pleasing nosy coworkers” is not in your job description, and it’s likely irrelevant how much work they think you’re getting done.  If you’re worried about the Clouseau’s impact on how you’re viewed by people whose opinions do matter (or if, god help you, your boss is one), be sure to clearly and comprehensively document your contributions.  Having these readily on hand can quickly defuse accusations. 

The Absent-Minded Professor

 

 

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Much like their namesake, the Absent-Minded Professors are usually intelligent and uniquely gifted individuals who repeatedly fail to do anything of value, repeatedly miss deadlines, and pursue meandering goals.  This is the type of employee who will spend days writing a complex macro for organizing a spreadsheet, and then discovering that they don’t have enough time to run the analyses that were needed by the client.  They’re different than your run-of-the mill lazy employee in that they have plenty of potential and initiative, it’s just being directed at the wrong things.   

Where They’re Likely To Show Up:
Working late on something irrelevant.  Looking surprised when they realize how little time is left until the deadline 

How To Deal With Them: 
The Absent-minded Professor can be a valuable asset if properly directed.  Make sure the Professor has clearly-defined goals, and help them set up regular progress updates if necessary.  Don’t discourage tangential pursuits—these could be the seed of valuable innovation and insights—just be sure the real work gets done on time.   

The Parent

 

 

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The parent is usually an older member of the team, who is intent on giving everyone as much unsolicited advice as possible.  Usually well-intentioned, their paternal/maternal air often comes off as patronizing, and their advice usually doesn’t help much since it’s almost a decade old.  Worse, they often believe only their views are valid owing to their years of experience.  While they are often a valuable source of perspective and context, they also tend to depress innovation and new ways of thinking. 

Where They’re Likely To Show Up:
At your cubicle first thing in the morning calling you “Champ” 

How To Deal With Them:
Ignoring the parent can mean you miss out on some valuable knowledge, but if they become too influential some of the aforementioned consequences may arise.  Your best bet is to listen to their advice, put it in the proper context, and be insistent when you believe that things have changed over the past 5 years (a camera? In your phone?!?!).   

The Hippie

 

 

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When things are going well, people might describe the Hippie as “calm, collected, and level-headed”.  When everything is going wrong and it’s crunch time before the conclusion of a big project, people usually refer to the Hippie as “Jesus Christ Steve! Everything’s not going to be okay if we don’t get this done on time, please quit saying that”.  The Hippie believes that everything will eventually work out in the end, and we should all just chill out.  Note that the Hippie doesn’t have to actually reek of patchouli and wear ponchos—their dangerously laid-back attitude is where the problem emerges. 

Where They’re Likely To Show Up:
Getting a good night’s rest when everyone else is working.

How To Deal With Them:
You’re not going to change the Hippie’s fundamentally laid-back attitude.  You can, however, make sure they have clearly-defined goals and objectives and are meeting them on time to avoid a panic-filled crunch.  In addition, their cool demeanor can have a calming effect when everyone else is losing their heads.   

The Generalist

 

 

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The Generalist eschews details for big-picture thinking and statements.  Their favorite phrases are “bullet point” and “broad strokes”.  They resist going into details at all costs and talk often about how this is a strength.  When asked to describe to a client what makes their firm better than the competitor, they will use words like “creative”, “innovative” and “paradigm-shifting” but won’t say a single thing about concrete deliverables, cost advantages, or—god forbid—any numbers.  Not getting bogged down in the details is generally viewed as a good thing, but the Generalist takes it too far and doesn’t go near the details bog at all. 

Where They’re Likely To Show Up:
At the front of the conference room, introducing specialists and desperately trying to justify their job. 

How To Deal With Them:
Ask questions and refuse to be satisfied with vague answers.  Pointed, specific questions will eventually force the Generalist to actually be well-versed on the details of their projects.  If they can’t seem to grasp the details, there’s always a place for energetic-yet-not-that-sharp people called the Sales Department.   

The Carpet

 

 

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The Carpet is usually a talented employee that—for whatever reason—is far too modest for their own good.  Or maybe they’re just modest by normal people standards and are consistently overshadowed by louder, more boisterous colleagues.  Whatever it is, they aren’t getting the credit they should for their contributions.  Given, it is pretty crowded at the top, and with everyone jockeying for position what should we care if someone’s too reserved and taciturn to take credit.  The answer is because you might miss out on some amazing talents that otherwise go unnoticed simply because, say, incredible math skills weren’t paired with braggadocio.  

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Where They’re Likely To Show Up:
Underfoot at entry-level.

How To Deal With Them:
If you’re a colleague of a carpet, you probably only have the time and luxury to think of your own contributions and getting credit for them.  In this sense, the Carpet may be an asset as recognizing his or her talents before anyone else does can give you a leg up.  If you’re a manager however, you should be taking careful stock of each member’s contributions, and that each person’s contributions are appreciated, noted, and will be considered when it comes time for performance evaluations.  
 

The Antagonist

 

 

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Whether a boss or a colleague (though more often the former), the Antagonist is always up in your face.  They are the type that always looks for flaws, and seems to have a great white shark’s nose for blood in the water.  When they find a flaw, they critique it mercilessly.  99 things could have gone right, the Antagonist is the person who will find the 1 thing that went wrong, and incessantly bring it up as a talking point to an almost abusive degree.  Some antagonists just like making themselves look better by comparison, but others earnestly think harsh, unyielding criticism is the only thing that will guarantee perfection.   

Where They’re Likely To Show Up:
Asking you about grammar errors and wondering aloud if that phrase should have been “among” instead of “between”. 

How To Deal With Them:
There’s no easy way to deal with the Antagonist, because they are usually affected with an outsized sense of self-importance.  Focusing on channeling the Antagonists harsh criticisms into constructive feedback is a good place to start.  There’s nothing wrong with a critical view and an eye for seeking out flaws—in fact it can be incredibly valuable.  But if it’s done in a manner that’s too…well…antagonistic, the damaging and demeaning nature of the comment can negate whatever good it might have done. 

The Cheerleader

 

 

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The Cheerleader is the type of person who thinks slogans, chants and cheers will actually improve morale.  They are the type of person who meets a cynic and says “You should just try being more positive”.  They are constantly trying to raise the morale of the team in the most ineffective manner possible, by essentially bullying them into being happy.  No one can have a bad day when the Cheerleader is around, or they will pester that sour grump until pretending to be happy is now necessary to maintain sanity.  The Cheerleader can be an employee who’s job it is to raise morale, or they could be one of those naturally chirpy, upbeat people.   

Where They’re Likely To Show Up:
“Come on Team! Let’s make up a chant for working till midnight on the Watkins account!” 

How To Deal With Them:
Since slipping Despondex into their morning coffee isn’t really an option, you’re probably stuck just enduring the annoyingly cheerful.  Try to take their unfathomably upbeat attitude for what it is—a life untainted by the crushing weight of reality trying to pass some of that happiness on to you.   

The Credit-Taker

 

 

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The motto of the Credit-Taker would be “It’s not what you do, it’s who sees you doing it”.  To them, it doesn’t matter if their project succeeds or fails, only that any success was of their doing and any failure completely unrelated to their actions.  Everyone wants to get credit for their actions, but this person specifically wants to get as much credit as possible with as little contribution as possible.  They don’t want to be known as someone who learns from their mistakes and moves on, they want to be known as someone who simply never makes a mistake.   

Where They’re Likely To Show Up:
Ever-so-slowly moving in front of you when the boss is congratulating the team on a job well done.  

How To Deal With Them:
No one wants to be the nagging snitch who shoots down the Credit-Taker when they’re inferring just a bit too strongly that the new initiative was their idea.  All you can really do is carefully document as much as possible and present these findings to the higher-ups.  The Credit-Taker is always going to be everyone when it comes to bragging over the water cooler.  When it comes time to address these issues—such as during performance evaluations—be ready to produce your account in an exhaustive list that the Credit-Taker’s swagger can do nothing to conceal. 

The Hothead

 

 

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Much like the Antagonist, the Hothead is constantly in people’s faces, seeking out the tiniest flaws, and criticizing from every angle.  The difference here is the Hothead’s attacks are often unpredictable, erratic, and completely disconnected from their cause in intensity.  A Hothead is the boss who will chew you out for bringing them a coffee with two sugars instead of three or a colleague who bullies their coworkers into submission.  They probably think they are direct, forceful and demanding as they act out the caricatures of real bosses they see on TV.  For some reason “loud and emphatic” has become equated with “correct” so the Hothead may not even be designated as a problem employee. 

Where They’re Likely To Show Up:
Pounding something, throwing something, dropping something dramatically.

How To Deal With Them:
You don’t deal with the Hothead because it is likely they don’t understand the concept of negotiation and compromise as being solutions to problems.  Any attempt to discuss their approach is viewed as an attack, and any negotiation as weakness.   To deal with the Hothead you simply bring a briefcase with a flask of holy water, a crucifix and several wooden stakes.  Wait hold on some “How-to” guides got switched there.  Actually the Hothead should be avoided at all costs, and any breaches of workplace codes should be reported.  Though come to think of it the wooden stakes don’t sound like such a bad idea. 

  • The sad thing is The Cheerleader is similar to “the good girl.” Ugh.

    I’m happy to be the office hippie :)