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5 Toxic Coworkers We Will All Meet On The Way To The Top

Most of us have experienced the downfalls of working with a bad boss, but all of us know the plights that come with working with a coworker who makes getting through the workday a tedious experience. Today, we are sharing the traits of the five most problematic coworkers (and how to handle them without winding up in HR).

1 | The micromanaging show off.

There is one in every office, and he or she equates dominance over everyone else with a sign of personal value. Because they tie their ego directly to the control they maintain over those around them, they are constantly zoning in on what others are doing and “reminding” them (and the boss) about what still needs to be done. The constant contact leads to a toxic combination of demoralization and resentment amongst staff members who feel undervalued and distrusted.

How to handle them: Don’t let the micromanager fool you; they are usually the ones who are not on top of their game. It’s because of this that a proactive approach is a great way to keep them in check. Each morning, give them a rundown of what you’ll be working on and follow-up with notes at the end of the day. Whenever possible, let them know what you’ll need from them to support your efforts. It’s not what anyone wants to do, but do it for three months and I guarantee he or she will have backed off — they may even tell you it’s unnecessary or start avoiding you.

2 | The fire starter.

Everything is urgent with this one. Everything needs to be done now. There is no room for prioritization and zero consideration for your schedule, just a constant stream of fires followed by loud alarms that saturate the office with chaotic energy.

How to handle them: It’s hard to do your best work when you’re constantly having new tasks thrown at you and with projects changing direction every couple of days. The best way to handle this type is to write out a scope of work for the entire team and decide on what needs to be prioritized. This allows everyone to see exactly what is being done and have an understanding of how much work is going into each project. If the boss insists that “everything” is a priority, explain that you need to take a single task approach to avoid having to go back and fix mistakes. There needs to be a one, two, three in place. Once priorities are in place, let the fire starter know that deviating will push the deadlines of everything that comes after it and you will need the team’s approval to do this. Ask them to get this approval.

3 | The chicken little.

Whether it’s a boss firing someone or a meeting missed, there is a catastrophe coming and this employee is often found frantically panicking at his or her desk, fearing the worst. Their colleagues are either attempting to soothe their anxiety or feeling anxious themselves as a result.

How to handle them: Anxiety is a very painful thing for those who truly suffer from the disorder, (which can only be diagnosed and managed by a medical professional), but some people simply live in a state of constant emotional chaos. This is detrimental to the people in their personal and professional lives. When there is an inability to focus or fear that results in excessive emails, crossing boundaries or reacting out of panic and without thinking, no one wins. Be as kind and as understanding as possible, but let them know that while you appreciate where they are coming from, you have found that excessive worrying isn’t productive. Do not respond to rapid-fire email threads. Instead, set aside a block of time for them and try to have organized, in-person discussions where tone and context can be determined. Refuse to engage in endless doom and gloom conversations and avoid participating in discussions with other staff members (even if just to help assess how they are thinking or why they have done something).

4 | The under-the-bus thrower.

You send an email to several people and he or she responds and CC’s the boss, or worse, BCC’s them. Snake move on any level.

How to handle them: Know who you are dealing with: someone who is out to gain power and not afraid to harm your reputation, even by suggesting you’re sneaky. Start to copy the boss on every email exchange you have moving forward. They are seeing or hearing about it anyway and, at least by adding them yourself, you keep control of a game of telephone.

5 | The liar.

The worst kind of colleague is one who simply makes up facts in an act of self-service. It’s hard to work with someone you can’t trust to tell you the truth.

How to handle them: The worst thing you can do is let this slide. Create an email trail whenever possible, copy the boss or team on the exchanges and use the phrase “that is not factual” every time a statement is made that is inaccurate.

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