One Office, Many Personalities: How to Deal Effectively

Older Asian businessmanRegardless of what goods or services your company provides, a key component of any successful business is maintaining a happy and productive workforce. To achieve that overarching goal, you need to know what makes your employees tick.


Common Workplace Personalities
While there’s no master list of workplace personalities, here’s a sampling of ten common personas, along with suggested ways to best manage these uniquely human challenges.


1.) The Doubter – This employee’s knee-jerk reaction is to doubt whatever he or she is told and to be suspicious of virtually everyone. To harness this person’s second-guessing tendencies, ask questions frequently over the course of projects. In this way, you can uncover and counter his/her doubts early on.


2.) The Steamroller – As the label implies, these individuals figuratively steamroll over those with whom they disagree, often offending anyone in their path. To leverage this person’s need for control and autonomy, assign him/her independent projects. At the same time, however, inform the employee that steamrolling behavior isn’t acceptable and suggest more effective methods of communicating.


3.) The Gossiper – While no workplace is likely to be a gossip-free zone, if you have an employee who gossips to the extent that the behavior is destructive, you need to confront the individual and outline how his/her gossiping is having a negative impact. On the upside, gossipers tend to be extroverted, so placing them in positions that require significant internal and external interaction could prove beneficial.


4.) The Hothead – Some employees channel tension or frustration by lashing out at coworkers. Outbursts such as these simply aren’t acceptable, and the hothead must be informed that this behavior won’t be tolerated. If possible, the person should receive anger-management counseling. This particular personality profile is void of upsides and must be monitored closely, as repeated incidents would warrant termination.


5.) The Over-Analyzer – This person thrives on playing devil’s advocate and finding flaws in whatever is being suggested. From a positive perspective, this type of person may well uncover legitimate problems or introduce stronger solutions. As a result, projects requiring in-depth investigation should be steered their way. When interacting with the over-analyzer, keep conversations as brief as possible and don’t engage in “what if” discussions.


6.) The Narcissist – By definition, narcissists are overly self-involved, crave attention, and generally lack the ability to empathize. On the plus side, narcissists often thrive in positions of power, because they covet such power and will work hard to keep it. If a narcissist’s behavior is negatively impacting the workplace, he or she can’t be told this directly. Instead, you must present the desired behavior as a strategy that will be beneficial to him or her personally.


7.) The Overly Sensitive – This employee takes any criticism or confrontation deeply personally. Additionally, while they will do as they are told, the overly sensitive shy away from making decisions. If there’s a performance-related issue to discuss with this type of staff member, do so in a manner that’s encouraging rather than overtly critical. If there are any projects that have a “touchy-feely” component, the overly sensitive employee would be a good candidate.


8.) The Contrarian – These types of people seem to live by the motto “just say no.” Regardless of what the project is, or what idea is being explored, contrarians categorize virtually everything as a bad idea. To alter this behavior, ask contrarians to provide specific, factual support for their position of opposition. At the same time, emphasize that – while his/her opinions are valued – blanket, unsupported criticism isn’t productive.


9.) The Loner – These individuals are diligent about meeting their job responsibilities, but they don’t want to interact with coworkers or participate in organizational activities. Have a discussion with the loner about the importance of workplace comradery and the benefits of stepping outside his/her comfort zone. While these types of employees will do well in positions that don’t require interaction or team work, the ideal solution is to coax them out of their isolation.


10.) The Blamer – As the label indicates, these workers are quick to blame others and are seemingly incapable of accepting responsibility for a mistake. This behavior can be toxic and should not be tolerated. If the blamer is responsible for a mistake, present to him/her specific reasons why he or she is at fault. If this tactic doesn’t prove effective, the blamer’s continued relationship with your company should be examined.






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Susan Peters