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Coping With Difficult Workplace Personalities

Offices are littered with a variety of personalities, and some of them can act as a deterrent to your productivity and success. From insufferable know-it-alls to the office gossip, these characters can distract you and even decrease your personal satisfaction at your job.

No matter which industry you’re in, one thing seems to be true for all professionals: Offices are littered with a variety of personalities, and some of them can act as a deterrent to your productivity and success. From insufferable know-it-alls to the office gossip, these characters can distract you and even decrease your personal satisfaction at your job. Nevertheless, getting along with coworkers is a fundamental part of professional life, and it’s a key part of a successful career. While we don’t advocate anyone putting up with a job he is deeply unhappy with, these personalities are a reality in almost all workplaces. Therefore, it’s necessary to learn how to cope with these personalities, which range from just plain odd to detrimental to your performance.

The Know-It-All

This office staple may have a few years on you at your company, or maybe they don’t. For whatever reason, some coworkers feel it necessary to exercise their knowledge to the point where every conversation with them may begin to feel like a battle of the wits. These conversations could pertain to work-related issues or not. It doesn’t matter who they are or what the topic is, know-it-alls want to prove they are right and, most likely, that you’re wrong.

If you’re working with the office know-it-all, make sure to support and stand up for your contributions. Try to foresee areas in your work that he might pick apart or might lead him to say, “This is wrong” or, “This is how it should be done.” If he does, you can come prepared with documents and facts to back yourself up. Although his input may feel discouraging, the important thing is to not give up on something you feel strongly about. However, when the know-it-all won’t quit, or you’re involved in a non-work-related conversation, the best thing to do is put on the good-old nod and smile. In these scenarios, when there’s nothing to be done, you must learn when and how to let it roll off your shoulder.

The One-Upper

This is perhaps a related breed to the know-it-all; the one-upper may also be a know-it-all and vice versa. One-uppers feel the need to constantly prove that they’ve done it better or bigger than you.

Again, it’s important to stand your ground and be proud of your hard work and success despite what this coworker has to say. The important thing is not to let yourself get annoyed or caught up in the one-upping. Don’t let the conversation devolve into petty arguments about what they or you have and haven’t done. Again a nod and smile is a helpful piece of armor.

The Gossip

Gossip shows up in almost any organization, and it can detract from workplace productivity and satisfaction. Nevertheless, they’re there, and gossips look for fellow coworkers to share everything — from the scandalous to the most mundane pieces of information — about office goings-on. Office gossips seek out comrades in their trash talking and tend to feed off shocking others with their information.

Don’t fall for the gossip’s trap. If you can see someone about to enter a gossip vent session, try to avoid it. Use work-related excuses, like a phone call, an important email you need to write or a project you need to work on. It’s important to note that some of these coworkers will invite you to lunch, but really it’s a little bit a food and a whole lot of gossip. If this is the case, try to politely change the subject, and then perhaps avoid those types of lunch dates in the future.

The Superiority Complex

This person leverages their status within the company and tends to hold it over the heads of others. This could include coworkers with a higher ranking than you, but it can also include another common office facet: nepotism. Whether rightfully earned or not, these employees enjoy the benefits and authority their position gives them, and they’re not afraid or ashamed to remind you of it.

In this case, it’s important to not evade, but rather forge a connection with this coworker. Do you have a common interest or hobby? Discuss it. If not, you may even want to feign interest. This will redirect the conversation from their status to a shared ground and level the conversation. You’ll see less arrogance and more camaraderie and bonding. Even if making this kind of small talk isn’t the highlight of your day, it’ll help you cope with this type of personality.