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4 Types of Difficult People at Work

Updated on August 1, 2016

Stress in the workplace does not only come from heavy workloads and deadlines but also from difficult people at work. Some are involved in hostile or aggressive behaviors, take credit for your own work, try to bring you down, self-centered and all-knowing. These are examples of difficult people at work -- the bully, idea-stealer, saboteur and know-it-all. These kinds of difficult people make you feel uneasy and affect your productivity. Here are some strategies on how to handle these kinds of difficult people at work.

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1. Bully

A bully has a great sense of insecurity and to mask such he act in subtle to blatantly disrespectful manner to gain control of others. The subtle way can be through a joke or inappropriate remark. Then later, he can be bolder and say belittling words or accusations against you. He can be uncontrollable which make him fall into anger or physical aggression. He shout, throw away objects, bang the door and pound on the table to intimidate others.

How to Deal With:

It’s best to handle issues immediately with the bully than having to confront a serious disrespect. You have to learn the art of being assertive and establish boundaries. With an offensive remark or joke, you can immediately respond by saying, “What did you mean by _____?” Say this by looking at the bully straight into his eyes, stand still, be calm and show confidence to make the impression he can’t just easily hit you off the wall.

When the bully is yelling at you or being aggressive, it’s best not to stoop down to his level. Do not react in a defensive manner. You can interrupt him and walk away. You can say that you would like to talk to him at some other time when he has already calmed down. During your private conversation, let the bully explain and try asking him these questions: “Why are you saying that? Why do think I’m like that? What made you think I can do that?” If issues aren’t still resolved through a good conversation, you can talk to your boss about your problem with the bully co-worker. If your boss is the bully, it’s best to seek advice from the human resources department. For your protection against any retaliation by the bully, it’s best that you document everything that has been said and done to you.

2. Idea-Stealer

Idea-stealer claims someone’s work as his own. He asked for your idea or opinion during a casual talk in a coffee shop then suddenly you hear him present that idea in a meeting. He involved you in a project and asked for your recommendations but present them to your boss as his own. He asked you to finish a report but he placed his name instead. You will definitely feel cheated and wasted some time on a project which you can be credited for.

How to Deal With:

Be proactive. Offer your ideas only during an official meeting. It’s best to always have a documenter during meetings. You can also immediately produce a written report and submit it directly to your boss. Offer your ideas to the head or leader rather than to a fellow co-worker, who just like you, is waiting for his crowning glory. Commit only to projects that clearly states who is responsible for a particular output. As for the co-worker who guiltlessly stole your idea, do not confront him on the meeting or make a scene in the office. Instead, you can reclaim your power over the idea-stealer by elaborating the idea to your boss to show that you are more adept and knowledgeable on the topic. If your boss is at your side, you can show proofs that the idea came from you but show that you take pride for using your contributions to move the project forward.

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3. Saboteur

Saboteur negatively affects efficiency or productivity at the workplace. He makes alliances with other co-workers who perceive you as a threat. He might be jealous of your achievements or just utterly dislike you for no deep reason. This difficult person at work displaces the blame on you for his poor performance. He spreads rumors about you, alienates you from being involved in an important project or involves you in a project which you find impossible to accomplish.

How to Deal With:

Be on the lookout. Try first to figure things out on your own why you weren’t given that particular project, promoted or received a raise in your salary. Try to get close to the saboteur. Listen closely to his conversations when you feel that you are the topic. Keep a record of his bad attitude and dubious transactions with him. Once you have all these evidences, you can confront him in a firm yet calm and professional manner. Avoid personal attacks but strictly focus on the issues at hand. If the issues get out of hand, get the opinion of your trusted boss or a manager.

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4. Know-It-All

Know-it-all co-worker always has an idea or solution to offer even if others are not asking for it. He monopolizes conversations without being mindful of what other people think of them. He has a grandiose sense of self and see their co-worker’s ideas or work as inferior. He is not open-minded and intolerant of differing opinions. He might be the smartest or bluffing to be the smartest worker in your office.

How to Deal With:

Be empathic and listen to him because he can offer good ideas and solutions that are valuable to move the project forward. For the difficult person to accommodate your idea, try first to flatter him by saying, “That is a good idea.” Then, continue with your suggestions. If the difficult person tries to debunk your idea (as he might always will), try saying, “I know you might find this as a silly/bad idea but I want you to be open about it.” You can also try votation to settle differing opinions. In this case, majority wins.

Know there is no perfect workplace. You might see a combination of a bully, idea-stealer, saboteur and know-it-all in just one person. Remember that you cannot change their behavior but you can always change the way you respond to them. You have to try a combination of strategies on how to handle them to know which ones work. By doing so, you can escape the trap of being the victim of these kinds of difficult people at work.

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