4 Difficult Personalities in the Workplace + How to Manage Them
By Taylor Varco
As a manager, even if you have a “dream team,” being effective with your people has its challenges. When you oversee difficult employees, those challenges grow exponentially. Success in any industry comes from the ability to manage relationships and make connections with people who are different than you. It’s a blurry line, but difficult personalities can grow to be such a problem, they can threaten to derail productivity. While every situation is different, learning about some of the most common difficult personality types will help you develop management solutions needed to keep your team working harmoniously.
- The Solo Artist
In a profession that’s all about collaboration and camaraderie, the Solo Artist stands out by going out of their way to avoid social interaction. They often appear disinterested in meetings, and while their work is well executed, they display no signs of wanting to be a team player.
Management: Don’t let the quiet fool you; often Solo Artists are simply introverted and have tons of great ideas in their head. Give them their own space and offer opportunities to meet with you one-on-one or to take on individual assignments. Do not push them to engage socially. Instead, show that you recognize their achievements, while giving them plenty of time to process more difficult communication, such as constructive feedback. The best compliment you can pay a Solo Artist is asking for their opinion and truly listening to their ideas.
- Everyone’s Best Friend
This person is a true extrovert. Prone to gossip, you’ll likely find this employee hanging out in break areas, stopping by other people’s work stations, and other various areas that don’t involve attending to their own work.
Management: These people are mostly harmless to the workplace, and usually liked by all. If possible, channel this employee’s natural engaging tendencies towards getting others involved. Whether it’s formal employee programs/processes or informal efforts towards building company culture. However, watch out for “gossipy” behavior that can turn toxic. Be attentive to your direct reports and the overall morale to pick up on negative subtle cues. This will allow you to take control before employees begin to feel marginalized.
- The Ticking Time Bomb
You’re working in a physically and emotionally challenging place, especially if you have one or more “Ticking Time Bombs” on your team. You’re not sure when this employee will go off, but you do know to expect their anger to come out in regular intervals or in response to something specific.
Management: Do not ignore an angry employee. There’s a strong energy that surrounds angry employees, and it affects everything and everyone around them. Try treating employee anger as a learning opportunity. Rather than shying away, dig deeper to find out what’s at the core of the issue and take whatever steps you can to remedy the situation. Many times, anger comes from not being heard. Great employee management—for all type of workers—involves active listening to make positive changes.
- “Woe is Me”
This person operates under a “victim mentality”, and acts as if everything is working against them. “Why does he get all the good projects?”, “I work twice as hard but don’t get compensated fairly.” Sound familiar? The Woe is Me employee drains your energy and the energy of your team with a constant whiney attitude. You don’t want them on your team, but even the best of us hire them.
Management: One issue in dealing with someone with a victim mentality is that they likely don’t want any help and will react negatively to any attempts to change their mindset. This may come from insecurity or not wanting the burden of accepting personal accountability. Be careful to avoid singling them out and remember that your job as a manager is to enable your team members to perform well in their role. Maintain objectivity when faced with excuses and always stick to the facts. When giving constructive feedback, do so using defined and documented examples of past behavior.
Of course, these are only a few examples of personalities in the workplace, and even these have variations of their own. The longer you work on your management style, the more you’ll learn about coping and even thriving with difficult people.