Inappropriate workplace personalities and how to survive them

Lily Odogwu looks at how to deal with inappropriate personality types

We all deal with inappropriate attitudes in the workplace. Some of us on a daily basis. At times, it can be so deeply imbedded into your office culture that you may not even notice it is taking place. Imagine the following scenario…

It’s a brand new day – sun shining, birds singing and you’ve just arrived at the office ready to take on whatever challenges your job throws your way. After dropping your coat on your seat, you make your way to the kitchen for that mug of coffee that helps you to start your day. As the kettle whistles while it works, Grace the Gossip cheerily wishes you a good morning, adding unnecessarily that apparently, Adrian from Accounting got really drunk the night before and fell asleep on the train on his way home. You engage with her for a bit before she wanders off to share her irrelevant news with some other unsuspecting soul.

Mug in hand, you make your way over to your desk but before you get there, Passive-aggressive Pam strolls by, makes eye contact and refuses to say hello when you greet her, leaving you wondering what the hell you’ve done to upset her this time.

At your desk, you go through your emails as you do every morning. There’s a reminder for a meeting with your department head later that afternoon. You make a mental note to remember to prepare for it before hand. There’s also the group email inviting anyone who wants to do lunch at the new Sushi bar down the street. And of course, there’s the one red-flagged by Negative Nick. You open it, unaware that you’re holding your breath. The email informs you that the latest idea you submitted about the project you’re heading is pointless, doesn’t need further discussion and please just do what you’ve been told. No further questions. Strangely, you’re not even surprised.

In fact, before the end of the day, you’ve dealt with Isaac the Idea Thief who, without a blink of an eye, took credit for your great suggestions at the meeting that afternoon; Narcissistic Nigel that likes to publically critique your work and blame you for everything just to make himself look good in front of your team and Tattle-tale Tina who reported to your supervisor that you were five minutes late in returning from your lunch break and perhaps this is why you may not deliver the project on time, yet always fails to mention that you work late every day and some weekends to ensure project delivery.

By the time your work day has ended, you’re emotionally exhausted and are looking forward to calling your partner, mum, dad, sibling or anyone else with an ear to bend to tell them all about the frustrating people you had to deal with at work that day.

Although those closest to you are great listeners and help you to deal with these types of workplace issues, the most important thing is to learn how to deal with inappropriate personality types in the first place. To deal with them, you may find yourself turning into the person you dislike. In order to effectively deal with inappropriate work place behaviour, it helps to do the following…

Be honest and be firm

Believe it or not, some people may not be aware of the negative effect their behavior is having on you. If this is the case, let the inappropriate person know how you feel about what they are doing. It’s important to point out to them that you do not appreciate being treated in a certain way and they’ll get more productivity out of you if they used a different approach. If you believe that the other person is well aware of the effect their actions are having on you personally, then be direct. It’s better to approach these situations face-to-face rather than via email as email may make you appear cowardly. Just like in the playground, the best way to deal with a workplace bully is head on. Never show weakness!

Exercise patience

Sometimes, the person behaving inappropriately may be going through a hard time personally or at work. Instead of reacting, consider taking them to one side and asking them if everything is ok. Human Resource Expert, Susan Heathfield said: “…if you are embroiled in a constant conflict at work, you may not only get blamed for being ‘unable to handle the situation like a mature professional’, you may be labeled as a ‘difficult’ person, too. This label is hard to escape and can have devastating consequences for your career.”

Be the bigger (wo) man

Someone once told me that during an argument, their colleague started swearing at them angrily and to show strength instead of weakness, they swore back. This is highly inappropriate behavior from both parties. No one ever won a conflict by fighting the other with the same weapons. The biggest tool at your disposal in this type of situation is maturity. Stand back. Let the other person know what you think of their behavior and walk away. The last thing you want is for the situation to escalate.

Remember: There’s nothing worse than leaving work with a chip on shoulder. Susan Heathfield claims: “…if you take some time to understand exactly what is happening to you, you are not alone. Once you are fully aware of what is happening, deciding to live with the situation long term is not an option”. Sort your workplace issues in the workplace instead of going home and allowing it to fester in your mind. Be aware that different people and different situations call for different approaches. The effect that all these negative people have on you may be the same, but they may not all be guilty of the same crime. Communication is key. So get talking!


Training Journal

Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *