The 10 Worst Types of Coworkers (and How to Deal with Them)

In the world of unicorns, jackalopes and abominable snowmen, the “perfect” workplace exists. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world.

We live in a world where every workplace – from the shiny offices of Fortune 500 companies, to the cramped quarters of mom-and-pop stores – has its share of colorful characters. Some of them are harmless and tolerable; others will make you wish they switched places with the abovementioned mythological creatures. To deal with the most common workplace characters, here’s what you need to know about the 10 worst types of coworkers and how to work with all different types.

The Energy Vampire

Having a great day? You better not share the juicy details with this person. See, the Energy Vampire has a knack for finding the pitch-black lining in every bright spot (“Oh, you got promoted? That’s more work for you”). On the flip side, if Murphy’s Law is currently wreaking havoc in your life, the E.V. will take it as an opportunity to share his words of co-misery-tion with you.

Solution: Often, the E.V. just wants a listening ear. If you’re in the mood for it, you can offer him that. But make it clear that you’re not the best person to help him manage his problems. If you’re not in the mood, say something like “Sorry, I really need to work right now,” and walk away.

The Passive-Aggressive

P.A.s can be a major P-in-the-A, making them one of the hardest types of coworkers to deal with. If you give them a task, they’ll accept it without a word. But once you catch them procrastinating, and confront them about the fact, they’ll shrug it off and say: “You should’ve given me something easier to do. Yeesh.”

Solution: Instead of “You messed up the project,” tell them “The project isn’t up to par.” The first one puts the P.A. in the hot seat, which triggers a defensive reaction from them. The second one puts the spotlight on the P.A.’s actions. With these people, you need to set clear consequences for failure, and enforce them when needed, without exception.

The Credit Grabber

It’s normal for employees to want credit for their work. However, the Credit Grabber takes this to an unbelievable level: Instead of acknowledging help from co-workers, these people go out of their way to paint projects as their idea, their execution and their golden ticket to Promotion Land.

Solution: When working with a C.G., write down all the important tasks you handled, and send regular task updates to your superiors. That way, you’ll have a strong case when disputes about who-worked-on-what arise later. If your superior is the C.G., gently remind him or her to acknowledge you once a project’s done, but find a way to inform the higher-ups about your contributions too.

The Freeloader

When you look at a Freeloader, you wonder a lot of things. For example: Why did the company hire this person? Is it because he’s “excellent” at spending 90 percent of his working hours watching YouTube videos? Or is it her unmatched ability to persuade co-workers to take on her responsibilities for her?

Solution: Lay out clear expectations for work. Emphasize the importance of everyone pulling their own weight. And do not, under any circumstances, offer to do a Freeloader’s work – not even under the threat of the Freeloader’s puppy dog eyes.

The Talk Show Host

This person thinks everything he or she says is an 11-out-of-10 on the “interesting” scale. Whether it’s U.S. politics, the weather, the rumored romance between the receptionist and the janitor, or the quality of the latest Game of Thrones episode, the Talk Show Host will serve it to you, slathered with a thick layer of “opinion” sauce. You’d probably humor them if you didn’t have that 20-page report due in 15 minutes.

Solution: Wear headphones while you’re working. Hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign over your cubicle. If Jay Leno 2.0 insists on hogging your time, put your foot down and say: “That sounds interesting, but Ms. Marple’s gonna kill me if I don’t submit this report on time.”

The Brown Noser

To say that the Brown Noser is a little too attached to the boss is to say that Gollum is a little too attached to the One Ring. If a VIP is even in the same room with the B.N., the latter nods like a creepy dashboard toy. Once the VIP’s back is turned, though, the B.N. begins to spew out the venom that’s been boiling inside all along.

Solution: If a B.N. isn’t doing anything bad, apart from annoying you with her existence, it’s best to ignore her. Otherwise, handle a B.N. the way you’d handle a C.G.: Make a paper trail, let the boss know of your accomplishments, and calmly support your position with facts – rather than emotions – in case things turn sour later.

The “Boss”

There’s the boss – and then there’s the bawz. This person walks around the office as though he owns the place. As if to emphasize this “fact,” he constantly hovers over your shoulder, and whispers in your ear about how you’re doing your job all wrong.

Solution: It’s tempting to say: “Okay, since you know my job better than I do, why don’t you finish this report for me?” However, this can backfire on you, as the bawz might actually take you up on your offer. You can either ignore him, or use his self-centeredness against him: “I heard the Powers-That-Be assigned you a Very Important Project. Shouldn’t you be working on that right now?”

The Oblivious One

The Oblivious One is a good co-worker, for the most part. It’s just that you’d appreciate it if he stopped bringing smelly lunchboxes to his workstation. Also, his body odor really bothers you, even though you’re five cubicles away from him.

Solution: Talk to the O.O. in private. Be honest about what’s bothering you, but avoid pinning the blame on the other person. For example, for the co-worker with the smelly lunchbox, you can say: “Strong smells make me dizzy. I don’t want to end up puking all over our proposal, you know?” Unless the O.O. is actually a sociopathic jerk, he should get the message.

The Ninja

If you had a dime for every time the Ninja talks, you’d have nothing. This person doesn’t speak, cause trouble, or give any indication that she’s in the office at all. The only time she flies under anyone’s radar is when names need to be rattled off for team building attendance.

Solution: It’s possible that the Ninja is, in fact, an extremely shy person. Try to include her in group conversations by asking her “What do you think about…?” questions. If she doesn’t answer, be patient; she might be surprised that anyone bothers to talk to her at all. Just make her feel safe within your group, and she’ll open up sooner or later.

The Workaholic

This person comes to work earlier, and leaves later, than everyone else. Whenever the boss announces a new project, the Workaholic offers to spearhead it in a heartbeat. It’s come to the point where every time you think of work, the first thing you imagine is this person’s face.

Solution: Let the Workaholic be. This person’s efforts might be the reason everyone else’s workloads are a little bit lighter. Just remember to ask this person out for Happy Hour; he or she is probably the one who needs it the most.

What About You?

Before you write off any of your coworkers as “annoying wastes of human resources,” try to put yourself in their shoes. When you understand where they come from, handling them will be much easier. Learning more about the situation of your colleagues could help you deal with different types of coworkers. Besides, if you see yourself in any of these 10 types of coworkers, wouldn’t you want your colleagues to be nice to you too?

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she's a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. You can find her tweeting on her coffee breaks @SarahLandrum