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7 types of difficult colleagues or bosses

7 types of difficult colleagues or bosses


Dealing with difficult colleagues or bosses can be tricky terrain – particularly for professionals who dislike confrontation. The good news is, figuring out which kind of ‘horrible boss’ or associate you’re dealing with can be the key to unlocking a solution.

  1. The Credit Thief. Credit thieves love the spotlight and are usually unabashed about taking credit for the success of their co-workers – often to compensate for their own insecurities and shortcomings. Keep a record of your activities and successes and provide your manager with regular work in progress reports. If they try to take credit in your presence, use a ‘we’ statement to assert your involvement.
  2. The Office Gossip. Gossips love drama, but their rumour mongering can be damaging to your professional reputation, and your career. Avoid engaging in any of their gossip, since anything you say could be held against you. Excuse yourself from negative conversations, or redirect the focus to the task at hand.
  3. The Slacker. Slackers often have a knack for doing the bare minimum of actual work, while always appearing run off their feet. Deal with them by documenting the responsibilities of each team member on the projects you share, ensuring everyone is held accountable for their own workload.
  4. The Belittler. Belittlers tear their co-workers down to build themselves up. Don’t let them hit your emotional buttons. Standing up for yourself and calmly refuting their put-downs can stop them in their tracks.
  5. The Saboteur. Saboteurs like to make others look bad – and may go out of their way to leave teammates in the lurch. Suggest regular progress meetings with managers to ensure saboteurs can’t take advantage of miscommunications or oversights.
  6. The Micromanager. Micromanagers can be overly controlling, which can make employees feel undervalued or distrusted. Their fear of losing control may have nothing to do with your performance. If your boss is micromanaging you, anticipate possible concerns or questions, and provide them with information and updates before they ask. Discuss and get clarification on which decisions you can make on your own, and which require their attention.
  7. The Dictator. The dictator’s my way or the highway philosophies can make it hard to get your ideas heard. Try approaching them in a non-confrontational way, using statements like, “could we”, or “do you think we might try…”.

Steps to resolving office conflict:

  • Overlook small annoyances and identify the real concern. Is it a personality clash, or is there a more problematic issue that needs to be addressed?
  • Approach the situation with your boss or colleague with a positive attitude. Focus on solutions, rather than finger pointing.
  • Stay composed and confident to show workplace bullies you won’t be intimidated by their behaviour.
  • Think carefully before you speak. When necessary, walk away from a situation and then address the issue later when tempers have settled.
  • Always remain professional. Maintain a calm and reasonable demeanour, keeping your emotions in check.
  • Try to resolve a conflict with your difficult colleague before taking the issue to management. Initiate an open discussion about your professional relationship, and express a desire to work together more positively.
  • Follow proper procedures for registering complaints. If you take an issue to your boss or HR, make sure you’ve taken steps to deal with the problem internally first.
  • Know when to fold ‘em. If you’re unable to resolve workplace conflict and it is impacting negatively on your productivity or reputation, the best solution – for your career and sanity – may be to look at other employment options.

Conflict can arise in any work environment, so try not to take any issues personally. Be proactive and take positive measures to contribute to a good working situation. Even if leaving a toxic work environment is the ultimate answer, remaining professional, and continuing to produce work of a high standard, is vitally important for your continued career development. 

Try to resolve a conflict with your difficult colleague before taking the issue to management. Initiate an open discussion about your professional relationship, and express a desire to work together more positively.

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