The types of people you encounter in the workplace come in all shapes and sizes, though some key characters exist at most organizations. Similar to bosses, coworkers have their own unique styles of getting their jobs done and working with others, though some of their mindsets stand in the way of collaboration and productivity, making them somewhat, well, toxic.
Remote and now hybrid working arrangements add another layer of complexities and new opportunities for a coworker with a toxic mindset to butt heads with others.
“Colleagues setting up unnecessary meetings (with no agendas and too many participants), demanding coworkers make themselves available for ‘quick chats’ at a moment’s notice, delaying decisions until the very last minute and working in silos are just a few examples,” said Job van der Voort, CEO and co-founder at Remote, a global HR platform.
Whether they’re insecure, overly confident, or just a bad coworker, here are some you’ll likely encounter in your career and how to deal with them.
Can’t Do Chris
This coworker is characterized by having a strong resistance to change and will find every reason to not go forward with someone else’s idea.
They’ll say they attempted to go ahead with a similar plan under a previous boss, or “we tried that five years ago and it didn’t work,’” said Cary Cooper, professor of organizational psychology and health at the University of Manchester.
Hopefully this coworker doesn’t have a lot of influence — then you can reject their opinion and go ahead with the plan anyway.
But if they do have the power to sway the decision, “What I would do is design the change in a way that makes him think it’s his idea,” Cooper said.
This coworker’s mindset is focused but on the wrong things. They’re so acutely focused on their independent performance or a small team’s goals “that they lose sight of the enterprise mindset,” said Heather Barrett, a director at Gallup.
They’ll chase an agenda blindly even at the sacrifice of doing something collaborative with other departments. In modern organizations “it’s so important for cross functional teams to be able to work together effectively,” Barret said.
This coworker is tricky to deal with as they are technically driving performance goals though potentially stifling innovation across the organizations.
“They create a culture where the organization is working against one another rather than all being on the same team pulling towards the collective goal,” she said.
This coworker is a similar to Sally in terms of clinging to silos and often a high-achiever, though characterized by their lack of consideration for their other colleagues’ time and workloads. They’re often looking to do their best work really quickly and are not afraid to email you every 20 minutes until they get a file or someone’s contact info they need to complete their own task.
“It’s constantly about what they need to achieve their goals without having the respect or understanding of what is a reasonable timeframe for you or where this fits in your priority list,” Barrett said.
When dealing with this coworker it’s important to convey what your own priorities are and to put guardrails around their expectations of you.
This coworker is committed to blindly following procedures and getting everyone to sign off on something before moving ahead, though sometimes to their own and others’ detriment. This mindset is more common among managers than coworkers, though coworkers can also fall into it.
“The bureaucrat is a pain in the ass,” Cooper said.
The best way to deal with a bureaucratic coworker is to not get bogged down by their own way of doing things and to just deliver the product.
“I think what you have to do when you’re dealing with a bureaucrat is find a way of getting it done that he doesn’t know you’ve done,” Cooper said.
That’s only true for bureaucratic co workers though. Bosses of the same mindset are harder to deal with and should be approached similarly to Can’t Do Chris, where you make a solution sound like their idea. More clearly explaining timeliness and negative consequences like losing a client if regular procedures are followed can sometimes appeal to the boss.