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10 Kinds of Annoying Co-Workers and How to Deal With Them

Peter A. Gudmundsson

Work is stressful enough without the daily encounter of personalities who seem placed at your organization specifically to drive you crazy. These people vary from simply amusing to the truly maddening.

Most can be dismissed with a smile and an eye-roll, but others can drive the heartiest of employees into intensive therapy. Identify the archetypes of these annoying colleagues and learn how to deal with them to alleviate workplace tension.

Ten kinds of annoying co-workers you have to deal with in the office are:

-- Conspiracy theorist.

-- Activist agitator.

-- Tech fad follower.

-- Suck-up.

-- Martyr.

-- Party planner.

-- Kitchen slob.

-- Health nut.

-- Over-sharer.

-- Know-it-all.

The Conspiracy Theorist

The conspiracy theorist is convinced that every office tour of a stranger, closed-door meeting in the executive wing or even strange car in the parking lot means that "something big is going down." It might be a merger, acquisition or joint venture, but inevitably it involves having it "on good authority" that everyone is getting fired and some version of the world coming to an end is afoot.

The best way to deal with the conspiracy theorist is to keep him or her occupied with tales of your own germination. "Oh, I don't think it's just a merger, I think all of our jobs are moving to China and they are expecting us to move by Tuesday." These suggestions will keep the conspiracist so busy that you will be left alone.

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The Activist Agitator

The activist agitator seeks recruits for his or her favorite political causes among the staff. It doesn't matter where on the political spectrum this individual might reside. If there is a rally, flash mob or protest to be populated, the activist is sending emails and invitations to boost the numbers.

Usually, a firm "I prefer to keep my politics personal and away from work" will do the trick. Otherwise, for fun, you can outdo the activist by claiming participation in a higher status activity at the same time.

The Tech Fad Follower

You are excited about your new iPhone only to be told that the Android counterpart is vastly superior for 19 different reasons. The tech fad follower keeps up on the latest gadgets and apps and makes everyone else feel like an inadequate Luddite.

The best way to fend off this annoyance is to search for one or two simple counterarguments from an article that is critical of that tech fad follower's favorite item du jour. Search phrases like "What is wrong with the XYZ device?" and somebody somewhere is bound to have recorded an informed opinion that will distract your colleague to the point that he leaves you alone.

The Suck-Up

Every group of small or large size contains that one individual who sees blatant sucking up as the key tool in his arsenal of advancement. Quick to volunteer a compliment for the boss and to ask for extra work, the suck-up will metaphorically if not physically always be the first with a hand in the air.

It surprises many rank-and-file workers to learn that most supervisors are aware of who the suck-ups are and what game they are playing. A well-placed humorous quip can usually be the shot across the bow that the suck-up needs to tone it down a notch or two.

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The Martyr

The Martyr is skilled at winning the game of misery poker. "Oh, you have a report to finish? I have three reports and about 300 emails to get to before lunch. I am so stressed." Sometimes, this individual lives at such a low emotional cadence that one immediately recalls Winnie the Pooh's depressed donkey friend, Eeyore.

One way to deal with the martyr is through vigorous agreement. You might say "That is a lot of work. You should probably get back to it rather than spend too much time speaking with me." Another is the simple surrender flag of "Wow, you do have it so much harder than the rest of us. Thank you for your hard work." These lines are best delivered with a straight face.

The Party Planner

"Hey guys, who is up for lunch out, happy hour or even brunch on Sunday?" The party planner is the social enabler of the group. He or she cannot resist creating and taking charge of every opportunity to socialize.

A simple polite regret, repeatedly given, will eventually send the signal that you have little interest in your office's social banter. Another plan is to direct the party planner's attention to a far-in-the-future event, like the holiday party ... for next year.

The Kitchen Slob

Every office with a shared break room has one or more kitchen slobs who seem to be conducting mold-nurturing experiments in the common refrigerator. These hoarders would preserve full takeout food cartons from the Victorian Era if they were able.

Lobbying the office manager to issue a "clean-out Friday" rule is one way to keep this nastiness under control. Any food left in the fridge by the close of business on Friday is unceremoniously thrown out.

The Health Nut

We all know that eating right and exercising are key components of healthy lifestyles and efficient working. There is often that one individual who has opinions on everyone else's diets and is quick to shame everyone for their lack of interest in marathon running or pre-dawn fitness boot camp torture. Hearing "You're not going to eat that whole muffin, are you?" is no way to enjoy that special breakfast snack.

Engage the health nut with banter about his or her times and weights and then gently suggest that those aren't bad for a beginner. This will often shame the perpetrator into welcome silence.

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The Personal Over-Sharer

Most teams have that one member who lacks an appropriate verbal filter. Every detail from a date, relationship evolution or shopping trip is to be shared and rehashed ad nauseam. The personal over-sharer might also be called the time-waster because minutes can turn to hours with the regaling of personal stories short and long.

Handling the personal over-sharer comes down to validating the sentiment but shutting down the topic. "I would love to hear more, but unfortunately I have to get back to work."

The Know-It-All

Every group has a know-it-all. Sometimes this person also exhibits characteristics of the suck-up. When ignoring the comments fails to stop the behavior, the last recourse is to call the person's bluff with alternative facts that call into question the know-it-all's omniscience. It may only buy a few days of improved behavior, but the respite can be worth the intervention.

As the cliched expression goes, life is too short to suffer these annoying co-workers. Learning to use humor and wit to discourage and deter annoying behaviors when ignoring them does not work is a lifetime career skill. And, if you don't identify any of these people in your workplace, consider that you are either not paying attention closely or that perhaps one of the personality types described above is you.

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