How to Turn Difficult Coworkers into Allies
Some people believe the workplace is like one big dysfunctional family. Certain employees or peers can really push our buttons. Rather than be reactive when one of your people is extremely disagreeable or uncooperative, see if you can find the “sweet spot”–that’s the spot where his needs and yours intersect.
Here are five types of people we typically meet at work whose personalities might irritate you, but who are nevertheless golden if we can reframe their approach.
1. The Rebel. Rebels have a special need to always shake things up because tried-and-true ways aren’t good enough for them. And they don’t hesitate sharing their ideas with anyone in authority who’ll listen to their innovative views. Unlike the Angry Ones, Rebels might come across as pleasant and positive, but deep down are always pushing for something new.
Sweet spot: Rebels are the change agents every company needs. No new idea would come forth without a Rebel to tout it. They don’t mean to be offensive, they just want to make sure that in the future the company is as good as it can be.
2. The Critic. This person is always pointing out what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed. She’s not good at giving positive feedback or kudos, and can take a lengthy report you’ve sweated over and find the one typo you miss.
Sweet spot: Critics are meticulous sticklers for quality control. You want them looking over any important data or information that goes out to clients, because they don’t miss anything! They can make you look good before you present that report by ensuring its accuracy.
3. The Angry One. People with the angry gene seem to yell about everything. They come into your office with a scowl on their face and start complaining about something that hasn’t been done, or wasn’t done correctly. Sweeping arm gestures and pointed fingers are often involved. Employees may refer to these folks as “scary,” and even avoid them when walking down the halls.
Sweet spot: You always know where you stand with angry individuals. They aren’t backstabbers or gossipers. They simply say what they think, and their opinions are not always popular. They typically don’t hold grudges or hard feelings. If you can stand up to them, or ask their opinion about something you’re angry about, they’ll often turn into a valuable ally.
4. The Talker. This person places an incredibly high value on “input.” He blabs endlessly about just every topic under the sun. And he can’t sit through a meeting without having something to say, which, not surprisingly, makes the meeting go past schedule.
Sweet spot: Talkers give voice to subject matter that no one else wants to touch, either out of fear or ignorance. They ask clarifying questions, can analyze information, and generally get ideas out on the table. They often add an upbeat optimism to their comments, too. They might share something that you wanted to say, but didn’t. Information is power!
5. The Stick-in-the-Mud. These people tend to resist change. Ever cautious, they’ll point out what hasn’t been thought through and what needs to be addressed, before they take steps to put new ideas into place. To onlookers, they seem to move at a snail’s pace—even when they have decided to embrace change.
Sweet spot: These are the people who can clearly see the many, many steps that need to be taken to implement a new idea. Often they’re not actually resistant to change or inflexible. They just want to be able to understand what’s necessary to get a project done. They are the planners and the process people you can call on to ensure all bases are covered.
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