Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How to deal with annoying coworkers | Downers and bulldozers

If you caught my tweets or Facebook last Friday, you'll know I spent a chunk of my morning at the Fox 40 Live studio in Sacramento doing a brief segment on dealing with annoying coworkers. I only had about two minutes. If you're keeping track, that's 7 minutes of local TV fame, eight more to go (I better start spreading these out more).

We profiled two imaginary people with traits that are often found together to help viewers visualize the tips and how they could be applied. This is in no way comprehensive, so I will be exploring other potentially annoying traits as well, and spreading these posts over the next few weeks.

I'm talking from experience here—I know I have been the annoying coworker at one time or another (ok, a lot of the time). I think the key is to recognize when these behaviors are appropriate and how to not let them interfere with your work relationships.

First up, the two imaginary profiles we talked about on air: the downer and the bulldozer.

The Downer
  • Chronic complainer
  • Negative about outcomes / pessimistic (not to be confused with realistic)
  • Raises doubts in others
  • Slacker
  • Not concerned with how they are perceived
  • Tends to bring up personal woes at work
Why someone might be a downer: Lack of confidence in self or work, tension or troubles in personal life, don't care about work (perhaps looking to move on),

How to deal with a downer: Compliment them on a job well done (find something, even if it's small). Remind them of past successes. Acknowledge their feelings genuinely and then gently turn the conversation back to the work at hand. Something like, "I'm sorry to hear about that. I hope things work out. Do you have a few minutes to discuss [project x]?"

What if you're the downer? Try something new in life, or pitch a new idea at work. Think back to the last success you had (yes, that thing you did this morning counts) and recapture that feeling. Connect with creative friends (coworkers included) off the clock. Find something that motivates you and keeping that close by as a reminder.

The Bulldozer
  • Dominates conversations
  • Self-promoter
  • Doesn’t take direction well
  • Resistant to other opinions
  • Not a team player
Why someone might be a bulldozer: They're trying to prove themselves, they are afraid no one will see their work if they don't trumpet it themselves, they want to control their projects.

How to deal with a bulldozer: Acknowledge their contributions. This may seem counter-intuitive (they're already trumpeting themselves enough), but if it's already been said, they'll look super-silly saying it again. If you're on the same team and the person is hogging projects that you want, express interest in a project or duty first (one-on-one with your supervisor) so it's not up for grabs later.

What if you're the bulldozer? Listen—I mean really listen. Try someone else's suggestion, and if theirs doesn't work, then pitch your idea as the fallback. Acknowledge the contributions of others (none of us can do this alone). Offer helpful suggestions for others to take or leave (and don't get butthurt if they leave it).

How do you deal with the downers and bulldozers in your life? What other coworker stereotypes would you like to see in this series?

And in case you were interested in seeing the clip, here you go! Pardon the throat-clearing...I had just downed my coffee and still had coffee-throat.


  1. do you deal with a co-worker that is BOTH of these types combined?! That's my life. :)

  2. The camera loves you! I do too! GREAT job, Ms. New Professional!

    I know I've been both the Downer and the Bull Dozer- I hope not at the same time.

  3. Great post - in my first professional position I've come to realize how important managing personalities is to succeess in the workplace.

    I hope this isn't common enough to be a type, but how about advice for coping with an unmotivated and chronically disorganized supervisor?

  4. NICE!!! Now we know who not to look for when we go looking for new hires!! =D Great job!

  5. i'm with @melissa! i got a guy who is so self-important (Chronic complainer & Not concerned with how they are perceived ) he doesn't listen to others' suggestions or care that he's part of a committee and doesn't get final say. worse yet, he publically yells at people he disagrees with!!

  6. @ erin - good idea! I think disorganization can be a detriment for any employee...I'll add it to the list!

    @ Unseen Heroes - Hopefully you can tell in the interview...sometimes these folks are closet annoying. :)

    @ Step - That's totally out of line. I've seen that happen in workplaces before, too, and unfortunately usually no one wants to confront the person, even those who are in a position to. I'll see what I can find or come up with on that one, too.

  7. @Step.....I have the same type of guy at my workplace with those same traits .....chronic complainer all day everyday!!! His way or the highway. Turns everything he's complaining about into a "society' thing and I have to remind him that what he's talking about is not a society's only his thing. I turn the volume of CNN up when he's complaining which means my volume is up all day...luckily no one else is close enough to be annoyed by the volume.

  8. @ anonymous - oh my, sounds like quite the character. I hate when people generalize/stereotype like that. Can you wear headphones at work?

  9. I commented on the over sharer post too! The coworker is an over sharer and a bulldozer big time! I dont get it!! She takes credit for everything and as i am learning she sets me up to fail; like not telling me all of the steps i need to preform to get the job done correctly and points out to my boss when i have questions, she also thinks she is ALL KNOWING, in other words i can be in my bosses office and she will hear my conversation and but in and put her two cents in!!! idk what to do with her


Like this? Leave a comment!
Comments with emails attached will receive emailed replies; otherwise replies will be added below the original comment.