Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to deal with annoying coworkers | Latebirds, oddballs, and [you fill in the blank]

Sometimes annoying traits are something you can point out to a person to help them out (say, your best friend or kid brother). Other times, you just gotta work around it. While the traits I've covered the past several weeks can be grating, they're generally harmless, and are part of what makes our workplaces diverse and interesting. If everyone were just nice and well-behaved and well-groomed, it'd be a little creepy (Stepford Wives, anyone?). Check out parts one, two, and three of this series.

  • Late (duh)
  • Doesn't follow deadlines
  • Full of excuses
  • Shifts blame
  • Busy body
Why someone might be a latebird: Latebirds fall into two categories: those that are apathetic and those that are well-intentioned but just can't keep to a clock. The apathetic latebird will habitually shift blame, for example, "I didn't get to project X because I was working on project Y" (even though you know there was time for both). They often just "haven't gotten around to it" and feign busy-ness rather well. The well-intentioned latebird often actually has a large load of work on their plate, and once they get to the project at hand, can usually knock it out of the ballpark.

How to deal with a latebird: A key point in working with latebirds is keeping expectations and communication clear. One strategy is also to ask the individual how long each task will take before setting the deadline, to make sure you're on the same page. Sure, they'll probably pad it a little, but if it fits into your time frame as well, then you may be in luck when it's actually done. It's also a good idea to follow up with latebirds as deadlines approach, but be careful not to micromanage. Open communication throughout a project helps, too.

What if you are a latebird? Be honest with expectations and timelines when starting a project. Don't procrastinate...tackle a little at a time if possible. Don't make frivolous excuses, and be honest about your workload. As for punctuality, if the office start time just isn't working out, try talking to your supervisor about adjusted hours...if the flexibility isn't there, it's still your responsibility to be present, so do what you have to (12 alarms, 3 double espressos, etc.). A little extra productivity won't kill you.

  • Overly obsessed with something...anything
  • Rambles on about their obsession of choice to anyone
  • Has trouble concentrating on something other than their obsession
  • A little quirky
Why someone might be an oddball: They really like their hobbies. Like, really really like. Perhaps they've taken up an interest as a way to meet people or to set themselves apart, and it's just spiraled into an all-consuming passion. There's really nothing wrong with being an oddball.

How to deal with an oddball: Oddballs, in my opinion, are rather endearing. If it's not interfering with work, listen to them as long as you can stand, or try to engage them in your hobbies. They're usually pretty interested in anything of the hobby sort, since it shows that you're passionate about something, too (even if it's not the same thing they're into).

What if you are an oddball? Be aware of when folks get shifty-eyed and ready to leave your cube. If people are interested, they'll ask questions. Don't be afraid to show your hobbies, just be sensitive to others work schedules and interest levels...if it's interfering with productivity at all, you should avoid it.

Now I want to know... 

Which type of coworker annoys you most and how do you deal with it?  Do you have any tried-and-true advice for dealing with difficult people?

Feel free to use any of the personalities I've profiled or another type I haven't covered. I'll pull together your responses in a round-up post next week!


  1. I have two least favorite types of co-workers then hurry up and wait priorityless guy and the that's not what we agreed upon guy. I hate working very hard and trying to create a feasible schedule for projects only to find out that something isn't important any more for a no reason. That project isn't being asked about OR something that another person fancies is suddenly more important. I understand when project priorities get shifted but the person who can't wrap their head around setting a list of priorities and sticking with it unless there's a real need to switch is infuriating. The second one who can never remember what you have agreed to work on is just as bad. I have taken time to set out in email the very specific outlines of projects or goal dates and approval times and then they sign off on the email. Then, they still either can't get me the information or contradict me about what they wanted. It's hard for me to think of a good way to handle this person so if you have any insight, please pass it along!

  2. I think its so funny how on each of the descriptions you added "What if you are..."
    I can say I am not the latebird. CHECK. Or the oddball. CHECK.
    BUT IF I had to be any of these I'd be the oddball.
    There is one type of co worker that totally distracts me, it's the one that BLOWS UP anything small and not so meaningful and makes it your nightmare. Distracts everyone from what they are doing and makes them focus on THAT they are trying to solve. I don't even know what to call it, it just does not make sense.

  3. I am NO morning person and I am trying to do the best I can to get to work on time! I don't know what it is, ever since I was a kid it was just tough for me to get out of bed! I love how you profile these various work personalities!

  4. I detest those that commit to taking on a task, and then totally drop the ball. Then look at me like I have three heads when asked where the expected outcome is??!?!?

  5. haha, great post! i have had my fair share of oddballs at my workplace. they're not so bad once you realize they're just a little different. they make work more interesting! :)

    cute & little
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  6. My biggest problem is with colleagues who want to socialize. I absolutely cannot get work done at the office because of this. I may need to cover the glass in my office door.

  7. These are great, ladies. Keep them coming!


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