Difficult people in the workplace come in many different guises. What they have in common is that they get in your way, either unintentionally or deliberately. They obstruct you from achieving your corporate goals. Here are eleven different types that you may have come across in your career.
They insist on following the rules to the letter, even if it is explained to them that the situation is urgent and speed is essential. They are more concerned that they have done everything correctly, even if it means that the goal is missed. They are rigid and have no situational flexibility.
They are often hugely entertaining and highly popular, so may seem an unlikely obstacle. The problem is, they talk too much. At meetings they want their voice to be heard and to be the star of the show. Even if they do not have anything productive to add, they will have a lot to say about any topic. Any meeting they are in becomes a long performance, wasting your time.
They have an ‘Us, The Poorly Paid Workers vs ‘You, The Rich Fat Cat Management’ attitude. When you ask them to implement a strategy, they assess it against their benchmark of whether it benefits the workers. They may challenge you directly on this point or may quietly sabotage and delay changes that they do not approve of.
For this type of person, information is power, and they can never get enough of it. They will not make a decision until they have all the information, and having ALL the information is a never-ending excuse to not proceed. They would not accept that they are slow at making decisions, it is just that it is vital to them to just get one more piece of evidence, and then another, and so on.
This type is not indecisive, but is playing a power game. They deliberately suggest preparing yet another report on a project because they want to delay it from proceeding without it looking as if they are the one holding it up. They can maintain their innocent stance while achieving their obstructive objective.
When presented with any idea, they say ‘That’s not possible because ......’ or ‘That won’t work because ......’ and then stop. If a proposal has ten positive aspects and one negative one, they focus only on the negative one.
This type of person is happy to stand on the sidelines and watch the action, but if you approach them to help they are quick to reply ‘That’s not my job’. They won’t take responsibility for anything outside of their (very narrow) remit.
When asked for their input, they say ‘I haven’t got time to do that’ or ‘The team’s too busy’. They seem overwhelmed and incapable of thinking rationally, and are affronted that you should want to pile yet more on their to-do list. They hope that if they put you off, you will go away and leave them alone.
For some reason they have become demotivated and have decided to take silent strike action while remaining at their desk. They have not informed their manager of their grievances but are doing the minimum work they can get away with, or doing it as slowly as possible.
They are playing office politics. Their plan is to obstruct your progress and make you look bad in the eyes of your seniors. They will then produce some last minute miracle that makes them look the hero and receive lots of praise.
When you ask them to make a decision, they reply ‘Let me think about it and get back to you’. And that is the last you hear from them unless you chase them up, when they will probably fob you off with another delay. Ditherers’ indecision is motivated by differing factors, giving many sub-types of the ditherer. But all of them can severely slow down your progress.
In our next series of blog posts, we’ll look at how to handle each of these difficult people successfully so that they do not delay your progress in achieving your goals.