The Constant Complainer, “The Weeper” And “The Sneak”: Dealing With Workplace Personalities

September 17, 2012  |  

It’s about 11am ET on Monday and the office whiner is already at it. Am I right?

Many offices have that person who is simply never happy. There’s always something to complain about. Unfortunately, that whining can have a negative effect on you and your other happier co-workers. The Wall Street Journal cites studies showing that productivity drops and absenteeism rises when complaining in the office runs rampant. The story also includes anecdotes from people who say their efforts to combat the complaining backfired, making them the subject of even more colleague complaints.

Of course, “the workplace whiner” isn’t the only person you have to deal with in an office, a virtual petri dish of personality types. The Atlantic provides a helpful list, like “The Mopey Coworker” who’s always worried; “The Person Who’s Never Had a Bad Day In His Life”; “The Fortress” who never speaks; and “The Sneak” who you sense is looking over your shoulder to dig up dirt. It’s actually an LOL kind of list with lots of truth in it . There’s also a “Coffee Buddy,” “The Cubicle Decorator” and “The Cubicle Lothario” who’s dating everyone and, by extension, adding a little naughty drama to the day. We’d like to add:

‘The Weeper” — This person can be found every now and again crying in the ladies room. (I can only speak for the ladies on this one since I don’t spend any time in the men’s room.) You can hear her quiet sobs in the stall, unless she decides to let it all hang out and just cry over the sink. You asked if everything was all right the first time it happened. A break up or a sick pet may have prompted that initial breakdown. But now, it’s just awkward. You will go to the bathroom on another floor if you hear her before you open the door.

“The Stinky Lunch Eater” — You always know when it’s lunchtime because this person has got a dish full of onions, a steaming plate of fish or a Tupperware full of something that has an unrecognizable look and smell. And it always needs to spend a minute or two in the microwave to reach maximum odoriferous effect.

“The Person Who Thinks This is Their Momma’s House and Leaves Crumbs All Over the Kitchen For Someone Else To Clean Up” —  Put up as many signs as you want begging people to wipe down the counter. This person isn’t cleaning jack.

To deal with the aforementioned whiner, the WSJ suggests asking the person what they want to do about that thing they’re whining about. Some people might take offense; after all, you’re basically telling them that you don’t want to hear they’re annoying complaints anymore. But in other cases, you can come up with solutions that benefit the worker and the company. Some people complain because they’re bad communicators. Extracting the real issue — the work-related thing that you can actually do something about — is the ideal situation. When people see that their needs are being met, their attitude changes and everyone benefits. Even if you’re not the boss, working with colleagues to come up with something that you can present to a manager is a positive way to resolve the situation. And you develop a reputation around the office for being able to work with, and even lead, staffers.

In other instances, you just try your best to manage the different personalities and befriend the people who offer a good laugh and a little camaraderie.

Do you have any other suggestions for dealing with a difficult coworker? Any other personality types you’d like to add to these exhaustive lists?

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