How to Deal with Difficult Personalities


Reaching your goals has enough challenges as it is. The last thing you want is problems coming from within the organization. The grumpy finance analyst, the pushy admin assistant, the boorish account executive, all these problem employees only add to the difficulties your team has to hurdle. To keep difficult personalities from putting a damper on team spirit, you have to take control.

Don’t stress. You just have to know how to put them in their place. Here are some of the most common types of difficult personalities, and how to deal with them:

The Chronic Complainer

Complaining is normal in any workplace. But the chronic complainer never stops. To make matters worse, he complains to anyone and everyone in sight. His continual griping is not only distracting, it has a way of bringing down team morale.

How to deal with the complainer:

Tell him that you’re willing to listen to his complaints, but he has to tell them to you alone. Offer solutions to complaints that are valid. For those complaints that nothing can be done about, tell him that there’s no point in griping, and to just focus on his work. Tell him in no uncertain terms that you won’t tolerate anymore grousing from him.

The Egotist

This is the employee who thinks he knows everything. He resists direction, because he thinks his way is the only way. He sees no room for self-improvement because he thinks he’s perfect.

How to deal with the egoist:

Give him credit when it’s due, but don’t feed his ego. Make it clear that if he wants to be part of the team, he has to be a team player. It has to be drilled into him that there are no egos in a team.

The Gossiper

Talking about coworkers’ personal lives is one of the least productive activities in the office. But this happens all the time. The danger that a habitual gossiper poses is that he can affect the way team members regard each other, to the detriment of team spirit.

How to deal with the gossiper:

Set a good example. When someone tries to share gossip with you, tell him straight off that you don’t want to hear any of it. Challenge him. Ask him point-blank, “Instead of talking about these people behind their backs, why don’t you just confront them?” This usually stops the gossiper dead in his tracks.

The Non-Talker

There are employees who are laid-back and go about their work quietly. That’s fine, but when they don’t speak up during meetings, when they contribute nothing and carry a “fine, whatever” attitude, that can’t be good for the team. The non-talker is not a disruptive force – quite the opposite, actually – but he has to learn to share as any team member should. How to deal with the non-talker: The non-talker is timid by nature. Your task is to urge him to share his thoughts. Once he’s done so, before giving your reaction, sum up his statement with a phrase like, “So what you’re saying is…” Keep urging him to contribute during meetings, and try to build on his ideas. He needs your assurance that you care about what he has to say.

The Control Freak

Bossy by nature, excessively critical, and a nitpicker to boot, the control freak grates on his peers with his abrasive nature. He may recognize you as the manager, but when among his peers, he thinks he’s the boss-in-charge. This sort of behavior is a potent morale-killer for the team.

How to deal with the control freak:

It can be a real challenge to anyone. You need to give him a good talking to, and make it abundantly clear that his behavior is unacceptable. It would also help if you tell him that if he wants to be a respected leader, he has to carry himself with more humility.

The Negative Thinker

Also known as the pessimist, the negative thinker can never seem to find anything good to say about ideas shared and proposed plans. “That will never work” and “There’s no way client will approve that” are the statements you’ll hear from him day in and day out. Needless to say, this attitude has no place in the office.

How to deal with the pessimist:

Just like the control freak, the negative thinker needs a good talking to. You can’t afford to go gentle with someone who doesn’t go gentle with his comments. You can also lay down a challenge by asking him, “Do you have a better idea in mind?”

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