How to Deal With Multiple Personalities in the Workplace

Multiple personalities makes the office go round.

Multiple personalities makes the office go round.

Control freak. Debbie downer. Know-it-all. Analyzer. You've encountered all of these personalities before your 9 a.m. latte, and now you're half convinced your co-workers spilled right out of Sybil's head and into the cubicles next to you. Every office environment is made up of multiple personalities, including maybe even your own, so take the time to understand the qualities (neurotic or otherwise) in your co-workers to ensure your success as part of the team.

The Know-It-All

Don't take it personally and don't argue back. There isn't anything more frustrating than working with someone who's done it all and done it better than you and generally saves the day a gazillion times. Bor-ing! Instead of fighting words, say something reassuringly noncommital in response, like "Whatever you think," and walk away.

Write down instructions to share with your entire team on a project or task. The know-it-all tends to talk over the top of others and constantly interrupts, turning an otherwise productive conversation into a one-sided commentary. Team members can walk away with the information in hand and follow up with questions outside the meeting if necessary.

Ask know-it-alls to prove it. They tend to speak in generalities because, you guessed it, they really don't know it all. So if they one-up your idea with their own or criticize your approach, ask them to offer proof as to why their idea is better.

The Thinker

Ask big-picture questions to keep the dialogue on track when working with analytic personalities. Thinkers don't all have to be the Big Bang Sheldon-extreme types, you know -- routine oriented, no social skills and zero empathy -- but chances are you have colleagues who thrive on the black and white and can easily get caught in the details.

Be on time and be prepared for meetings (um, this works for everybody) and have documentation when you promised. Thinkers need exactness and punctuality to get their jobs done.

Get right to the point with thinkers and give them the cold, hard facts. They are committed to accuracy and require all of the information that can help them make a decision.

Negative Nellies

Listen, but set limits. Sometimes Negative Nellies just want someone to listen to them. But don't let them become a time-suck and don't let their gut-spilling become a habit.

Walk away. A habitually negative co-worker can create a toxic work environment in a minute. When cornered by Negative Nellie, politely tell her you'd prefer to move on to more positive matters, then excuse yourself.

Determine if Negative Nellie has a legit problem, then suggest she speak to an HR manager or her supervisor. Don't play counselor at work, or eventually everyone's emotional baggage will start to get heavy.

Control Freaks

Fully engage Control Freaks when handing out responsibilities. Give them the freedom to create their own project tasks and explore alternative options when appropriate.

Ask for their help. By nature, Control Freaks are insecure people, and they just need a little pat on the back from time to time so they feel they add value.

Stand firm and don't back down. If a situation directly affects your performance, then by all means, tell the Control Freak to back off.

 

About the Author

Based in Wilmington, N.C., Melissa Warren has been writing professionally for more than 10 years. Her work has appeared in “Our State” magazine and other regional publications. Warren holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a certificate in professional writing from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington.

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