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Worst co-worker types

By Laura Morsch

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You've planned ahead, you're organized and you're right on track to finish your project by deadline. Then you realize Joe hasn't given you his data, and he's nowhere to be found.

Your phone rings -- someone is passing those salesmen along to you again!

When you finally refocus, Anna pops into your office -- twice -- to discuss her daughter's orchestra lessons. Enough! What does it take to get some work done around here?

Sometimes your coworkers' lousy habits can raise your blood pressure or leave you working weekends. In "Dealing With Difficult People" (Firefly Books), Robert Cava spotlights some of the biggest culprits and offers some suggestions to send them packing.

The Shirker

The Shirker is the office Houdini -- somehow he manages to disappear when work is near. Whether he habitually strolls in an hour late or abandons his desk without notice, you're stuck working double-time.

How to deal: Confront the Shirker. State the problem and your feelings or reaction to the problem, then invite a solution. For example: "Bill, you probably don't realize the double workload I have every time you're late. This makes our department look bad. What do you think you can do to stop this from happening in the future?"

The Buck-Passer

The Buck-Passer unloads her work onto everyone else's desks. She blames others for her mistakes, and refuses to do anything that's not in her narrowly defined job description.

How to deal: First, check your own job description to be sure the Buck-Passer's task isn't part of your assigned duties. If it's not, alert your boss to the situation and ask for advice.

Try this: "I have a problem and I need your help in solving it. Sally on switchboard is transferring calls to me whenever she isn't sure whom the caller should be talking to. Should I be fielding these calls, or should I suggest she put the calls through to someone else?"

The Procrastinator

The Procrastinator delays things until the last possible minute, slowing you down by not having the information you need to meet your deadlines.

How to deal: Remind the Procrastinator about deadlines a week ahead, a day ahead -- whatever it takes to get the work done on time. If this doesn't work, turn in the report on time -- with or without the Procrastinator's piece. Write, "Information not available from [Procrastinator's] department." This way, the Procrastinator will take the flak.

The Competitor

The competitor is an overachiever who won't let you forget it. She turns everything into a competition -- who can sell the most, who can work longer hours, and so on.

How to deal: Let the competitor know you're not interested in making everything into a win-or-lose event. For example, "Sue, it's not important to me who's the better typist, but I'm getting upset because you keep insisting I compete with you. Why do you feel you have to be the best in everything you do?"

The Critic

Your clothes, your husband, your choice of transportation -- nothing is exempt from the Critic's disapproval.

How to deal: Calmly acknowledge to the Critic there may be some truth to what he is saying. This lets you receive criticism comfortably without anxiety or becoming defensive, taking away from the power of manipulative criticism. For example, if the Critic scoffs that your pants never look right, smile and say, "I'm sure they could fit better." Then drop it.

The Interrupter

The Interrupter stops by your cubicle 10 times a day to chat about her latest boyfriend. Your ringing telephone and pressing deadlines don't deter her -- she keeps popping in and you keep losing your train of thought.

How to deal: If people just want to chat, suggest they catch you at lunchtime or coffee break. Set time limits for meetings and breaks and stick to them. Try to meet people in their offices, so you can leave and end the conversation when you want to.

The important thing to remember is to talk to your co-worker -- before you blow up at him or her. It's much easier to solve a problem early than to do damage control later. Also, remember your supervisor wants her department to look good -- and that means making sure you are able to do your job.

Laura Morsch is a writer for

© Copyright 2005. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority
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