6 Difficult Office Personalities and How to Deal With Them

You may consider yourself a patient and tolerant person. But, when you encounter difficult office personalities who annoy or frustrate you, it can be challenging and stressful. The key to communicating and working with difficult people is to focus on the thing you have 100 percent control over … your reaction to them. You have to change how you react to people before you can change how you interact with them.

It’s also important to consider how much interaction you have with the person. Is it worth ruffling feathers if you only see the person once a year? If working with them is not an essential part of your job and you could go weeks or months without seeing them again, no one would blame you for just putting up with their quirks.

However, these six difficult office personalities are everywhere … both inside and outside the office … so take whatever chance you have to practice these sanity-saving tips. If you do, you’ll be better prepared for the future.  (Like dealing with that … what is she, a teenager? … at the dry cleaners who just stares at you mutely every time you drop off your clothes, and can barely muster a grunt when you request a little more starch on your shirt … grrrrrrrrr!)

Here are 6 difficult office personalities and suggestions on dealing with them:


  1. The Bullies
  • Intimidating, arrogant, need to be right
  • Expect others to be as aggressive or consider them weak

Your strategy

— Stand up to them calmly, not defiantly

— Do not engage them in confrontation, because you won’t win

— Once you’ve earned their respect, you may become friends!


  1. The Whiners
  • Eager to find fault but reluctant to take responsibility
  • May appear weak, self-righteous, or morally superior

Your strategy

— Listen closely, in case they just need to vent

— Ask them to propose solutions

— Don’t condone their victim role, it will only reinforce it


  1. The Walking Dead
  • Despite body language to the contrary, insist nothing is wrong
  • Nonresponsive to questions or conversation starters

Your strategy

— Use open-ended questions that they can’t just nod to answer

— Ask a question, and then look at them silently for as long as it takes until they respond

— Tell them what you think may be going on and ask if your interpretation is correct


  1. The “Yes” People
  • Have great intentions but overcommit and can’t follow through
  • Avoid conflict at all costs, and will tell you what you want to hear to escape

Your strategy

— Show them that you care about them so they can stop trying so hard to please you

— Help them realize that being honest with you won’t risk your friendship

— Don’t let them take on more than you know they can handle


  1. The Doom-and-Gloomers

  • Assume everything and everyone will disappoint them, based on past experience
  • May be suspicious of authority and resentful and believe they are powerless

Your strategy

— Value them as the persons who foresee the obstacles

— Don’t argue with them, because they can’t be persuaded

— Steer them away from broad generalizations and demand specific examples


  1. The Know-Mores
  • Can be arrogant and condescending, always eager to prove they know more
  • Value logic and data over feelings and intuition

Your strategy

— Show that you respect their expertise and depend on them for advice

— Don’t try to compete with their knowledge of facts and trivia

— If you must dispute their claim, be sure you’ve done your research, and ask for clarification or information rather than assert your version of the truth


Dealing with the difficult people in your life takes careful consideration. Sometimes a heart-to-heart conversation is the right choice. But often, a more roundabout approach will get you what you need. And sometimes, if you can’t seem to get through to them no matter what you do (hey, it happens). When that’s the case, it might be time to let it just roll off your back and use a little humor.


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Brenda Sullivan

    Need to learn about how to address the money collection for department gifts.
    The same person always collects the money, purchases the gift, and gives the gift independent of the rest of the team.
    How can this be handled so everyone is present when the joint gift is given,
    has input on what the purchased gift will be and that there are 2 sets of eyes on all monies collected.

    This is a real touchy subject but needs to be addressed.

    1. Dan Rose

      First of all, thank you so much for reading our blog. We appreciate the support. As far as your problem, without knowing all the details, I would say the department, as a whole, needs to discuss the situation with the person involved. I don’t know her obviously, but she might be doing this thinking that she is doing the department a favor by taking on the responsibility. (NOTE: I’m assuming that your co=-worker is a woman. I don’t want to be sexist, but to keep this brief, I’ll just make my pronouns feminine … Lol!) Tell her that if she would like to keep being the point person, that is acceptable, but the department as a whole will decide on what gift(s) to buy, and that everyone must be there when the recipient gets the gift. Any leftover money will go into a department “party fund” that pays for snacks, plastic eating utensils, cups … whatever … for department parties. If your co-worker balks at that, politely inform her that when group gifts are given in the future, the rest of the department will be planning their own gift and that she is welcome to either give money for the gift, or give one on her own. However, she will not handle the department money or buy the gift. I would bring the situation up with your manager so he/she knows what is going on and might offer to help out with the problem co-worker. If that doesn’t work, seek out the advice of the HR department. Regardless, giving a group gift to the recipient when the group that paid for it is not present is NOT cool. That is bad office etiquette. Good luck with your problem and let us know how it turns out. And, thanks again for reading!

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