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by Rob Porter | January 13, 2022


Whether you’re a student, a recent graduate who just entered the workforce, or a grizzled, forty-plus hour a week veteran, you’ve undoubtedly encountered a few of the more unsavory personality traits that colleagues and coworkers sometimes have to offer. Let’s take a closer look at some of these traits, along with some tips for dealing with them.

The Gossiper

We’ve all been guilty of this one at one point or another, whether as the purveyor or as the patron. It’s true that gossip can be difficult to avoid, but abstaining from it in the workplace is critical to your professional survival. Gossip is insidious and spreads like wildfire; it makes for bad feelings and can pit people against one another.

Often, you will find sporadic cliques in the workplace, along with their loyal (or not so loyal) followers. You can be sure that among these cliques lives a hive of gossip, typically directed at another clique or individual. If you’re the type of person who is friendly and approachable, it is almost inevitable that you will be faced with the choice of whether or not to engage in gossip, and I say to you: resist!

Picture a scenario where the target of gossip is someone who has a direct impact on your standing with your employer, and Human Resources gets wind of all the talk around the office. If your name comes up as a co-conspirator, it’s likely you will receive some form of disciplinary action, or worse, termination. Even the best-case scenario, one where you don’t lose your job, casts a negative light on you that will be difficult or impossible to escape. The best tactic here is to simply ignore gossip all together, and distance yourself from those who are engaging in it.

The Know-It-All

AKA the smartest person in the room, in their own head, of course. The know-it-all will always tell you the best way to complete a task, all the wrong ways you’re doing anything, and why you should be doing every single thing under the sun their way. “Why” you may ask; well, because they know everything, of course!

All kidding aside, the know-it-all can be not only infuriating, but extremely counterproductive. Imagine you’re in the middle of a project where you’ve got yourself a nice momentum going, and all of the sudden you hear “why are you doing it that way?” followed by a diatribe about how everything you’ve done thus far is wrong, and why you should have been doing it the know-it-all way. Worse yet, they directly interfere with your process while explaining their own, wasting valuable time.

The best way to handle this particular situation is to politely explain that while you appreciate the suggestions, you’ve got the project or task covered and that the next time you need help you’ll be sure to ask. It is also very important to be self-aware in these situations, and to practice discernment so you know the difference between the know-it-all and the helpful coworker.

The Negative Nancy

My apologies in advance to those reading this who are named Nancy – for I am not the creator of the above-mentioned euphemism, and therefore declare immunity. With that out of the way, let’s talk a bit about one of life’s greatest challenges: maintaining a positive outlook.

Work can sometimes be stressful, annoying, even soul crushing, and it is far too easy to fall into negative thought patterns, especially when you’ve got someone else helping you along. Negative colleagues and coworkers tend to complain about tasks, other coworkers, or management, or…anything, really, and can not only waste your time, but potentially drag you down with them.

Building the foundations of a positive perspective takes time and effort. The first step is to take pride in what you do, regardless of whether you’re working your dream job or not, and to not let the negativity of others get you down. When approached with negative comments or complaints, just be polite and explain that you can’t talk at the moment due to a task or deadline. It doesn’t even have to be true, this is simply a diversionary tactic designed to repel negative “vibes,” as they say.

The Busy Body

The busy body is a special breed that has mastered the art of stealthy time theft, and you may often find them in league with the gossiper. This character will find clever ways to spend their day chit-chatting, gathering information, and inserting themselves between those hard at work on the task at hand and the management team.

What does this mean for you? The best-case scenario is there is absolutely no change to your experience. The worst-case scenario is your well-deserved accolades are misattributed and you miss out on that sweet promotion. The battle plan? Get the busy body involved.

Including the busy body in a project is not only a way to get them to share in the accountability, but it also distracts them from their usual time-wasting tactics, and will even give them a sense of purpose. Just make sure you let the project lead know you’re enlisting the busy body to help…you know, just in case.

The key here is learning to use discernment. We don’t want to have prejudgments of people and can really only know what to expect from any given individual through experience. Just because someone lacks motivation or likes to waste time at work doesn’t make them a bad person, but it can make them hazardous to your employment. Treat the workplace like a workplace, keep your head up, smile, be polite, protect yourself and do your best to exude motivation and positivity – it will rub off on others.