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Office colleagues we love to hate

Last updated on: August 06, 2009 

Office colleagues we love to hate

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Preet Juneja

The Laid-back type, the Lame Excuse Maker, the Office Romeo, the Negativist, the Laggard and the Workplace Bully have inflicted almost every office with their behaviour.

Here, we take a look at the some of the most common offenders. 

The Procrastinators
They are the busiest of all. The shirkers and the perfectionists may also find a place here.

How to identify them

  • They'll always 'do it tomorrow', unfortunately, tomorrow never comes.
  • They'll accept any and all reasons for an office party just to shirk work.
  • Your 'Sent mail' folder will have a series of follow-up emails for a task that never gets done.
  • Project deadlines may as well not exist for these folk.

What makes them do everything tomorrow?

  • A casual attitude towards work.
  • Mood swings, bad health, stress.
  • Riding multiple boats at the same time , keeping their work plate full but not completing the tasks.
  • Anxiety from not knowing how to do their job.
  • Fear of loss of power (if they delegate).

Making a change

If this is you, get into 'just do it' mode.

Hone your skills or train the offender on the relevant job skills to enable him/her to complete the task on time.

Enjoy some sound sleep at home, revive your energies for the next day.

Identify your most productive office hours and do the tasks needing maximum concentration during that time. Don't let distractions get to you.

Keep some breathing space or a 'play hour' in your or your team's schedule.


Image: The Procrastinators
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh
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The Whiners

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They're always cribbing about work pressure, even during informal chats. It takes the greatest effort to manage these guys!

How to identify them

  • They love to make others feel insignificant by harping on about the tonnes of work they have.
  • You will often hear them mentioning how they need to stay at work beyond office timings.
  • The office agony aunts are busy empathising with them, lending them a shoulder to cry on.
  • They love to keep you waiting, even if it is for a casual get-together or lunch.
  • You'll mostly see them with the 'nose-down' workers, the humble bees who happily help them offload their work.
  • Despite their so-called work pressure, they always come late and leave on time.

Why do they whine about everything?

  • Wish to be boss's favourite and if they're the bosses, they need to appear busy.
  • They are smart players, intimidating you by saying 'no' to additional work.
  • They know how to make money, by saving their time for freelance work.

Making a change

  • If you know what they're up to, just ignore them or walk away. It might sound rude, but if the other person is smart enough, (s)he will get the message.
  • Connect them to like-minded people and make your escape.

Image: The Whiners

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The Office Bullies

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They're always stomping around, making their presence felt particularly in the presence of the shy or meek.

How to identify them

  • They usually speak loudly, and try to exert pressure on more submissive and sincere colleagues.
  • You'll be cross-questioned if you ask them for any explanations.
  • You'll spot them impressing the boss all the time and if the office bully is the boss himself, you'll see him gaining sympathy from his managers.
  • They won't hesitate to humiliate you in the presence of colleagues. In fact, they look for the opportunity.

What makes them bully colleagues?

  • Tough competition at work. They want to move ahead at any cost and feel threatened by sincere and high performers.
  • Hidden insecurities.
  • Overconfidence.

Making a change

  • Have a one-on-one talk with them and involve a senior or HR for counselling.
  • Keep conversations factual and to the point.
  • Outshine them through performance.

Image: The Office Bullies

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The Gatekeepers

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The information and knowledge withholders, they don't let even the required information out.

How to identify them

  • Your work will be criticised and they'll then show you the solution without explaining how it has been achieved.
  • They don't like to delegate, even if they do, it's usually without the authority to do so.
  • They love secrecy more than discretion.
  • They have an aggressive or authoritative tone and are not the polite or friendly sort.
  • They try to impress the boss, without involving the rest of the team.

What makes them withhold knowledge?

  • A fear of loss of power.
  • A lack of leadership skills; they just want to 'manage' people.
  • A wish to be the boss's favourite.
  • A lack of trust in others.

Making a change

  • Copy your boss on e-mail you send to the knowledge-withholder.
  • Outshine him/her by taking the initiative; win the team's trust by sharing your knowledge with its members.
  • Be clear about what information you need and why you need it before you approach them.
  • Speak to the person directly and approach the boss if it doesn't work.

Image: The Gatekeepers

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The Meeting Stretchers

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They love to extend meetings, using them as an opportunity to waste time.

How to identify them

  • They talk about irrelevant issues during the meeting.
  • They walk into the meeting still brushing up on their reading; they don't do their homework.
  • If they're the meeting facilitators or organisers, they often end up calling a new meeting as the next step.
  • Most of their time sheet comments say, 'Task not completed due to a meeting'.

What makes them extend meetings?

  • To avoid 'real' work and have a legitimate excuse for doing so.
  • Rigid office rules with no break time, leading people to use meetings as opportunities to gossip and relax.
  • A good escape route for the Lame Excuse Makers.
  • Not doing their homework before the meeting.
  • Not setting a clear agenda and objectives.

Making a change

  • Keep the handouts short and simple.
  • Learn some 'during the meeting' exercises, at least you'll end up burning a few calories.
  • Assign a time-keeper/facilitator for the meeting and stick to the agenda.
  • Come forward and inform/remind your colleagues of work that is waiting.
  • Ensure that all the attendees have done their homework.
  • Assign ownership for action steps following the meeting.
  • Increase accountability for work done.

Image: The Meeting Stretchers

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The Naysayers

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They love to say 'No' to everything, no matter how simple or important the task.

How to identify them

  • They'll always have a handy excuse when approached with a new task/ responsibility.
  • They are (usually) bad performers.
  • You can easily irritate them by giving them feedback on anything.
  • Your team or you feel demoralised when working with them.
  • They rarely take the initiative.

What makes them say no?

  • A casual attitude towards work.
  • Negative thinking.
  • They lack confidence/necessary training to do the job well.
  • A communication gap with management, fear of being wrongly judged.

Making a change

  • Appreciate them for their strengths and they'll look forward to taking up more responsibility.
  • One-on-one counselling and feedback along with resources and suggestions to improve.
  • Training.

Image: The Naysayers

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The Office Romeo (Juliet)

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They'll shower the object(s) of their affection with all their attention, be super-appreciative of their efforts and always be hanging around waiting to be called on for assistance.

How to identify them

  • They never miss an opportunity to compliment the object of their affection on their outfit, beauty or work.
  • They are very 'hands-on' and don't shy away from physical contact.
  • You'll find them seeking excuses to stay late and spend some alone time.
  • You might catch them hurriedly minimising their chat windows every time you visit their desk and messages from the same guy/girl keep popping up on their computer screen.

What makes them indulge in office romances?

  • They're looking for a fling.
  • To make the workplace interesting.
  • To forget their home/family problems.
  • To impress peers and advertise that they are eligible and desirable.

Making a change

  • Give them feedback/stern warnings for any offensive behavior, involve a senior/HR if things seem to be getting out of hand.
  • Regularly inform employees about the office code of conduct.
  • Change their job responsibilities and make these lovebirds less inter-dependent to maintain professional decorum.

Image: The Office Romeo (Juliet)

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The Social Butterflies

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They'll jam your Inbox with pictures of cute babies, inane jokes, chain mail and any other e-mail you can think of. It'll be difficult to find them not chatting on their cells phone or furiously typing out SMSes.

How to identify them

  • Your inbox is full of e-mail 'Forwards'.
  • You can hear talking loudly on their cell phone, fighting over dinner menus or evening meeting points.
  • They don't deliver work on time and their work tends to be riddled with errors.
  • You hear them laughing out loud and cracking jokes/ telling stories almost the entire day.

What makes them so over-sociable?

  • A casual attitude towards work.
  • Having too many responsibilities but unable to use time wisely, thus using office hours to organise their social lives.
  • Assuming that others MUST know what they know.
  • Trying to convince everyone that they are much wanted.

Making a change

  • Make them accountable for their work.
  • If it's your boss, involve him/her in adding value to the overall work; keep him/her busy.
  • If the constant phone calls and e-mails are a distraction, politely bring it to their notice.

Image: The Social Butterflies

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The Credit Stealers

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They love to snatch appreciation for the work you do.

How to identify them

  • They are the first to receive appreciation and suddenly you discover that it was for the idea you shared with them last evening.
  • You see them heading to the manager's cabin as soon as you share a good idea with them.
  • If you're a person who's full of good ideas, they'll be very friendly and also very inquisitive about your work.
  • They never seem to be under pressure but you'll spot them mingling and trying to gain information from colleagues; they are opportunists.

What makes them steal credit?

  • A love for shortcuts to success.
  • Wanting appreciation without the hard work in requires.
  • Feeding on ego boosts.

Making a change

  • If you're sharing your idea with a credit stealer, ensure you mark your colleagues/ boss on e-mail.
  • Remind them that hard work and fair play have their payoffs.
  • If you find them sharing your idea with others and taking the credit, confront and question them on the details, they're bound to get stuck somewhere and you will win the deal.
  • Bring up your ideas at team meetings rather than one-on-one with a credit stealer.

Image: The Credit Stealers

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The Busy Bees

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They love to work overtime, but you're not quite sure why.

How to identify them

  • You've just seen him/her reading an e-mail titled 'Innovative ideas of committing suicide' and his time sheet mentions it as 'self study' time.
  • They are mostly seen wasting their time during the day, yet glued to their desk once the day's done.
  • Immediately after office hours, you will find them chatting near the coffee machine, discussing how much work they still need to get done.
  • You'll often be their target if you're the one who leaves on time.
  • Their task list says 'accomplished' and yet all the work done is timed within office hours only.

What makes them stay late?

  • Having no personal life; the office is their only source of entertainment (the free internet and phone connection are a bonus).
  • Doing freelance work from the office.
  • Impression management.

Making a change

  • If you're a manager, review the time sheet records and discuss it with them.
  • Make a rule that staying beyond office hours requires permission.
  • In extreme cases, try staying late with them a couple of times and observe what they are working on.

Image: The Busy Bees

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