How to deal with office trouble-makers and you know all too well who they are

February 03, 1993|By Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES -- Does the Whiner make you want to flee for cover? Maybe you've thought of developing secret code words to trip up the Office Monitor. But it's the Incompetent who has you tearing out your hair.

In these days of layoffs, cutbacks and pressurized work environments, workers are taking a close look at their own workplaces.

Problem colleagues who were once ignored may now grate on nerves.

"Now that people are more or less stuck in a position they have, or are thankful to have, then you pay a lot more attention to fellow workers that are annoying to you because you can't just think, 'I'll get out,' " said Barry Glassner, professor and chairman of the Sociology Department at the University of Southern California. "That's not a realistic option for people any more."

There are ways to deal with co-workers without resorting to violence.

Judith Segal, a Los Angeles-based management training consultant, has identified some of the more offending co-workers, such as the one who takes credit for the work of others.

"Usually it's a co-worker in with the boss or friends of the boss," Ms. Segal said.

She suggested approaching the offender and saying "something must have happened and you must have been really busy and not noticed my and so-and-so's names are not on [a project]." Or ask the person how he or she plans to rectify the problem.

"If it's a pattern, it's usually a climber doing it," Ms. Segal said. nTC "You always have to watch that person."

You want to make it uncomfortable for the person so they don't do it again," she said.

There are ways to go to the boss when dealing with the take-credit colleague. For instance, schedule a meeting with the boss to discuss a project so he or she will know who is doing the work.

Another problem co-worker is the one who fails to pull his or her own weight, Ms. Segal said.

"The mistake we all make, we pick up the slack," she said. "My advice is, don't do it."

You have to be prepared to let a project blow up.

"I have people say, 'I've been covering them for years.' I say, 'are you getting a double paycheck?' " Ms. Segal said.

Or go to the boss and say, "We have this project ready, and so-and-so's part is not ready, can you help?"

A Whiner in the workplace can be an annoyance. This person is a constant complainer who will take an exorbitant amount of time to detail personal or work-related troubles.

So if you don't want to hear about their problems, don't ask Whiners how they are, Ms. Segal said.

"First of all, we have to stop trying to fix them, stop cheering them up," she said. "Allow them to be as miserable as you want."

If you get waylaid, say, "I'm listening to what you're saying, it's nothing I can do anything about, let's talk about something else" or "What you're saying is personal; I feel obliged to work right now."

Then there are co-workers who just don't know when to stop talking.

Say to the verbose colleague, "You know I have this thing I have to finish. I have five minutes. What should you and I spend five minutes talking about?" Ms. Segal suggested.

The Office Monitor can be deadly in an office environment.

"They think it's their job to be the office informer," Ms. Segal said. "Not only do they talk about you, they may be distorting [truth]."

Confrontation can make people uncomfortable, but you might be able to level with the offender by saying, "This is what I see you doing. What's going on? What do you get out of doing this," Ms. Segal said.

You might want to go to the boss and say, "I'm confused about such-and-such's role." Ask for role clarification.

You also can take advantage of the Office Monitor's reporting abilities to feed information you want the boss to hear, Ms. Segal said.

The Incompetent colleague can make you just plain crazy.

"They're not organized, don't have control with what's going on," Ms. Segal said.

The Incompetent might be easier to deal with in a team environment where there are expectations of performance among co-workers and opportunities for them to discuss how they are doing their job.

The boss plays a role in the survival of the Incompetent.

"If their boss is allowing them to do it, you're not going to have much success," Ms. Segal said.

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