Five career-wrecking personalities

There are certain personality types we encounter in the office that can really mess us up.

I call these career-wreckers. They don’t always intend to be destructive, and they’re not necessarily bad people, just individuals with certain quirks and characteristics that can affect our careers – or mental wellbeing. Most of the time their self-sabotaging only hurts themselves, but you’d still be wise to look out for these personality types, and to stay well out of their way in the office.

Below are the five I’ve most commonly encountered. It’s just a start. Suggest more career-wrecking personality types in the comments field below.

1. The productivity buster

This type’s not all that bad, you think. They’re actually a bit of fun: they’re good craic, always up for a chat, a trip to the coffee shop, a sneaky wine or three at lunch, a habit of work-related instant messaging that quickly turns Skype into the virtual equivalent of a Saturday night at the pub. Beginning to see a pattern here? These colleagues make excellent friends but they’ll leave your to-do list untouched and you feeling more anxious and stressed outside the office when you realize you’ve put in all that desk time only to achieve zilch.

Deal with them

Take your friendship out of the office. Ask them out on the weekend. Get together for a Friday night drink and while you’re there, explain your ambitions for work. If they’re any kind of friend at all they’ll get the message, support you on it, and leave you alone during the work day.

2. The ‘archie’: Your competition

This is your main competition in the office — your arch-rival. But the problem’s not them, it’s your perception of them that can hurt your career.

A bit of competition works wonders for a career and you may find that in the years and decades to come you retain a long-lasting, respectful and mutually beneficial relationship with your archie.

But some of us treat our archies like individuals to fear and stay well away from: our suspicions lead us to act out our worst personality traits, leading us to self-sabotaging behaviour that may be more easily visible to others than we can see in ourselves.

Deal with them

Yes, your archie may compete with you for the same roles, but they’re not a threat. He or she with the most merit will technically land the next promotion and your best bet is to stay in this archie’s good books. You never know, they could become your next manager, or perhaps end up in your own team. Mutual respect is wise here. Note their talents, seek their advice on an issue or two and offer your help on one of their projects. You need this person and they need you.

3. The confidence killer

This is the individual who constantly has you second guessing yourself. It may be out and overt criticism or subtle reminders that you’re no good. Either way, this person’s no good for you. Unfortunately, you can’t always choose your manager, nor your peers, so you’ve got to find strategies for dealing with these types, rather than just letting them slowly erode at everything you’ve personally built up.

Deal with them

In many cases, it’s not impossible to approach the confidence killer, to declare that while you appreciate their feedback, you’d prefer to receive it in a more scheduled and one-on-one way. Suggest a weekly coffee-catch-up, where you can take the feedback on board away from any staff you personally manage. This strategy allows you to contain the criticism to just one or so periods a week, and to prepare for it. If the criticism is bordering on bullying, you may need to take the problem higher up – and always keep that in the back of your mind as a next-step strategy. It’s often the confidence killér’s own personal issues that are the problem, not yours.

4. The gossip initiator

These people know everything, or at least they think they do. They know so much that they’ve forgotten to draw the line between personal and professional, appropriate and inappropriate, reality and fiction.

The gossip initiator is a career-wrecking trap waiting to happen. Your association with them will either see your superiors group you in the ‘just as bad’ category, or potentially have you falling victim to one of their many, many mixed-up rumours.

Deal with them

If an individual loves personal gossip, they’ll appreciate business gossip too. So if you must work with this person, get them engaged and talking about something else. Talk the latest headlines, rather than the latest office relationship. Engage them in politics and big town dealmaking. It’s much more fun.

Alternatively, when they go to gossip simply show you’re uninterested. They’ll get the message and soon move on.

5. The negativity nurturer

The negativity nurturer feeds off office positivity. They’re looking to sap the smile right off your face, and destroy any sense of optimism you may feel walking into the office on a daily basis. They need everyone to know how pissed off they are at the boss, their workload, their laptop, their iPhone, their pencil sharpener, how nobody’s putting in the hours they put in. They need to lure you into their pool of negativity in order to see it spill over on other colleagues.

Their behaviour is addictive: you hate how you’re being treated? Well I do too! It doesn’t matter that the negativity nurturer has worked at all five of your competitors and never been happy. They’ll always think the grass is greener over some kind of fence.

Deal with them

Avoid feeding the negative nurturer, but don’t allow that to prevent you from offering up a simple “are you ok?” and checking in on this colleague every once in a while. As for you, be aware of when the conversation turns to negativity and make a deliberate attempt to either counter it, or at least to recognize that the personality type carries the negativity trait, and that their mutterings don’t need to rub off on you.

Meredith is a contributing writer to Women’s Agenda. She is is not a consultant, or a management guru. She’s not even a published author. Just someone who’s made plenty of mistakes, and learnt a few lessons along the way. Women’s Agenda is Private Media’s new site for professional women. To check out the site and sign up for the FREE daily newsletter, click here.


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