The workplace is one of the most complex social environments that comprises a vast diversity of personalities in pursuit of a seemingly common goal. It is the place where we spend a huge part of our waking hours. Over time, our colleagues become a major chunk of our social circle and can even play game-changing roles in our professional lives.

It is therefore important to pay careful attention to the key types of people we could encounter at work, and how we can deal with them to lend meaning and happiness in our career.

coworker#1 – the ‘naysayer’

No matter what the situation is, this person is an expert at being blind to every silver lining and has always something negative to focus on. They are adept at rebutting others’ ideas, reluctant to try new things, and quick to point out why something will not work. According to them, no client will like our organization, no manager is a true leader, no salary is good enough, no idea is worth trying, no recognition is adequate or genuine…the list is a never ending one.

Writing off this naysayer may be the easiest thing to do, but it will not help you enjoy your work. It is quite possible that they look at themselves as the pragmatic gatekeepers of the organization. See if their points of view merit any consideration. By doing so, you could subtly influence them to see your point of view and positivity – and this may turn them into critical thinkers who are part of the solution.

coworker#2 – the ‘gossiper’

Office grapevine is a reality and the ‘gossiper’ drives it. They are the eager one to pass on news, overtly or covertly.  They want to know everything that happens in their colleagues’ lives and gather information under the guise of being considerate. Confidentiality is certainly not their strong point – you can be sure that all information will make its way to welcome ears, with or without malice.

The best way is not to firmly and politely refrain from feeding into their curiosity. Your message must be clear – you do not wish to discuss the subject or give any opinion. Most importantly, beware of that co-worker who lulls you innocuously into the gossip funnel.

coworker#3 – the ambitious competitor

Every interaction with this co-worker must end with ‘who won?’ or ‘who is better?’. They may or not bully their way through, they may or not sabotage others or poach ideas - but their constant drive to seem the individual best without regard to teamwork can pull you down. Even though you are aware that healthy competition is good for your team and organization, this coworker takes it to unpalatable extremes.

Such competitiveness may most often be caused by deep insecurity. If you can demonstrate collaboration that tells them you want to work with and not against them, they may feel more secure. You may stand a good chance of succeeding, through logical discussions, in letting them know the negative impact of their behavior. At the same time, be smart enough to keep evidence of your competence and success.

coworker#4 – the bullying blamer

Like anywhere else in life, bullies are present in the workplace too. They are mean, look for opportunities to blame all others except themselves, and unnecessarily tattle. They hold highly negative views of their managers, organization, and colleagues. The nastier version of this type could also resort to backstabbing.

The most effective way to deal such people is to ignore them, and not engage with them. If you have to interact with them, hold your composure. If they get overly nasty, inform them that you will be constrained to report them for inappropriate behavior – and ensure you do if they do not heed your well-intentioned warning. The most important part of dealing with a bully is not to allow them to psychologically damage you.

coworker#5 – the slack ‘piggy backer’

They are lazy, avoid pulling their weight as team players, and increase their colleagues’ workload and frustration.

Refuse to take on the slackers’ responsibilities to compensate for their non-performance. You may put up your hand for other team or organizational initiatives, but do not consider the slacker’s responsibilities as one of them.

coworker#6 – the ‘cheerleader’

This is positive stereotype of coworker that you will also meet in your office. They are optimistic, have high energy levels, and thrive in seeing the good in others.

Reactions to them can vary from suspicion on the one extreme to total attraction on the other. A good way to handle the cheerleader is to start with appreciation for their good intentions and attempts to boost team morale. Embrace the positive aspect of their intentions and be the coach to widen their pragmatic horizon.

There could be other variants of the six types of coworker we have listed. Identifying and learning to work well with them is the key to establishing good working relationships for your professional success. Your work life is a vast canvas of relationship business, and cultivating authentic relationships with the right colleagues, while managing the challenging ones, is important. Make your inner circle truly count – with good friends, confidants, mentors – and even worthy competitors who can raise your skills and capabilities. Keep these methods in mind while searching for job opportunities.