OfficeTeam Offers Tips for Dealing with Unprofessional Colleagues

MENLO PARK, CA -- In many office environments, employees have less than collegial relationships, a new survey shows.  Twenty-nine percent of respondents recently surveyed said they work with someone who is rude or unprofessional on the job.  Of those, 68 percent felt coworkers frequently behave badly -- and not just to the people who report to them.  More than half (59 percent ) of all workers surveyed said their boorish colleagues are equal-opportunity offenders, upsetting subordinates, peers and superiors alike. 

The survey was developed by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of highly skilled administrative professionals.  The interviews were conducted by an independent research firm and include responses from 532 full- or part-time workers 18 years of age or older and employed in office environments.  Full survey results are available at

“Most employees will encounter an unpleasant colleague at some point, and how they interact with these coworkers can affect their careers,” said Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam.  “Tactfully handling challenging personalities requires strong interpersonal skills and diplomacy, which can help someone stand out for all the right reasons.”

Unfortunately, many professionals may have to put their interpersonal skills to work, since not all supervisors can be relied upon to prevent employees from clashing.  Almost one-quarter (23 percent ) of respondents felt their managers weren’t effective at dealing with unprofessional coworkers.  

Coping with Unpleasant Colleagues

Although nobody likes working with someone who is inconsiderate or unkind, the survey suggests those who have been in the workforce the longest may have built up immunity to bad behavior.  Among respondents, 35 percent of those age 65 or older said inconsiderate coworkers should be tolerated as long as they are good at their jobs. 

“Those who have spent a lot of time on the job may be more effective at negating problem behaviors,” said Domeyer.  “The fact is, while you cannot always control others’ behavior, you can control your own reactions to it.”

The following are the most common types of difficult coworkers, and OfficeTeam’s tips for coping with them:

The Belittler – Belittlers routinely tear others down in order to build themselves up.  Put-downs, demeaning remarks and disparaging comments are common trademarks of this person.

Coping strategy: Your confidence is the Belittler’s weakness, and he or she will back off if you stand up for yourself.  Try refuting a Belittler’s criticism by asserting yourself, using facts where possible.  For example, if he or she puts down one of your ideas, say, “It’s something that’s worked for X, Y and Z, and it’s also more cost effective than what we’re doing now.”   

The Credit Thief – Insecure about their status, Credit Thieves boldly steal your ideas and grab the glory when a project is successful.  Curiously, they’re nowhere to be found when things go wrong.

Coping strategy: Keep a written record of your activities and accomplishments.  Give your manager regular status reports about the projects you’re working on, and don’t hesitate to correct misperceptions (for example, “Actually, I did the research; John helped input the data.”).

The Saboteur – Saboteurs have a knack for leaving colleagues in the lurch.  Similar to the Belittler, they like to make others look bad.  Their tactics aren’t always overt, so you may not realize you’re working with a Saboteur until a critical deadline arrives.  Then, you find you’re unable to complete your part of the project because the Saboteur has withheld important information.

Coping strategy: Be sure your supervisor or project manager knows the roles and responsibilities of each team member, and insist on regular progress reports so that Saboteurs can’t take advantage of lapses in oversight.

The Rumormonger – Rumormongers like drama and often spread half-truths or lies by talking behind others’ backs.  This is an especially dangerous type of coworker because he or she has the ability to tarnish your reputation.  

Coping strategy: The best defense is to avoid engaging in any kind of gossip --remember that anything you say can be held against you.  If the Rumormonger starts swapping stories with you, say only good things about your colleagues and excuse yourself as quickly as possible.

The Slacker – This person may try to pass off tasks to other staff members.  The Slacker often claims he or she is “too busy” to help out yet will make time for water cooler chats and web surfing during office hours.

Coping strategy: Be sure this person carries his or her weight on project teams by documenting the responsibilities of each member of the group and asking for regular status reports.  Hold everyone accountable for their portion of the project, and be firm with deadlines.  

Coworker Woes Statistics

OfficeTeam, the world’s leading staffing service specializing in the placement of highly skilled administrative professionals, has more than 300 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at

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