Now that you're grown up, making your own money and wearing heels to work, you probably thought you'd left junior-high-style dramatics far behind. Think again. The office is one big cafeteria -- only instead of stresses such having the right jeans and getting into the cool history class, you're now faced with a whole new level of politics and a whole new breed of opponents in your quest to get to the weekend unscathed. To help you reach happy hour on Friday, we've identified a few of the more unbearable coworker types, along with a few tips on how to deal with each one.
Two-Faced Tina never heard the classic caution, "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all."
She usually has something to say, always of the behind-your-back variety. She confides in you that Kevin thinks Melissa isn't pulling her weight and that Todd might be out of a job, according to Janice. Don't get sucked in. Two-Faced Tina is your best friend -- to your face. You can be sure that when you aren't around, she's got just as much to say about you. When she approaches your desk for a gossip session, pick up the phone, smile and gesture that you're busy. After this happens a few times, she'll likely leave you alone. She wants someone's full attention for her slanderous secrets, so be sure never to give it to her. If you happen to get stuck in a slow-moving elevator with Two-Faced Tina, don't ever join in her tirades. Say something meaningless, such as "Interesting" or "I see," and quickly change the subject -- pick a safe topic she can harp about, like the rainy weather or gas prices.
Whatever new idea you come up with, it has a downside -- one that only Negative Nancy has thought of, and one that she is only too happy to bring up, likely in front of the boss.
Negative Nancy doesn't usually have many ideas of her own, so she downplays everyone else's in order to be part of the conversation. If you've pulled off the coup of the year, she'll happily pipe in that, while successful, "It could have been better." Don't bother arguing with her -- it will only drag you down to her storm-cloud level in the eyes of the higher-ups. Instead of giving her a chance to find flaws in your work, go on the offensive during your pitch and bring up possible problems, then balance them with solutions and the benefits of going forward regardless. By talking over cons along with your pros, you leave Negative Nancy with nothing to contribute. She just might have to come up with an idea of her own.
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Unlike Negative Nancy, Controlling Cathy can see the potential in your idea -- as long as she's the one in charge of seeing it through.
Getting a helping hand may seem like a great idea, but be careful. If you accept her help, you're likely to go from being in charge to having your ideas "taken into consideration" -- on your own project. Controlling Cathy can't help herself; she simply can't watch someone else do the work -- she must be involved. The danger in allowing her to get involved is two-fold. First, you risk seeing your project take a completely different turn than you originally intended; and second, through her machinations, you'll end up looking like someone who can't go it alone. The only way to reply to Controlling Cathy's "help" is with a firm "Thanks, but I'll take care of it." And, no matter how tempting, stay strong. Her help could end up hurting your project -- and your reputation.
She's a tricky one, because she's not out to sabotage you in any way. She's not a manipulator, a schemer or a ruthless ladder-climber. She just really likes you -- what could be the harm in that?
While it's good to have an ally in the office, be wary of getting too close. Best-Friend Betty wants to have lunch, go shopping after work and go cruising for guys on the weekend. If you enjoy her company, great. But know that an office friendship is not that different from an office romance -- there are bound to be complications. Maintaining a buffer zone between work and play can be crucial to your sanity, so if you do decide to be friends outside the office, proceed with caution. If you're spending all your time with Best Friend Betty and your situation changes (you get serious with your boyfriend, your college roommate moves to town), you can bet she'll be jealous. And you won't be able to avoid her accusing eyes and hurt half-smile -- she's only a cubicle away.
These are just a few of the workplace personality types you'll encounter on your trips from the photocopier to the water cooler. There are plenty of people you'll have to contend with during your struggles to make it in the working world. Just remember to consider how each person can benefit your life and how each can make it more difficult.
Be strong, keep your eye on the weekend and you'll do just fine.
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