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A great co-worker is priceless – they make your work better, create a good work environment, and make you look good in front of the boss. A bad co-worker can make your life painful, make you dread work, and can derail your career.

But there are a bunch of types of bad co-workers.

Here’s my top 5:

1. Slacker – You’ve been assigned a project with Bob. You both should share 50% of work. But he is the slacker – he never does his part and then right before the big meeting/deadline – he comes to you and asks if you can help him. This is not Reality Bites – slackers are not cool.

2. Star – He/she is the golden child of the office and knows it. They make sure to take all the plum assignments, take credit for all the work you did together, and generally looks down on you.

3. Inviter – He/she wants to do everything with you. Want to go get a coffee? A movie this weekend? Lunch? Talk for an hour about the latest gossip? Nope…leave me alone. If we weren’t co-workers, I wouldn’t hang with you.

4. The Complainer – The spirit of life has been sucked out of them. Everything sucks and they want to tell you about it. Why the office used to be better 5 years ago? Why the boss is horrible? Why the work is meaningless? Nobody likes Debbie Downer.

5. Full of Smoke – This person looks good on paper. They seem nice, they seem to know people, they seem knowledgeable. But the confusing thing is they are “full of smoke”. It may take awhile to figure out but they actually don’t know what they are talking about. They give misinformation. Their supposed friends don’t even know them.

What did I miss? What are the other worst types of co-workers?

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Tags: 2, career, project management

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Comment by Margy Rhodes on June 14, 2010 at 11:14am
These are fabulous descriptions of coworkers we all, unfortunately, have had the pain of working with. People who do not work for the government think that these misfits are the only types of employees the government has. To counter this argument (which really irks me!!!) I've developed a training course for these types of workers and their management that turns all of these misfits into productive happy employees. It requires the employees to take a brutally hard look at themselves and to own responsibility for what they do (or don't do) and at the same time makes management aware of how they have contributed to the employee's behavior and how they can break the cycle.
Comment by Eileen Roark on May 30, 2010 at 7:17pm
Great topic! I had co-workers who would have sent Freud into therapy:

1. The Norman Bates: Mother has forbidden Norman to go TDY or perform shift work, even though it's a condition of employment. So while Norm was in the attic tending to Mother, the rest of us had to pick up the slack and inconvenience our own families by our constant travel.

2. The Ergonomist: Convinced that they are dying, these workers constantly harass HR to order them the latest in Ergonomic Wear. Their cubes look like a hospital with chairs, keyboards, footrests, and special lighting (for their Seasonal Affective Disorder). They get no work done because they are constantly perusing the GSA Catalog for more items.

3. The Wet Nurse: aka "Mother Hen," these female workers make Mother Bates look like Mother Teresa. They just can't help themselves from adopting their male co-workers and are always there to wipe faces and change diapers. They escort the males everywhere, even to the restroom, to make sure nothing untoward happens to them. Obviously, neither they nor their "charges" perform any substantial work.

4. The Nature Lover: He regales co-workers with tales of bravery from his Deer Hunts and brings in foul-smelling meat for everyone to sample. The "Birder" spends all day coordinating bird watching jaunts and bores everyone with the latest in environmental news (I saw a rare yellow-bellied pigeon!).

5. The Little Napoleons: Short in stature but highly dangerous, these male supervisors delight in sending their subordinates to winter in Russia. Their advancement depends solely on the number of bodies that pile up, while Napoleon of course, takes all the credit.
Comment by Peter G. Tuttle on May 27, 2010 at 10:15am
Hi Steve. My "favorite" undesirable co-worker is the liar or the one who is unethical. Generally, we as humans, can overlook or work through quite a bit, but it gets tough to do that when you can't base a working relationship on a foundation of trust.

BTW, the responses have been a hoot! Great thread.

Cheers.
Comment by GovLoop on May 27, 2010 at 9:20am
Ha...I like the Retired in Place.
Comment by Andy Nelson on May 27, 2010 at 8:53am
Technophobe: never learned to type, is scared of the computer, never learned - or has forgotten - how to use basic programs, and always interrupts you to ask questions or seek help instead of going to the contractor we pay large sums to provide assistance.
Techno-psycho: form of technophobe who frequently goes crazy - cussing, screaming, slamming keyboard around, and beating on desk and computer.
Comment by Andy Nelson on May 27, 2010 at 8:38am
Oh, and forgot the "RIP" - Retired In Place. Got their 13/14/15 and now shows up and sleeps, talks on phone, watches tv on their computers, comes in late and leaves early through the freight elevator, uses up all the travel funds to attend "meetings", disappears for hours . . .
Comment by Andy Nelson on May 27, 2010 at 8:22am
Not sure what to call them:
1. Those who do little to no work and complain and fight when they are given the smallest assignment or part of a project. They often complain to the colleague doing most of the work.
1.a. Those who do little or no work and spend all day on the phone speaking to family members. Any request for them to do their jobs is deflected or completely ignored.
2. Those who egregiously abuse their time and even do things like run a business out of their cubicle. These people often have the nerve to complain about other people's activities.
2.a. Those who do the above and brag about it!
3. Managers who know, and sometimes foster and participate, and refuse to do anything about 1 and 2. This includes managers who readily confess to other employees "I can't give them work because they won't do it," and makes excuses for said employees with whom they have an unusually "close" relationship.
4. Hijackers of and time-wasters in meeting and conference calls. Usually accomplished with off-topic subjects, side-conversations, and general idiotic comments/questions.
5. Team members who never offer solutions, only criticism. When asked to offer solutions, they either disappear or turn into #1 above.
6. Phantom busy. S/he always seem to be busy and claim s/he is swamped but no useful product or outcome is ever seen. This person usually is talking on the phone 8 hours a day.
7. Attempted usurper. This person makes contact with people in others' territories and tries to initiate projects in another person's work - often while neglecting his/her own.

I'd better stop here. This list could get quite long.
Comment by Caryn Wesner-Early on May 26, 2010 at 5:33pm
Miss Two-Face (there may be Mr.'s, but I've never encountered one):
Compliments you, asks for your opinion, makes you feel as if you're the most valued employee in the organization, then goes behind your back and talks you down to higher-ups. A variation on this is the boss who loves you so much that when you apply for another job, she talks you down to potential employers so you won't leave.
Comment by Dan on May 20, 2010 at 1:18pm
A great portfolio of organizational animals, no doubt! Thanks for letting me share. Here are my Top 3, the Unholy Troika, my "Legion of Doom" typologies:

The Martyr--someone who has created most of the problems over the years yet complains loudly with absolute certainty about a whole litany of grievances, and on and on...if only anyone will listen! And gosh forbid, when asked about it he/she couldn't possibly fix them all because he/she has been trying so hard for years and management messed it all up, and 20 years ago it was never like this, and let me tell you something....(get it?) Also tends to exaggerate how "plain speaking" and "bottom line" reasonable he/she is and gosh, don't you realize what a grand genious he/she is?!

The Sniper-Bully---takes over all communications and uses presumed authority to ignore team members, procedures, and other professional niceties to make them look useless or foolish. Then makes sudden announcements out of the blue about how and what things his/her decisions are without consulting team members, catching all by surprise ("Blam-o! Got you all!")

The Playground Snob--chooses a few "friends" and fawns over them constantly, even elevating them to saint-like status, in front of others to the point of being almost syncophantic about said relationships. Then slams everyone else for various infractions, flaws, weaknesses, subpar performance, etc.
Comment by David Dejewski on May 20, 2010 at 11:53am
These responses are fun! I'm enjoying the comments. I'll add a couple of my own in a sec.

A word about "the Devil's Advocate:" As painful as these people can be when they're picking on my project, I've adapted my management style to deliberately include them in discussions. They pick and poke and ask hard questions, but as long as they are thoughtful, I need them to keep me honest with myself. I prepare better when I know there will be a pain in my butt in the room. They also help to point out holes in my logic. I call them my "saw sharpeners" after a favorite Covey read; & I try to look on them kindly, find one to put on panels, include in meetings, etc when I can.

My contributions:

1. I'm not a fan of the ones that say "we can't do that." They are as correct as the ones who say "we can do that," but they tend to forget that their attitude is what makes things possible or impossible. I'd take one "how can we do that?" or a "we could do that if..." over 10 "we can't do that's" any day.

2. I'm also no fan of the smirker. You know this person... not in a position to say no, but communicating passive aggression like a skunk with it's tail raised. You just know that no matter what is said or agreed to, this person is going to go back to their office or cube and do everything they can do to undermine progress. No helpful suggestions, no objections, just a smirk. Then nothing.

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