How to Deal With Difficult Coworkers


In the workplace, difficult co-workers can make our lives miserable. Interactions with difficult people leave you feeling angry, resentful, or frustrated. Sometimes the best way to overcome these feelings is to take a step back and understand the root causes that drive difficult people to be troublesome.

Difficult people may need to place blame, manipulate those who they fear, draw attention to themselves, or break down communication with those they feel are more skillful and more powerful. They might want to intimidate others so they can get their own way, or they may simply need a handy excuse to promote their own agenda. Difficult people can also be hiding their own poor performance. Whether or not the difficult person’s actions are reasonable, this person behaves in such a way as to illicit a negative response from you because you have become the unwitting sounding board. Who are these difficult people? Here’s a brief synopsis of the ten most difficult people and how to react when you meet them.

The Tank. Is the person in front of you angry, confrontational, pushy, and aggressive? If so you are dealing with a personality I like to call the Tank. A good way to handle the Tank is to not lose your cool but also do not sit passively and withdraw. If you appear to withdraw the Tank will continue to roll on.

The Sniper. Are you working with someone who makes rude comments and is sarcastic? That’s the Sniper. Snipers are sneaky and might take cheap potshots. If you know who the Sniper is maintain your composure with the Sniper by not lashing out or overreacting to the sniping. Consider a direct approach with the Sniper. Don’t know who the Sniper is? Protect yourself by doing great work.

The Know-it-all. The Know-it-all is competent, highly assertive, and usually outspoken. Don’t let this person intimidate you and you’ll probably earn their respect.  The Think-he-knows-it-all pretends to know everything and wants attention. This person is an egotist and will insist they are an “expert.” Try not to embarrass this person because usually they don’t have the specifics.

The Grenade. Another personality similar to the Tank is the Grenade. As the name suggests, this person rants, raves, and blows up with little provocation. Save your reputation as a credible member of the organization and try not join this person in blowing up.

The Yes Person. The next of the ten difficult people is the Yes person. Can it be possible for a Yes person to make the difficult list? YES! These people want to please everyone and completely avoid confrontation. These people are super agreeable, have a strong need to be liked and tend to over-commit. You’ll have to work hard not to lose your patience or get angry with this person.

The No Person. Can you also handle the No person? This guy extinguishes hope in others and can serve to de-motivate an entire team. The No personality tends to see everything negatively and is masking feelings of victimization. Your best response is to not explode at this person.

The Maybe Person. The difficult middle ground person is the Maybe person. This person is a procrastinator and will not make a decision. To deal with this personality you’ll have to be patient while affirming for the person its ok to make a decision.

The Nothing Person. Another type is the Nothing person (not to be confused with a person who knows nothing). This person is somewhat unresponsive and will not easily give feedback. This person probably can make a statement but it’s best not to rush them into doing so.

The Whiner. The last of the least wanted is the Whiner. Beneath the whining this person feels helpless or even overwhelmed and although you may be sympathetic to how they feel, don’t get caught up in trying to solve their problems. They may not want you to anyway.

It’s true that meeting a difficult person can add an unexpected dimension to your job. Once you know you are dealing with a difficult person key things to do are to take care of yourself and keep a sense of humor.  Get away from the workplace at least once during the day if you need to – even if it’s just to get a breath of fresh air.  Don’t talk about the office while on your break and make a commitment to maintain other non-work related outlets in your personal life.

Yolanda Smith is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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richard regan

The Tater Family

I have worked in private industry, the nonprofit world and at the local, state, federal and tribal levels. While each of these workplaces had their unique idiosyncrasies, all of them had one thing in common. At some point in time, they were invaded by one or more members of the tater family.

This is the person who feels the need to tell everyone what to do. Oftentimes they inherit leadership roles as they walk around the workplace trying to catch people doing things wrong as opposed to doing things right. They lead from out front. They would rather compete than collaborate. They have role but no soul.

This colleague chases the latest political fads in the office. They try to blend in rather than stick out. They never figure out who they really are in the workplace because they are so busy trying to be someone else. They are politically savvy people who have perfected the art of suck up. They have affiliations that go by different names but for the most part you can find them in the in-sider networks, the good ole boy clubs and other in-groups who abide by the members only rule of “Who’s Who.”

This teammate suffers from imposter syndrome. They downplay their readiness for promotions, rarely take risks and underestimate themselves at every turn. They self-sabotage themselves. They are great procrastinators and thrive in stuffy bureaucracies that play to their strengths of inaction.

This is the cubicle mate who has an opinion on everything. Often out of control extroverts, they love to hear themselves speak. They are often purveyors of poisonous gossip in the workplace. They are relationship diminishers.

Second cousin to the hesitators, they are great at observation and rarely put their full selves into their work. Their language of appreciation in the workplace is acts of service since we have to help them complete their work.

This is the co-worker whose resume reads “does not play well with others.” Creation of strife and division dominate their job descriptions. They are trapped in a prison of conflict and quickly inherit a reputation of being needy, incompetent or a trouble maker. Workplace bullying is their main strength.

She is the ideal worker. She brings her full self to work every day. She has the backs of her colleagues. She does whatever it takes to get the job done with grace and commitment. She is a multiplier. She brings out the best in her colleagues. Most of all, she doesn’t dictate, imitate, hesitate, commentate, spectate, or agitate!

Let’s move from tater tots in the workplace to facilitators. A supersized world demands it.


Richard, love, love the Tater family descriptions! How clever and yet how sad. The facilitator does not belong with the group. She’s a swan among the ugly ducklings. Thanks for the new additions.


The names used to identify employees characteristics, on point. Nevertheless, I know now how to handle each person accordingly.



to deal with a difficult co-worker is not to pay attention to their action or movement then they will take a look at themselves as to why. and leave you alone.