Personalities at Work

Posted on November 1, 2011


The workplace can be a haven for extremely odd behaviour.  It can be a place where strange people feel uninhibited to demonstrate their weirdness or at least show that they have no perception of what they do is so incredibly and socially unacceptable. These individuals exist in some form in all workplaces.  You may suspect that the characters I mention below are generally male…and you’d be right however I dare not be sexist against my own species and say such characteristics are reserved solely to the Y chromosome.  You will have come across such persons perhaps with different habits but they share a common theme.  Below are 3 such examples, enjoy!

– The Fiddler.  Now you’d be pretty unfortunate to come across this character but they exist and the behaviour they exhibit twists and contorts the stomach to the point of unadulterated regurgitation.  In the first and only meeting I had with him he just seemed like a crabby old man, which is completely fine as its as common in my line of work as finding a short curly hair in your pasta at a dodgy restaurant.  I was explaining the virtues of my masterfully crafted solution to his colleagues when I see in the corner of my right eye what appears to be our perpetrator scratching his upper thigh.  A nonchalant bout of scratching which is ok I suppose, I silently muse to myself. I continue my wonderful sales pitch when Itchy splurts out ‘A have a bone to pick with that’.  I look to my right and Fiddler is giving his bone more than just a pick.  Now, even with averted eyes it became obvious it wasn’t just a nonchalant scratch.  From that point on, I had somehow developed an interminable cramp that prevented me from looking at Scratchy.  My advice in ‘handling’ this personality is to not, avoid this person (especially their handshakes) unless you intend to lose weight via unconventional means.

– The Hulk.  This character is difficult to spot despite the name but the trait is unmistakable.  There are some guys or girls who have an anger button that’s as big as Jupiter’s day is long.  Their temper is flicked with the slight insinuation that you’re not praising their work or approach and if you dare disagree with them, you better watch out.  The Hulk at my last workplace was a seemingly pleasant older gentleman, a project manager, with a penchant for pocket watches and he would stroll through the office as if on a walk through a field of sweet smelling flowers.  However catch him in a meeting where his timescales haven’t been met or there’s been an issue in the project, then I’d make sure you have a spare shirt for him because the big green guy’s gonna make an appearance.  I had one such occasion with him, again in a meeting, where I was involved as a business analyst and the implementation had gone awry.  We all knew his reputation and full credit to him, he was able to withstand the anger provoking news for a full 10 words before he splurted out obscenities that would make a nun cry and a priest weep.  Not only were there words that you could only spell with predominantly punctuation but he was banging on the table like King Kong would if you took his bunch of bananas away.  Suffice to say he was displeased and no word of apology was given for his behaviour in the meeting.

– The Debater.  This guy has a real problem with feedback even when he asks for it.  Sure I understand that not everyone wants a critiquing, I mean who likes to be told that they’ve missed some information in their report or that their grammar is as non existent as an illegal immigrant’s work visa?  However we all are human and we make mistakes which can be basic like punctuation or at a higher level, like how best to structure a technical document.  Either way, not accepting you’re just plain wrong gives you a reputation.  Take Dave.  An unassuming kind of guy, quiet, pleasant and generally a courteous fellow colleague.  Until you tell him that the word ‘receive’ is spelt e – i rather than i – e after the c.  His self belief and conviction is admirable but beyond a certain point its just blatantly misplaced.  He will argue until his dying breath that the world is flat or that there are 27 letters in the english alphabet or even when you tell him he’s a good looking guy.  I am fully in support of discussing an opposing opinion and if you can back up why your way is better then that’s great.  But if you response to my feedback is ‘just because’ or ‘I don’t know’ or that ‘it is God’s wish’ then that aint good enough.  This type of person doesn’t take an answer without arguing it.

These are 3 such examples of individuals who have characteristics that we often need to work with or negotiate.  Its not easy to work with people who are playing with the bounds of socially acceptable behaviour or who express themselves with fury but we often need to. Next week I’ll discuss how we can work with these kinds of people effectively whilst keeping our cool. See you then!