Companies & Industries

Scary Co-Workers


These are the colleagues who make you shudder when they creep by—and they can be avoided for only so long. Here's how to deal with them

You know who they are (and you know, of course, that you're not one of them): the colleagues people can't get away from fast enough. They're the ones you hope you don't share an elevator with, or the ones who make you swear to give up coffee when you run into them while getting your caffeine fix. But don't despair—or think you have to give up coffee or taking the elevator. Even the worst of colleagues can be dealt with, provided you understand what they're about.

There are different grades of scary colleagues, ranging from merely startling to terrifying, and each type requires a different strategy. Some—at least on the surface—are more annoying than anything else. To wit: The Slacker and The Time Thief. The Geek, with his/her addiction to high-tech gadgets, can be comical. And who hasn't indulged in the guilty pleasure of office scuttlebutt with a Gossip, or been marginally entertained by The Pessimist's conspiracy theories?

Of course, there's the dark side to these types of colleagues. The Time Thief can make it difficult for you to get your own work done. You can inadvertently say something to The Snoop that could come back to haunt you. And listening to office gossip can be fun—until you realize that someday, you could be the subject of it yourself.

Plain Snakes

Then there are the colleagues who are trouble from the get-go: The Backstabber, The Underminer, and naturally The Boss from Hell. Though their techniques are different, both The Backstabber and The Underminer have the same goal: to make you look bad. With The Backstabber, you often don't know any harm has been done until some time has passed. At least The Underminer will do their damage to your face; the danger comes from not knowing when they'll strike.

By sheer dint of position and power, The Boss from Hell is the scariest colleague of all. While co-workers can make your life difficult, the Boss can make it miserable—or make it so you don't have any colleagues at all. Check out the slide show for a look at 10 different scary colleagues—and some advice on how to deal with them.

O'Connell is a writer and editor at BusinessWeek.com.

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