Leadership

How to handle annoying co-workers without losing your cool

Almost every office has an employee who's tough to work with, says Jody Foster, psychiatrist and co-author of "The Schmuck in My Office: How to Deal Effectively With Difficult People at Work."

These people, she says, are generally defined as "schmucks."

"A schmuck is however we idiosyncratically define a schmuck to be," Foster tells CNBC Make It. "Someone who causes distress among people."

It's important to understand the different type of schmucks one may encounter in the workplace because they negatively affect their co-workers and the success of a business, says Foster.

Here are the top three most common "schmucks" you may meet at work:

Robotic co-workers

Robotic employees have difficulty forming relationships with others. They have no sense of interpersonal nuances and are very rigid, says Foster.

Their disruptive behavior in the office is due to their extreme inflexibility and inability to communicate well with fellow employees.

"They are given to tantrums and behavioral outbursts if they don't get what they want," says Foster.

How to deal with them: Make sure that your communication with robotic employees is clear and concise, says Foster, and use written instructions over verbal ones.

Try to minimize distractions when talking with a robotic person and utilize one-on-one meetings instead of large groups. Robotic employees have a clear preferences on what they want, so being flexible with them will go a long way in the workplace.

Egocentric co-workers

It isn't wrong to have a healthy amount of narcissism, says Foster. In fact, it's necessary in the workplace to think highly of yourself. This personality trait becomes a problem when there's an undercurrent of low self-esteem, she explains.

Foster says that most of us view narcissistic people as having a too high opinion of themselves. However, a Narcissus only appears to be self-absorbed in order to protect themselves from low self-confidence.

Employees with this personality type have a bloated sense of accomplishment and are self-centered and condescending. "The person fills the room with their ego and overestimates their abilities," says Foster.

She adds that they will usually redirect a story back to themselves, cut you off as you're speaking and take credit for your work.

How to deal with them: The narcissistic co-worker rejects hearing anything that damages their self-esteem, says Foster, so resist the impulse to react to your annoyance with this co-worker.

Instead, try other tactics like clearly indicating your name on drafts of a document or including a third party when you are exchanging ideas. Another effective strategy, says Foster, is to sandwich a critique in between a compliment.

Obsessive co-workers

Some obsessiveness is great, says Foster. An intense preoccupation with control and orderliness is not.

Obsessive co-workers have a fear of loss of control so they try to artificially impose structure through rules, laws and protocol, she says. They hang onto details and like to command those around them, which can be detrimental to the workplace.

They "have trouble with efficiency and can bring the office to a halt," says Foster.

They desperately seek stability but often end up overwhelmed and get in the way of their own accomplishments.

Obsessive employees are initially seen as beneficial to the workplace because they appear organized, dedicated and detail-oriented, says Foster. However, these same traits eventually "interfere with the needs of the office," she says.

How to deal with them: It's important to note that these co-workers don't think they are doing anything wrong, Foster says. In their minds, they are working toward perfection.

The best approach is to give the appearance that you value their dedication. For example, when working on a project together, overstate your commitment to the task at hand.

Also, don't bother arguing about minute details with them, says Foster. You likely won't win.

Emotional co-workers

These types of co-workers "are unusual in that they're so seductive upfront," says Foster. "You're struck by their intensity."

This personality type is characterized by "intense overvaluation." You have something they feel that they do not have and they either want it or want to be near it, says Foster. They are incredibly appealing and alluring at first but then they turn on you.

These employees have a deep insecurity that your interest in them can't last for long, she says, so they will push and push until you prove them right.

"That intense overvaluation can quickly flip to intense devaluation," says Foster. "These types of co-workers are emotionally unstable and can bring tremendous chaos to the office."

How to deal with them: Foster provides a basic checklist for dealing with this personality type. First, establish boundaries and very clearly define them.

During arguments or other emotional outbursts redirect their attention to create a break in the negative spiral.

And most importantly, says Foster, "avoid getting pulled into the drama at all costs."

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