Toxic Collegues

Most people have encountered this scenario – you’re desperately trying to finish some work but your colleague won’t let up. She’s telling you about her mad weekend but you can’t think. So what do you do? All you know is it’s a decision you shouldn’t have to make on a Monday morning.

With annoying people like that girl chatting loudly on her mobile on the train, or the ‘running late’ queue jumper, it can be easier to hold your tongue – but when it comes to work colleagues you sometimes need a steel zip to keep your mouth shut. Office gossip, people trying to take credit for your ideas and those who manage to shrug their responsibilities on to you – it can all contribute to your feeling of unease.

“Most work situations throw us into direct contact with diverse personalities,” says career consultant Paul Mullin, founder of a career and HR company, Measurability. “It is important to learn how to deal with different colleagues to get ahead and to help achieve our career goals. Inability or desire to proactively meet this challenge can result in lack of control and workplace unhappiness.” We talk to Paul about how to stand up for yourself before you get stood on.

Annoying Colleague 1

The Gossip

You know this type of colleague – after the work parties and nights out they’re usually the first to spill the beans. And while they are fun to be around – ever noticed how many questions she is asking you? The likelihood is if she’s spreading gossip to you, she’s spreading it about you.

How to deal with it: “The obvious way to deal with “the gossip” is to limit the flow of information,” says Paul Mullin. “You would deal with a gossip in the workplace the way that you would deal with it outside of work.” Try distracting her instead of lecturing her about gossiping, and convince her you’re totally boring. No one wants to spread tales about how you painted the walls all weekend!

Annoying Colleague 2

The Spotlight Stealer

She may not be taking your work directly from you, but this is the woman has a good way of twisting things. She does most of her spotlight grabbing in staff meetings by expanding your ideas and talking about them until everything thinks they’re hers.

How to deal with it: “Workplaces are full of expert ‘spotlight stealers’,” says Paul. “The way to combat this is to become stronger and promote your own ideas with confidence. The ability to self promote oneself within an organisation has a direct impact on progression.”

Annoying Colleague 3

The Underminer

This person may not be upfront about their put downs, but like a jellyfish – as soon as they walk away you know you have been stung. Fake compliments such as “I love the way you speak your mind in meetings, it’s like you don’t care what anyone thinks,” will see your confidence plummeting and leave you wondering if you have made the right choices.

How to deal with it:

Play them at their own game. Nothing annoys a mean person more then thinking they haven’t upset you. Turning their fake compliment around and pretend you thought it was real. Say something like “Thanks for noticing! You’re right, I am good at saying what’s on my mind – I guess that’s how you get ahead!”

Annoying Colleague 4

Miss Perfect

She bakes cakes and brings them into the office. When she files a report it is colour coded and bound in a shiny, bright cover. At meetings, she always has big ideas that push already understaffed department to breaking point.

How to deal with it: Try and understand.If ‘miss perfect’ is contributing to the workplace positively then rather than get jealous perhaps you should congratulate her for her efforts and follow the lead,” says Paul. “Her motives may not be as you perceive them to be.”

Annoying Colleague 5

Your ‘Best Friend’

She sits beside you and tells you all the ups and downs of her love life, her family woes and her health troubles – all while you’re desperately trying to meet a deadline. She asks you out for lunch when you just want a bit of space, and you’re running out of excuses not to go for after work drinks.

How to deal with it: Limit her expectations. Next time she starts to tell you a long story about her boyfriend troubles or her family woes, tell her: “That sounds really difficult to deal with. Unfortunately I am really busy right now and can’t give you my full attention. How about we do lunch Friday and I’ll be all yours?”

Annoying Colleague 6

The Whiner

The boss is unfair, the facilities are ridiculous and the coffee is stale. If there’s something wrong, this girl will notice it. But spending time with her not only will begin to get you down – it may also reflect badly on you. Her grievances will eventually get back to the wrong person and she’ll be gone – so don’t let her take you with her.

How to deal with it: “Work can be challenging enough without listening to constant negativity especially in the current climate,” says Paul. “Avoid this individual or control the conversation if not possible to avoid. Smother them with positivity and they probably won’t be in your company for long.”

Annoying Colleague 7

The Avoider

It’s not that this girl doesn’t do anything. She does plenty alright – her banking, her holiday planning, keeping up to date with friends on Facebook. Unfortunately she doesn’t do much of the job she’s meant to be doing. You may recognise lines such as, “Oh but I thought you liked doing that last time, you did such a good job!”

How to deal with it: “I believe that when something is written then it should be contract,” says Paul. “Communicate responsibilities and workload clearly and back this verbal communication up with an email or memo. Check in with the individual to monitor progress.”

Paul Mullan founded and manages Measurability. He is a consultant with vast experience in HR, Career Coaching, Interview Coaching, CV writing, Outplacement Services, Recruitment and Psychometric Testing in the UK & Ireland. Go to