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Career Advice

Work Colleagues 101: Which type of worker are you?

By Joseph Cueto on August 7, 2015

Who are the people in your neighborhood? In this case, let “neighborhood” be defined as “workplace.”

Almost all working professionals can attest to the truth that the office is the adult version of the school playground and of course, it has its own playground rules.

It's to be expected that we will encounter various types of personalities at work. Some of them, you may have been grateful to meet. A few of them, you may have regretted spending time with. Regardless, if one of your career goals is to strike positive and mutually beneficial relationships between you and your colleagues, here’s hoping that this handy guide on the types of workplace personalities you’ll meet provide the added means to fulfill that goal.

Based on my own personal experience, here are 14 types of colleagues you may have met before and how to deal with them. Maybe you can even spot your own self in one of the types here.

The Achiever

How to spot them: If the big boss wants things done, he looks for The Achiever. If your company wanted to showcase their vision of the ideal employee, they call upon this guy. He or she is the company’s go-to-guy in crunch time. And with their slew of accomplishments, cool and collected demeanor, and leadership skills, these people can be the organization’s pride and joy, and a valued asset worth keeping.

How to deal with them: Continue to support and encourage them to be the way they are. Show appreciation for their dedication and effort. Asking, “What can The Hero teach me in terms of being able to improve my work further?”, can open yourself to be Achiever-like.

The Unsung Hero

How to spot them: The Unsung Hero is the type that works without fanfare but is very much an important part of the team. They would rather stay in the background. Expect the Unsung Hero to give their honest-to-goodness effort day in and day out. They can be considered a close cousin of The Achiever. Underrated but essential, an organization needs this kind of individuals to help drive their performance upwards and onwards.

How to deal with them: Show them, in a not too flashy way, that their contributions to the team are not overlooked. Grant additional opportunities to lead and hold more responsibilities in a bigger role. It also represents a leap out of their comfort zone.

The Mentor

How to spot them: Think your very own version of Gandalf, Yoda, and Obi-Wan Kenobi. These people have a sincere interest of teaching you not just the technical aspects of your work in general. The Mentor, more importantly, imparts a big picture perspective of why things are done a certain way. If given a chance, they are generous in showing what they know. They have your best interest in mind terms of your career progression.

How to deal with them: Be a sponge when you are around them. The journey is not complete without one. No matter what stage of the career ladder you are in, one can never go wrong with having a mentor. Having one can be the gift that keeps on giving. Think of the mentor as an investment in your career. Welcome the suggested solutions they offer as well as new or unique perspectives they can share about any work or career problems encountered. You’ll be equipped with the additional know-how and point of view that can help when adversity hits.

The Longstanding Veteran

How to spot them: No, the Longstanding Veteran does not have a statue or mural in honor of his tenure in the company. This person has been with the company since the organization’s formative years. He and those who know him are sure to remind you that he’s been with the company for X number of years.

How to deal with them: Reach out to them if you want a history lesson as part of your continuing education. Make sure to include them in usual office conversations so they won’t feel slighted by being left out. Be on the lookout for a nugget of wisdom or historical anecdote here or there from time to time.

The Ally

How to spot them: The Ally can be considered as a friend at and outside work. According to a US-based survey, 70% of employees say friends at work is the most crucial element to a happy working life. The Ally can fill a number of roles. He or she can be your tag team partner not necessarily in big projects in the office or to make fun of others. The Ally can hear out your ideas, someone you can trust, and pick you up in not-so-good times (read: BFF).

How to deal with them: Nurture the friendships at work that are tried and true, like the one with The Ally. These will be the people who will be with you every step of the way. Encouraging yourself to extend friendly gestures to others can be a start. Establish real connections at work with real people. This can contribute to making you a better worker in the process.

The Office Comedian

How to spot them: This type belongs in the same category as the class clown and the court jester. To help keep things loose and light, making everybody laugh is their job description. The Office Comedian sees the funny side of things. Aside from their stock of wit-filled jokes and quips, seeing them alone can already make one laugh.

How to deal with them: As long as their antics are not stepping on others’ toes, enjoy their playfulness. They can perk up the sleepy eyes or tired spirits of your team as well. Tell them that everything works in moderation, including the comedy part.

The Gossip Source

How to spot them: These colleagues are the office’s tsismis central. Have you heard about what happened to you-know-who during the latest management team meeting? Puzzled about rumblings that the company may do some downsizing? Want to know the latest on the company dating scene? Consider this person to get you up-to-date on the latest happenings. Some can be the type who pulls stories out of their hats for shock value. Others spend their office hours discussing about other folks with the passion of a soap opera fan.

How to deal with them: Be on the lookout on their whereabouts. They are probably huddling up in the pantry or dropping by another cubicle to disseminate their brand of info. If certain gossip comes your way, be responsible by not passing it along, Take whatever you hear with a big grain of salt. Be cognizant of giving away any news leaks, especially for big items going on. If you happen to be the subject of the gossip, confronting the source is the way to go.

The Vacuum Cleaner

How to spot them: Popularly known as sipsip in local terms, their game is to kiss to move up, especially on their boss or someone higher up the organization. The Vacuum Cleaner-type appears intent on getting in their boss’ good graces through, shall we say, unconventional means. Their words are sweet. They may throw their bosses a lot of compliments. And yes, they may even step on a few others on their way.

How to deal with them: If this person’s agenda-filled interaction with higher-ups has not gotten them to their next level, leave them alone. It is probably a time to highlight your feats for a change. Your superiors probably need a reminder about what you have done to get the recognition you deserve.

The Complainer

How to spot them: If complaining was a method that would drive a company’s profits and boost its goodwill among its stakeholders, then you’re going to love The Complainer. But as experience tells us, it is not a lot of fun being around individuals who always find something to rant about. Usually, their general dissatisfaction about a number of issues makes them act this way. These people complain because they may fall under one or a few of the following labels: bored, disgruntled, busy, or unhappy with their work.

How to deal with them: True, there may be issues at work worth complaining about but would you rather worry about things you can control or the opposite? Having The Complainer at his best (and definitely at his worst) can bring down the energy to a burdensome feel for those around this type. Never join in on their throw-a-complaint party by nudging them off their monologue. A more proactive and straight-forward way is to ask them possible solutions to their raised issues.

The Politician

How to spot them: The Politician can take on many forms. There is the backstabbing type who tricks you into thinking you are friends - that is until they speak behind your back or plagiarize your ideas. Betrayal and throwing someone under the bus is their pastime.

How to deal with them: Check out your sources on who the office’s politicians are, or keep your ears open. If you happen to know who to be weary of, never trust the person’s machinations. Take whatever they say with huge sacks of salt. Keep your guard up.

The Slacker

How to spot them: The Slacker is not someone who makes it a point to wear slacks daily. Is there a person at work that actually does work? There’s your office’s Slacker. The Slacker is your office’s version of a mirage – giving the impression that he is at work but passes on the job to another to make him scot-free of responsibility. They give the image of being actual contributors to the team.

How to deal with them: Is their performance dragging the team down? If so, schedule a meeting with your boss about it. Another option is to give The Slacker firm deadlines and give them ample room to complete the task. Confront them if they have not been able to complete the work.

The Fashionista

How to spot them: Nope, these colleagues of yours did not come straight out of the Fashion Police screen. But they are aesthetically pleasing to the eyes, with their sharp, chic, and trendy dressing. Wouldn’t it be fun to find out what they are wearing, or probably, who they are wearing?

How to deal with them: Do not get pressured into adapting their style. Just be who you are and dress as professional as you can be. Of course, befitting one’s position. But it doesn’t hurt to upgrade your wardrobe every now and then.

The Chatty Co-worker

How to spot them: Obviously, The Chatty Co-worker loves to talk. You just know when this type of colleague has entered the building. They just can’t share to a few set of people only their thoughts about the latest movie they have watched. If any office development happens any moment, they are armed with their running commentary. Their loud and not-so-subtle voice announces they have arrived.

How to deal with them: If you're needing to concentrate, wear headphones. Better yet, if The Chatty Co-worker stops by your desk, raring to tell you about her fabulous weekend, give her a short window to do so. Words such as, “Ok, since I have a conference call in 2 minutes, keep it short” or “Just one second”, can put them on a short leash.

The New Kid on the Block

How to spot them: These are the fresh graduates who just arrived at step one in their school-to-working-professional transition.

How to deal with them: Don’t they remind you of yourself when you were just starting your career? It’s time to pay it forward and embrace your role as a de facto mentor. Time to take someone under your wing. Do something for the newly-hired or newly-graduated newbie that he will be thankful for in the future. Make sure that every workday is an opportunity to learn something new daily

The Demanding Boss

How to spot them: You’ve done your best and gave 110% but for this kind of boss, it is still not good enough. He or she is armed with out-of-this-world expectations. They can be overbearing or even mean. You feel that your work-life blend has already been disrupted.

How to deal with them: If you feel your relationship with you’re the Demanding Boss is making you sad and miserable, it’s time to polish your resume and apply for another job. Another option is to have an honest and open dialogue to get you and your boss on the same page. Others may have a different way of dealing with it. This includes striving to understand why their boss works a certain way, and treating the situation as a learning experience in having flexible and open thinking.

Ah, the workplace! What a fun and colorful place to be in, right? Strive to understand your work colleagues' personalities. By doing so, here’s hoping it can transform your office into the happiest place it can become.

These 14 types are just the tip of the iceberg. We are sure you have other types of colleagues in mind. Do add more to this list in the comments below.