Does anybody like to work with YOU?


What kind of work colleague are you?

Are you the type of person that others like to work with or around or are you the colleague from hell?

There is research that indicates that only 15% or so of people are terminated because they can’t actually perform their job – all the rest are based on a variety of behaviours that drive their boss crazy or create disturbance in the work environment.

In this current climate of retrenchment and layoffs, who gets laid off and who gets to stay? I suspect, unless an entire function or team is let go, that the ones who are given notice are the ones who don’t fit with the group (or with their boss). Most difficult work colleagues don’t realize the number of times their colleagues have gone to their boss and complained about them. Since most bosses want employees that solve problems rather than create them, there comes a time (sometimes quickly, other times more slowly) when the boss figures that the benefits of having you around have been outweighed by the distress that you cause.

Having been a difficult employee for a number of my years while working in organizations, I am as qualified as anyone to identify the types of behaviours that will put you at the top of the pink slip list. So what follows is a list of the types of things people do that make them unloved and unwanted by their work colleagues.

What should be noted here is not a “one-off” act, but rather a pattern of behaviour that your colleagues see repeated, time and time again.

1. People who don’t do their fair share of the work. This can range from smaller things like never volunteering for any of the ordinary tasks that don’t fit into anyone’s job description (tidying the lunch room for example) to the more substantive such as not completing tasks required to finish a project and having to have someone else step in and do it. This is the workplace equivalent of bringing a jar of pickles to a pot luck dinner.


2. People who gossip and backstab colleagues or management. This creates a huge culture of distrust and most feel that they will be the subject of similar gossip just as soon as they are out of earshot.

3. People who are ready to ask for help from their colleagues but are never willing to reciprocate when asked for help themselves. They always have an excuse – too much to do, they don’t know how to do it, they would love to help you, but . . .


4. The drama queen who is in a near constant state of emotional distress (far more frequently this behaviour is demonstrated by women than by men). They don’t seem to have any personal boundaries, so everyone in the office knows about their messy home life, and the bad luck which envelops them. Remember Joe Btfsplk from Li’l Abner, the character who walked around with a perpetual rain cloud over his head? They are Joe in modern day dress. They are either sick, recovering from being sick, or feeling as if they are getting sick. If there’s a hurricane, it hits their house. If someone is murdered, they are related.

5. People who whine and complain. It is helpful to remember that complaining is not a strategy. No matter what happens this person will find something to complain about. If Management tries to relieve the stress of the economic downturn by doing something for the staff, they will complain about the cost. If nothing is done to acknowledge the hard work everyone is doing, then they complain that they are ignored and taken for granted. It’s always too hot, or too cold, or too windy, or too wet.


6. People who always see the glass as half empty. Churchill wrote: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” The pessimist acts like an emotional vacuum cleaner sucking the energy out of everyone. They spend their time telling others why their plans and ideas will not work. “They won’t let us” is a favourite expression.

7. People who act superior to others. Those who have an exaggerated sense of their own intellectual abilities can often act in a patronizing manner toward those who either who do not know what they know or who do not share their opinions. Non-verbal language is probably the most frequent manifestation of this annoying co-worker – eyes rolling, sighs that indicate they are saints for explaining the material to you – or slow and deliberate enunciation so that there is no doubt left that they consider you intellectually inferior.

8. The hermit. And how could a hermit be a work colleague from hell you reasonably ask? After all, s/he doesn’t do anything – just stays to him/herself, cooped up in the office or cubicle. Regardless of the reason behind this behaviour (extreme introversion, or a sense that one is just too good for the rest of the peons), the modern work environment requires a certain amount of teamwork, social interaction, and cooperation. They emerge only at team meetings where attendance is compulsory, contributing nothing to the discussion, and scurry back to their work station at the end of the meeting. Since no one really know what this person does, it stands to reason that they might be among the first to be downsized) which means that you may have to pick up their work – whatever that is).

Now I know there is a tendency to read these and think about which of your colleagues fit into the categories. But if you want to stay employed during these difficult times, ask yourself whether any of your colleagues have identified YOU among the list presented.

And if you believe you have a work habit that makes you a less than desirable employee, contact me at for information on the micro-coaching program I have developed.

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