5 Obnoxious Types of Coworkers — and How to Deal with Them


Welcome to the first blog series from Quiet Girl Speaks — the Working Girl series! Over the next few months, I'll be sharing my thoughts on modern work life from an introvert's point of view. Subscribe below to stay tuned!

Throat clearing, foot tapping, pen clicking, keyboard pounding — these are the sounds of a bustling office. But they’re also the types of repetitious noises that can drive you insane and leave you ready to strangle your coworkers. (Just kidding. But only kind of.) Unless you’re the chillest person on the entire planet, you’re bound to develop petty (and non-petty) grievances when you spend hours at a time, day after day, cooped up in a building with the same people.

And eventually you’ll come across that one person whose voice is like nails on a chalkboard to you, or whose emails make you want to hit your head against the wall repeatedly. Hell, if you’re like me, you’ll meet lots of these people over the course of your career. (No, I’m just cranky and irritable, you say? That sounds about right.)

The obnoxious coworker epidemic is real (and, speaking from my own experience, very prevalent among people native to the Silicon Valley habitat). Unfortunately most of us don't have the power to pick and choose our coworkers. (I'm still looking into possibilities. Example: Influencing my boss via mind control.) So when we do encounter an annoying colleague, we must choose whether to A) explode (physically or verbally: take your pick), or B) deal. Most of us will choose the latter simply out of survival instinct — exploding does not bode well for one's career goals — but keeping your cool can be incredibly difficult when a colleague's actions have you all hyped up.

So let's get into my tips for how to deal with five of the most obnoxious coworker personalities I’ve ever encountered in the workplace.

1. Micromanaging Martha 

Micromanaging Martha is always up in your work business, providing feedback you didn't ask for and disrupting project progress. She’s the kink in an otherwise functional team, the bottleneck you yearn to bypass. Often, a Martha views her opinions as invaluable, even though she rarely has expertise in whatever matter about which she volunteers her thoughts. Whether Martha fixates on one small detail or chooses an unhelpful time to share her ideas, her nitpicking will leave you ready to pull your hair out.

How to Stay Sane

With a Martha, the best way to neutralize this thorn in your side I mean micromanager is to be open about projects without disclosing too many details. (Of course there is a line to toe here; you don’t want to share so frequently that she gets comfortable injecting her opinion.) The goal is to stay on Martha's good side while keeping out of her way. I find the saying "out of sight, out of mind" to be quite fitting for the Micromanaging Marthas of the world. As long as you do your work and don't draw attention to yourself, she'll focus her micromanaging skills elsewhere.

2. Egotistical Ed

Egotistical Eds are so full of themselves that you're perpetually surprised their head hasn't exploded from trying to contain all that ego. He's the guy who takes know-it-all to the next level, preaching facts and opinions (often conflating the two) like he's a modern-day Jesus come back to life. And an Egotistical Ed loves the sound of his voice so much that he seems to never shut up. He monopolizes meetings with elaborate detours simply for the chance to spew some of the random (and frequently irrelevant) information that fills the void in his brain.  

How to Stay Sane

If you've ever worked with an Egotistical Ed, you know how quickly he can get on just about everyone's nerves. So I say band together with your comrades and bond over this common enemy. Agree among yourselves to deflect his monologues before he gets in too deep. In general I try not to interrupt others, but in these circumstances a polite interjection will save you (and your coworkers) from the endless droning of his voice. And of course you should never encourage Ed by laughing, making prolonged eye contact, or nodding excessively.

3. No-Boundaries Nathan

No-Boundaries Nathan has no filter — he'll talk about anything, anywhere, at any time. A Nathan either doesn't grasp the social norms of what topics are and are not appropriate for work, or he just doesn't care. He'll offer undesired details about his personal life, ask you questions that make you uncomfortable, and make inappropriate comments in the workplace. A No-Boundaries Nathan also likes to insert himself into conversations whenever he pleases. He'll stroll up to your desk and interrupt a work discussion with nonsensical thoughts, whether you want to hear them or not. 

How to Stay Sane

If you've identified a colleague as a No-Boundaries Nathan, be very careful about what you say not just to him, but to any of your other coworkers. Nathans have a way of getting people to talk, and they're not afraid to 'accidentally' blab if they can leverage your private opinions for personal gain. Avoid telling a Nathan any of your feelings about colleagues or your company, because he will almost certainly disclose that information to other people (usually in a matter of hours) — and without any hesitation or guilt.

4. Apathetic Andrew

Apathetic Andrew is the guy who waltzes into the office at 11 am without giving a reason, or disappears at lunchtime for a two-hour yoga class. Andrew types seem to have not a care in the world — especially when it comes to their job. Often he'll spend hours perusing websites or social media, and very little time on actual work. And the work he does complete typically involves offloading tasks or projects to others. Yet somehow he scrapes by because of his boisterous personality or miraculous ability to meet his numbers.

How to Stay Sane

Tattling won't get you far in the corporate machine, and ultimately it's management's job to deal with performance issues. So my advice for dealing with Apathetic Andrew is this: ignore him whenever possible. As infuriating as it can be to watch him saunter in late and befriend the boss so his transgressions will be overlooked, the simplest option is to keep your head down and your mouth shut. (Unless his behaviors directly impact your ability to do your job; then you should definitely speak up using the appropriate channels.) 

5. Dramatic Debbie

Dramatic Debbie loves to be the center of attention (so much so you'll often find her competing against Egotistical Ed for an audience). Whether through her words or actions, Debbie will constantly try to impress and astound you with crazy stories about her so-called exciting life. And her flair for drama will likely bleed into the workplace through her uncontrollable urge to stir up shit and spill secrets. You'll never be surprised to learn that circulating workplace gossip can be traced back to attention-seeking Debbie.

How to Stay Sane

Rule number one is to avoid becoming a regular audience member of Debbie's dramatic recountings. Sure, her stories can be entertaining, but you're only making life worse for yourself by providing a platform for her drama. (Bonus: Not paying attention to her theatrics will drive her crazy, because we all know how much she values her worth by the number of spectators.) Another way to stay sane around Dramatic Debbie is to vent about her ridiculous behavior to a non-work friend or your significant other. By choosing a trusted confidant not employed at your company, you avoid adding fuel to the cycle of gossip.

Admittedly, we all carry some of these personality traits. (My obnoxious know-it-all side for sure springs to life whenever I end up in conversation with an Egotistical Ed.) But there's a difference between having certain characteristics and embodying the stereotype of an irritating colleague. And if you don't think you have any obnoxious qualities, then you might want to take a look in the mirror — there just may be an Egotistical Ed or Dramatic Debbie staring back at you.

- K

Work LifeKristin Crosier