If there was ever an incubator for personality conflicts, it would have to be the workplace. You’ve got so many layers and elements all working together to bring out the best in people, or the worst in people. And it seems that the economic uncertainty we are all facing is bringing out a lot of the worst these days.

So what do you do when there are some people at your workplace that just grate on your last nerve?

First, check yourself. Do you know your own personality profile and what makes you happy and what makes you nervous or scared? If you are a Watcher personality but you’re stuck in a receptionist desk with a steady stream of people coming at you and phones that ring off the hook, your job duties are actually a drain on your personality. It doesn’t mean that you have to quit, but if you can pinpoint the source of the stress, you can develop strategies for dealing with the things and people you find difficult.

Another important watch point for us is how we react to other people’s interactions. For example, if you see Bob and Sarah always having a good time, joking around and having lunch with the boss, do you feel anxiety that your work is being overlooked, or are you feeling left out? Those are both touch points for your personality social style and knowing what those are might give you some strategies for asserting yourself rather than waiting in frustration to be noticed.

After you have a good grasp of how you are hardwired and how you can alleviate tension, let’s see what’s going on with the other person.  

No matter what personality blend someone is, or what skills and talents they bring to the table, if that person is not getting the emotional needs of their personality met in their life, they cannot operate from their strengths. If you find yourself in conflict, under attack from, or just royally annoyed at someone at work, chances are one or both of you are operating from your weaknesses. 

When someone is being difficult or being a jerk, if the behavior is somewhat recent it is fair to start by wondering what kind of stress or problems they may be having at home that they bring into the office. Our lives are running at high speed these days and it’s nearly impossible to separate our personal life from our work life anymore.

So if there is a way to privately and quietly talk to that person about the changes you’ve noticed, even if it is a manager or a superior, calling it to their attention might help them to see how they can make some sort of personal shift before they walk in the door each morning, or maybe even take a leave of absence or a less stressful position if that’s an option.

But what if it’s not a recent change in the other person? What if you’re dealing with someone whose mere existence is like sandpaper on your eyeballs? That’s where the personality stuff becomes really valuable information.

Let’s take a very quick look at what the four temperaments are like in the office:

The Talker is a creative person who likes to get others to join them. They have no filter between the mouth and the brain, so they blurt out great ideas and bad ideas with equal enthusiasm. This is the person you want greeting customers and giving presentations. But in their weaknesses they can take joking too far, can wander around talking instead of working, are disorganized and miss deadlines and can even come across as too needy as they fish for attention and acceptance. You can help them get back on track by telling them you’d love to hear their story, but over the lunch break because you’re on deadline.

The Doer is a driving force. They can be a visionary driving force or the person who everyone relies on getting the job done because they are so capable. They thrive on production so sometimes don’t know how to slow down and relax. They may be a person who is hyper-competitive in everything. At their best, they inspire the rest of us. But at their worst, they can seem cold and uncaring. This person might be the scariest to confront, but if you say something to them in private, and practice what you want to say in advance, they will probably listen. You can get them back on track by acknowledging their contribution but also that the office needs to work as a team and they need to offer a little encouragement to others.

The Thinker is the historian and the perfectionist. They seem to remember every detail of every sale that ever took place since they arrived 10 years ago. This is the person who makes sure all the trains run on time. They are often quiet and introspective until they feel that they MUST speak up and point out the flaws or risks in that crazy idea someone just floated at the staff meeting. At their best, they are the detail person. But at their worst, they often play the martyr. They can become overly-sensitive to being over- looked and then act out in a passive aggressive manner. This person needs to feel heard for their brilliance, but also needs to be encouraged to let go when good enough is really good enough.

The Watcher is the chameleon. They do not like conflict so they tend to be the soft-spoken person everyone else dumps on. They are great at administrative work and customer service because they do not ever get flustered. At their best, you can rely on them for just about anything. But at their worst, they may be the one who quietly goes around the office letting people know one by one why a project won’t work or who is causing huge problems. They have opinions and watch everything, but don’t like to speak up in staff meetings. You can get them back on track by complimenting them for their steadiness and reliability, but also say that if they have a strong opinion about how things should be done that they should plan to speak up at the next staff meeting, and maybe even help them draft an outline of what they want to say.

The personalities in the workplace are just one layer in getting along with difficult people and these tips are just the beginning. If you’ve never taken a personality test to see what your own strengths and weaknesses are, for about an hour of your time you can do it HERE.


Difficult People

Kim Schuld is a speaker and consultant helping individuals and business owners know themselves better in order to better understand their families, clients and prospects. Kim spent more than 20 years in national politics working with corporations, trade associations and non-profits using her methods to help clients reach their audiences faster, and to make the most of their limited time in front of Congressmen, Senators, Governors and the media. Kim Schuld is the author of the upcoming book, “The Promise of Someday,” about the shift that takes place when individuals start to hope for a better “someday” and the steps to make that happen in their lives. For more information visit

Posted in Contentment and Happiness, Featured, Taking Control of Your Life
  1. Steven says:

    This is a great article. The different labels for the types of people who roam around the office is fascinating. Developing an understanding from where people come from and why they do what they do is critical toward effectively dealing with the work stress that can come as a result.

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About Kim

Kim Schuld will kick your life journey into high gear by helping you to clarify your priorities, find your purpose, and set your new course.
Kim Schuld, The Life Journey Coach