7 toxic co-workers you have to avoid

Steve Tobak

Here is an article written by Steve Tobak for BNET, The CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.

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Let’s face it: people have somehow managed to develop a remarkably consistent ability to not get along with each other.

Why is that? How should I know? I’m not a shrink. But it is true. And nowhere is that more evident than at work.

You see, at home, we only have to get along with one mate and maybe some kids. Even that’s insanely difficult to do, as evidenced by the ridiculously high divorce rate. Ever since we created “no fault” divorce, couples who once declared their undying love for each other are bolting for the exits. Why? Because they can’t stand each other.

It’s nothing personal. They just don’t get along. Getting along is hard. It’s a people thing. And you know what? It’s way worse in the workplace.

That’s because at work we get to act out our childhood issues and insecurities on dozens, sometimes hundreds of innocent, unsuspecting people. And it’s not as if they asked for it. They’re just trying to earn a living. The killer is that some people make it that much worse than it has to be by turning their workplace into a toxic, chaotic mess.

Here are 7 you’re likely to run into in pretty much any workplace. If you’re smart, you’ll steer clear. And if you’ve got to work with them, at least be forewarned:

[Actually, here are the first three of seven.]

1. The guy who feels threatened by you. This guy is like a wounded animal: you never know what he’s going to do. That’s because he’s, for whatever reason, concocted a paranoid scenario that makes you his enemy. So what if it’s all in his head? He’ll try to take you down, nevertheless. Maintain a safe distance if you can.

2. The coworker who takes herself too seriously. If they were just annoying, that’d be okay. But in their relentless drive to be taken seriously and get attention, they make life miserable for everyone. Expect to be roped into all kinds of mini-dramas and to be taken down plenty of dumb rat-holes by this one.

3. The know-it-all. The biggest pain in the butt also happens to be one of the most dangerous employees: the know-it-all. Sure, these people are nauseating to those who actually do know what they’re doing. But even worse, because they “always have the answer,” they cut off debate, discussion, and end up pushing high-risk decisions that, all-too-often, end up being dead wrong.

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The other four are:

4. People who’ll do just about anything … but work.

5. The employee who wants your job.

6. Anyone who says, “I don’t really have to work, I do it because I love what I do.”

7. Passive aggressive guy.

To share Tobak’s insights about these four, please click here.

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Steve Tobak is a consultant, writer, and former senior executive with more than 20 years of experience in the technology industry. He’s the managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a Silicon Valley-based firm that provides strategic consulting, executive coaching, and speaking services to CEOs and management teams of small-to-mid-sized companies. Find out more at www.invisor.net.

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