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7 Types Of Annoying Coworkers--And How To Deal With Them

You spend most of your day at work, so learn how to handle officemates who get on your nerves before they drive you crazy (or out of that job).

The world is full of jerks—from the chick blabbing loudly into her mobile phone to the creep who won't give up his MRT seat to an old lady. Most of the time, the best way to handle them is simple—stay away! But there's one place where you can't escape people who are rude, lazy, or just plain mean: work.

"In the office, you spend your day with people you have not chosen to be with, and you have to work toward a common goal," says Rachel C. Weingarten, president of GTK Marketing Group and author of Career And Corporate Cool. "You can't ignore them because they could affect the future of your career."

A study by the University of Washington found that even one office jerk can pollute an entire team, making it harder for everyone to be nice. "This is the number one issue in the workplace today," says Marsha Petrie Sue, author of Toxic People. The biggest mistake: treating all cubicle creeps the same. "Different behaviors require very different techniques," says Sue.

We've identified for you seven types of annoying coworkers and how you can handle them:

1. The Gossip

This girl knows everything—from who is having an affair to who is about to get axed. Sure, she's fun to be around—but beware. Have you noticed that she also takes a little too much interest in your life? As in: "Who was that I saw you having lunch with?" and "Wow, you're dressed up today. Got any interesting appointments? Date ba?"

How To Deal: Distract her. Don't lecture her about the hazards of a wagging tongue—she'll just think you're uptight, and possibly make you the next subject of her tawdry tales. Instead, gossip with her about celebrities, rather than coworkers. If she starts dishing about the boss's marital problems, change the subject to Brad and Angelina, or a new telenovela.

Next, convince her that you're the most boring person alive. Give her a lot of details about the weekend you spent helping your mom bake, your solo DVD marathon, or a breathless blow-by-blow of the new office's decor. "It's no fun to gossip about someone who isn't interesting," says Weingarten.

2. The Spotlight Stealer

She might not lift documents off your desk and put her name on them, but this chick has a knack for making your great idea seem like hers. She usually does her credit-grabbing in staff meetings. As soon as you say something that interests the boss, she's front and center, yakking about the brilliant idea—why,  she was just talking about it last week!—until everyone has forgotten who the real Einstein is.

How To Deal: Put everything in writing. When you have a big idea to present, email it to several people—it will provide concrete evidence of your work, with the date and time to show you get first dibs. If you want to wow them with your ideas at a brainstorming session, bring handouts that give all the dazzling details.

Another good idea is to keep information flowing to your boss. "When you're selling your successes and contributions to your boss directly, these types can have little impact on your career," says Caitlin Friedman, co-author of The Girl's Guide To Kicking Your Career Into Gear. "So, share ideas with your boss privately whenever possible. If she knows how hard you're working, who cares if this person tries to take credit?"

3. The Underminer

She never says she thinks you're making a mistake. And at first, her comments sound like compliments—almost: "I love the way you always speak your mind in meetings; it's like you don't care what anyone thinks." Or, "Wow, really interesting decision you made there. Not a lot of people would have done that." Is it any wonder you feel your confidence drop to the floor the moment she walks in the room?

How To Deal: Pretend that her phony praise is sincere. "Even if it kills you inside, look at her and say, 'Gosh, thank you for noticing! It's true—I am outspoken!' There is nothing that tortures a mean person more than being perceived as being nice," says Weingarten.

Find out about the other types of annoying coworkers when you click on the next page!
4. Your "Best Friend"

She sits at the desk next to yours and tells you all about her life—her cheating boyfriend, her slob of a roommate—giving you rambling monologues while you desperately try to get this month's work done. She constantly asks if you want to have lunch or get margaritas after work, and you're running out of excuses.

How To Deal: Limit her expectations. You can't freeze her out completely, but you can control when—and for how long—you socialize with this person. So the next time she catches you by the coffee machine and begins a madrama soliloquy about her and her boyfriend's 37th breakup, Sheila Heen, a negotiation consultant and co-author of Difficult Conversations, suggests saying, "That sounds really hard. I wish I could give you my full attention, but I can't right now. Why don't we have lunch on Friday, so I can be more present?"

5. The Whiner

The coffee is stale. The boss is a jerk. Upper management is clueless. And no one understands how much she does for this company. Spending time with her is not only massively depressing—it also hurts your image. "Stay away from the complainer for she will get fired one day," says Friedman. "The whiners are often the first ones to go when a merger happens or a new manager takes over. One day she'll complain to the wrong person about the wrong thing and she'll be gone. Don't let her take you with her."

How To Deal: Be the one thing she can't stand: an optimist. Next time she starts grousing, respond with phrases like "Let's look on the bright side!" and "Actually, I think Marie works really hard and cares deeply about the staff." She'll leave the scene fast. "Make her see that she's not going to get any satisfaction from you," says Sue. "Once she knows you're not buying in, she'll go suck the life out of someone else."

6. Miss Perfect

She bakes cookies and brings them to the office. When she files a report, it's color-coded and bound in a bright, shiny cover. At meetings, she's filled with big ideas for new projects and initiatives that push your already understaffed department to the breaking point.

How To Deal: Understand that she doesn't mean to annoy or over-commit anyone. "She's simply enthusiastic, and wants to show she's a valuable member of the team," says Heen. Tell her that while you're loving her passion, it would really help if she'd discuss new projects with the team—or whoever will actually have to do the work—before bringing them up during big meetings. That way, no one gets backed into unrealistic deadlines or has to cope with sudden schedule changes.

Also, be sure to credit her when she delivers. "She may be speaking up in the larger meetings, because she's afraid she won't be seen or credited with the positive contributions she does make. As she feels more secure, she'll relax," says Heen.

7. The Shirker

It's not that she doesn't get anything done. She does plenty—her banking, her shoe shopping, her wedding planning. She just doesn't do very much for the company. She has an amazing ability to keep work from landing on her desk, armed with lines like, "Oh, you should talk to Carol about that—she's a real pro." Or, "Gosh, you did such a great job on the last project, I just assumed you'd want to take charge of this one."

How To Deal: First, stop covering for her—even if it means that in the short-term your project or department suffers. Try to get the bosses to set clear guidelines and responsibilities. For example, require meeting minutes that plainly describe each team member's task. If that doesn't work, talk to a superior.

"We're all trained not to tattle," says Heen. "But the problem is, then the people who make decisions don't get the information they need." You don't have to snitch—just ask for advice. Heen suggests saying, "We're having a really hard time getting work from Tom by the deadlines, and I'm not sure how to handle it."

Most importantly, understand that that the shirker—and all these other toxic types—always get discovered at some point. That's why the best strategy for dealing with aggravating workmates is to focus on your own behavior.

"Unlike your family, you don't have to spend the rest of your life with these people," says Heen. "In most cases, the situation will change—they will get another job, or you will. Worrying more about your own reputation and less about theirs is the best strategy over the long haul."

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