The Worst Types of Bosses and Colleagues, and How to Handle Them

Last Updated May 12, 2011 12:11 PM EDT

Drama, drama, drama. It turns reality shows like the Real Housewives of New York City into huge successes. But drama in an office translates to disaster waiting to happen. In short: it's a waste of valuable company time and money.

In their new book, The Drama-Free Office, authors Jim Warner and Kaley Klemp identify the four main types of drama queens and kings in your office -- and how to minimize their effect on everyone. I spoke to them about how to achieve office peace, and here's what they had to say about the subject.

On The Job: In your book, you divide culprits into four types: The Complainer, The Cynic, The Controller, and The Caretaker. How can you spot each one? Kaley Klemp: Complainers wallow in a victim-mentality, making lots of excuses and griping about the lack of support or resources. Cynics focus on others' flaws, are closed to advice and direction, and derail discussions with judgments or negativism. Controllers set impossible expectations, refuse to delegate, and ignore or challenge those in authority. Caretakers avoid any form of conflict, and give themselves away by their approval-seeking and over-commitment.

On The Job: Why is realizing what kind of personality you're dealing with crucial for a peaceful, productive, office?
Jim Warner: Just like you don't amputate a hangnail or use aspirin for pneumonia, you need to choose the right "medicine" for each type. If you only have one style of coaching, you'll likely agitate certain drama-prone personalities that don't respond to your style. For example, Complainers and Caretakers usually require a softer approach. With most Cynics and Controllers you need to play hardball; often, they only respond to direct conversations and ultimatums.

On The Job: It seems like every office has a Complainer, and they're a huge energy drain. How should we deal with them -- whether they are our subordinate or boss?
Jim Warner: Managing a Complainer subordinate is a delicate balance between encouraging their baby steps at taking initiative, while holding them accountable for specific deliverables. We recommend starting with rapport-building, providing specific and measurable expectations for action, reinforcing these with clear agreements, and then offering sincere compliments for performance.

Complainer bosses don't like to be cornered or forced into decisions. So, approach them with a positive attitude and a calm, neutral interest in both them and their ideas. Whenever you present a problem to them, be prepared to present your proposed solution, and your willingness to take responsibility for implementing the solution. You want them to like you, but avoid becoming their confidant. Deflect any conversations or gossip about areas outside your domain.

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