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Office Nut Cases: A Field Guide

If you've been around an office for any time at all, you've run into one of those certifiable nut cases who makes you (and everyone around you) miserable. Not to worry. Identifying a nut case is half the battle, because then you can avoid, ignore or neutralize. Knowledge truly is power.

To help you spot these workplace whack jobs, the brilliant and charming Sylvia Lafair has written a book, "Don't Bring It To Work; Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success." In it, she shows you how to identify and deal with the most common offenders. She calls them "behavior patterns" rather than "nut cases" and has all sorts of good advice for dealing with them.

But I call 'em nut cases, and this post describes the 13 types that Lafair says are most common in the workaday world. This is information no serious professional (sales or otherwise) should be without. Click on the link below to learn about...

The first nut case: THE SUPER ACHIEVER »

Super achievers must excel at everything that they do... to the point of obnoxiousness. Not only do they achieve every conventional measure of career success, but their families must look picture perfect. "Happy" is not a word used by super achievers; the only word that matters is "successful."

Super achievers see themselves as special and they want to be treated as such. They continually inflate themselves often at the expense of others. Super achievers hate criticism and will endlessly defend, explain or justify in order to prove that they are right and others are wrong.

If the super achiever is a peer, no matter how competent you are, you'll walk away from an encounter needed to shake off an uncomfortable sense of incompetence. If you report to a super achiever, one of two things is bound to happen. Either you will sit at the feet of the star or you will be constantly told that your ideas are second rank. If you oversee a super achiever, expect underhanded maneuvers to get you fired.

Super achievers breed fear and resentment. Everyone begins to guard ideas and an uncomfortable sense of paranoia grows. Initially, a super achiever will charm certain individuals who look as if they can be the best stepping stones. But over time a slew of bruised egos accumulate and by the time the rest of the team what realizes what has happened, the super achiever has been promoted.

The next nut case: THE REBEL »
* Adapted from "Don't Bring It To Work; Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success" by Sylvia Lafair.

The rebel is a born fighter. Their animosity is almost always against authority figures, social protocols, or company rules and regulations. Rebels come in wearing jeans on a Tuesday when the casual day is Friday. They miss deadlines or arrive late to work just to prove they don't have to follow the rules.

Rebels do these things because they thrive on negative attention, seeing it as the only way to get noticed. Rebels often strike colleagues as emotionally closed and hyper vigilant. Rebels claim to strive for change yet they have not done their deeper homework. They will take on a cause without really understanding the implications of their actions.

If you have a classic rebel on your team, watch out! About the only thing he or she loves more than throwing gasoline on a smoldering fire is getting others to do the same. The moment rebels hear of discontent, they will go to great lengths to convince others they should go to HR or get legal advice.

Most companies cannot tolerate rebels for very long which is why rebels are often sent to communication programs or anger management seminars. Rebels also get fired or quit their jobs, typically leaving with a tremendous amount of fanfare. Rebels are willing to prove a point regardless of consequences and this can easily damage communities, teams and companies.

The next nut case: THE PROCRASTINATOR »
* Adapted from "Don't Bring It To Work; Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success" by Sylvia Lafair.

Procrastinators always say yes to deadlines but fail to follow through. They then become indignant or evasive when held responsible. As deadlines approach, procrastinators cannot be found by cell phone, e-mail or carrier pigeon. When the work is finally turned in, procrastinators often go on multiple mini vacations to "recuperate from the stress."

While perfectionism plays a part, most procrastinators lack self-confidence and are unsure whether they can actually complete a task. There also appears to be a link between impulsiveness and procrastination. Impulsive people tend to value living in the moment and thus attribute no real meaning to deadlines.

For businesses the cost of procrastination includes time spent counseling tardy employees, making sure the postponed work gets covered, managing disappointments and handling the conflicts that are bound to occur when teams are waiting for a solitary individual to produce his or her part of a project.

Procrastination costs are hard to measure as one can hardly plot out all the possible alternative scenarios and all the missed opportunities. One thing is certain, a procrastinator on a project virtually guarantees that it will either be late, or that other people will end up doing extra work in order to get it in on time.

The next nut case: THE OFFICE CLOWN »
* Adapted from "Don't Bring It To Work; Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success" by Sylvia Lafair.

Office clowns are extroverts who love to divert others with their jokes and witty banter. They know every detail of a trivial issue and give their own two cents just to get a rise out of their colleagues. Often the jokes are offensive insensitive and downright embarrassing. Clowns can get folks involved in a contest of one-liners that may begin in good taste but end up as HR nightmares.

Office clowns often display an uncanny ability to break up a tense situation with a joke. They can pick up on the unsaid anger in the room and become heroes by speaking the unspeakable, even if it's not productive to focus on that aspect of the situation.

Having a sense of humor is certainly not the same as being an office clown. Research indicates that laughing benefits the immune system and activates endorphins, the good stuff that makes us feel more contented.

However, coworkers sense that office clowns aren't just trying to be funny and that there's something else going on. Privately most coworkers regard office clowns as bozos, smart-asses, and motormouths. Not surprisingly, such clowning can be subversive rather than helpful, giving rise to shared negativity rather than anything constructive.

The next nut case: THE PERSECUTOR »
* Adapted from "Don't Bring It To Work; Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success" by Sylvia Lafair.

Persecutors are bullies who love to control, micromanage, and display contempt for others. They constantly put others down with snide remarks and unfair criticism. Persecutors see others as weak and sentimental and they only approve of and appreciate those who take power.

Persecutors need to feel important and need to dominate conversations. They want to be the center of attention and expect those who work with and for them to help maintain their "most important person" status at any meeting.

Some persecutors will find fault with someone else's work in front of a group and point out how much the person still needs to learn. Other persecutors are more subtle and use the "red pen" technique -- cutting up your work as to flee as if they were slicing your body with the sword. Persecutors will let you almost finish a project before they tell you what you have done is not good enough.

Persecutors are deadly for individuals and teams. According to the Gallup organization, bullying by immediate bosses is the single most important reason people quit their jobs. Having a brutal boss or peer can cause depression, sleep disorders, ulcers, high blood pressure, lowered self-confidence and a sense of inadequacy and isolation.

The next nut case: THE VICTIM »
* Adapted from "Don't Bring It To Work; Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success" by Sylvia Lafair.

Victims are consummate complainers. Pessimistic by nature, they never feel respected or trusted. They struggle with feelings of inadequacy and fearfulness and as a result they tend to be quiet and to withdraw from any situations in which they risk being attacked. They will call also go out of their way to avoid folks they think are highly competent.

Victims are always looking for someone to come to their rescue and there is always an alliance to be formed with other victims who are also uncomfortable with conflict. Victims hate having people look over their shoulders. If this happens they tend to slow down, get sick or ask to be given another task.

Victims are often blind to solutions. They spend so much time focusing on problems that opportunities for real and lasting change pass them by. They believe that anything they do will only cause more problems and all too often this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Victims often stay in the same job, even though they're deeply unhappy. When something happens that causes them to move to another job, they tend to re-create the same conditions. They're extremely frustrating because they simply will not take action to change their situation.

The next nut case: THE RESCUER »
* Adapted from "Don't Bring It To Work; Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success" by Sylvia Lafair.

Rescuers live to save victims. Whether it's women facing gender discrimination or minority employees who have not gotten promoted, rescuers will take up the cause. Rescuers help victims in order to win attention and gratitude, and to burnish their image as saviors.

Rescuers have read all the latest self-help books and can get you the name of the best physician, lawyer, accountant or hairstylist at a moments notice. At home, the rescuer solves all the problems and in so doing keeps the rest of the family feeling helpless and inadequate.

Rescuers will go from person to person, to make sure everyone is happy yet they are really only in their comfort zone when other people are unhappy. If there are no obvious victims, rescuers will try to convince people that they are being victimized, simply in order to save them.

If you ever received help from a rescuer and no longer need his or her device you will find that the rescuer will quickly become hostile. And woe be to the person who refuses to accept help. Whoever does that either becomes the enemy or is seen as being in league with the enemy.

The next nut case: THE DRAMA QUEEN »
* Adapted from "Don't Bring It To Work; Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success" by Sylvia Lafair.

The drama queen (or king, because this behavior is ABSOLUTELY NOT gender specific) can be a lot of fun. The drama queen will cry, yell, and throw objects around the room simply to make a point. The aim of such histrionics is not to cause pain as much as it is to make a noisy point.

If one is not the target of the upset, watching a drama queen is often like watching a theatrical performance. The drama queen is usually very intelligent and possesses a vocabulary at once extensive, effective, and colorful. Drama queens love gossip rumors personal traumas and emotional breakdowns.

Drama queens believe that their best work gets done when they are in an emotionally charged state. You never have to ask them how they are feeling. If it isn't written on their face in either the form of a smile or a scowl, they will tell you.

In meetings, drama queens offer stubborn points of view and make sure that everyone knows how wrongheaded the other side is. Drama queens love to stir things up if a conflict is settled and all parties are finally calm. The drama queen will say something like "Yes, I know we all agree but..." Although such people can be resourceful and creative, they waste time and energy that could have been used more productively.

The next nut case: THE MARTYR »
* Adapted from "Don't Bring It To Work; Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success" by Sylvia Lafair.

Martyrs are the opposite of procrastinators. Martyrs will do everyone's work and bend over backwards to go above and beyond the call of duty. Martyrs love details so much that they will often compulsively go over lists and numbers 3 or even 10 times, just to make sure that what they had actually did was correct.

Martyrs want to be the special one in the office, the one whom everyone calls to discuss a problem personal or professional. Martyrs are useful to have on your team so long as you are immune to guilt feelings. Although their work is usually quite good, the refrain of "look at all I did!" gets old quickly.

If you take away all the extra jobs they piled onto their work schedule, they will find a way to get it back on their agenda. Even if you forbid them from taking on extra projects, they will claim you insisted that they do the extra work.

Martyrs love to sulk and they do it quite well. Although they claim they do not want any recognition, they will tell you many, many times that they are overworked, underpaid and unrecognized. When martyrs feel under-appreciated, they begin to talk behind your back.

The next nut case: THE PLEASER»
* Adapted from "Don't Bring It To Work; Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success" by Sylvia Lafair.

Pleasers are people who can't handle the truth. They are afraid that coming clean with honest emotions might offend someone. They rarely offer opinions and they will do whatever it takes to avoid causing or being involved with conflict.

Pleasers want to fit in, which leads them to become intensely self-conscious. Pleasers they just have a hard time setting limits. As important as it is to get other's approval, it is even more important not to get their disapproval.

Despite their best efforts, pleasers are often not very popular work. They areineffective authority figures and will change their position depending on who was in the room. This chameleon-like stance is a protective device allowing the pleaser to remain the winner in a popularity contest.

Pleasers usually love a micromanager as a boss because that way they can just salute and do what they are told. Pleasers continue to please until there is the proverbial straw that breaks their pleasing backs. At that point they express anger, and if the situation has been festering long enough, this anger can boil over into rage. The individual on the receiving end of the venom is often blindsided.

The next nut case: THE AVOIDER »
* Adapted from "Don't Bring It To Work; Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success" by Sylvia Lafair.

Avoiders frustrate coworkers because they're aware of problems but won't talk about them. If conflict is brewing, avoiders sense the tension and leave very quickly. Avoiders are always saying: "I'll get back to you" and "I have to think about it."

Avoiders can't stand to be blamed for anything and they walk away rather than admit they were responsible for creating a problem. They will also go down with the ship rather than change course if it means they will be held responsible.

If a situation is more demanding than they expected, avoiders will quickly relinquish control and slide into the background. If you challenge an avoider to complete a project he started, he will give you the "deer in the headlights" look and find an excuse for a fast exit.

Avoiders are passive aggressive and will get out uncomfortable situations passively getting out of the way. They might come to work late and swear they called and even though there is a call log in the office and they are not on it. They might turn off their cell phone after you specifically asked them to expect a call. If you leave a paper trail of voters will insist they never got the message and that the wording was unclear.

The next nut case: THE DENIER »
* Adapted from "Don't Bring It To Work; Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success" by Sylvia Lafair.

Deniers pretend that problems and uncomfortable situations don't exist. They ignore the fact that work is not getting done and refuse to heed warnings that might upset the status quo.

We all want to find ways to decrease stress, but deniers are so afraid of stress that they try to make it go away by pretending that it doesn't exist. They become trapped in an emotion state that keeps them from taking any action to address very real problems.

Deniers especially resent truth-tellers. They are fearful of looking at themselves too closely and have a critical need for everything to look good on the outside. So long as others cannot see the dirty laundry, well, it just isn't dirty.

Deniers become especially dangerous when they clog up much-needed innovation. Deniers do this because they feel threatened by information that can make them look at the world through new lenses. This problem is particularly pronounced in the ranks of top management.

The final and worst nut case: THE SPLITTER »
* Adapted from "Don't Bring It To Work; Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success" by Sylvia Lafair.

Splitters can be difficult to spot. They seem so congenial and helpful. They always want to be your best friend and watch your back like your own personal bodyguard. They often have private information that they share because they claim to want to help you climb the latter of success. Almost always this information concerns someone who is hell-bent on betraying you.

The splitter will keep his ear to the ground and make sure you're going to get all the information that you need to play the game. However, at the same time, the splitter is also busy telling your adversary that you are out to get her! That's all part of fun!

Splitters are masters of power games. They use innuendo, emotional bribery, mixed messages, and gossip to get you to be their puppet. Corporate environments are fertile ground for splitters because in most companies emotional openness is considered either a sign of weakness or is potentially dangerous. This makes it easy for them to play their games.

Splitters love to feel important. They also love to have control over you as well as the others who are out to get you. Splitters love to do all the work up front, then sit back and watch the fireworks! Often they end up creating permanent rifts that cannot be healed and relationships that are permanently ruined.

* Adapted from "Don't Bring It To Work; Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success" by Sylvia Lafair.

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