Managing Quirky Personalities at Work


Managing Quirky Personalities at Work

by Yi Ting
November 29, 2017

The workplace is a diverse environment filled with all kinds of different people. Naturally, this brings a wide range of personalities – some good, some bad.

The interesting thing about “quirky” co-workers is that their antics and behaviors may be endearing to some, while infuriating to others. If you happen to fall into the latter category, handling these types of people requires almost surgical precision. In other words, your approach will have to vary based on who you’re dealing with.

That being said, let’s take a look at some common “quirky” co-workers and see how we can respond appropriately and effectively.

The Excessively Happy Co-Worker

Positivity is a great trait to have, but when an upbeat personality becomes a bit too positive, it can become a problem for those around them. This is especially problematic for people who are realists and understand that negativity is necessary at times.

For instance, you could be going through some difficult times. The last thing you need is a co-worker downplaying the issue with a big smile and claim that you have a “case of the Monday blues”.

The same applies when dealing with an office crisis. No matter how bad things get, this person seems like they could smile through a nuclear explosion. Again, this is frustrating because it shows that the individual can’t seem to take problems seriously.

How to Manage

One advantage when dealing with an excessively happy co-worker is that you probably won’t experience much fallout when addressing them directly. If you find that their incessantly upbeat personality is too much to handle, simply explain that, while you appreciate his or her attitude, it can be a bit overwhelming. Chances are, they’ll take your criticism in a positive way. After all, what other reaction have they showed in the past?

Another effective way is to explain to them that, when serious situations arise, they need to indicate that they’re actually concerned and work with the team to address the issues.

The Office Clown

Laughter is a great thing at times. It’s not just entertaining, but also an effective way to relieve tension and maintain office morale. But like “excessive happiness,” there can be too much of a good thing.

One big problem with having a proverbial comedian around you for eight hours a day is that the constant joking will become tiresome. And like his or her overly happy counterpart, the office clown cares more about expressing their quirky personality than focusing on the task at hand.

A more serious concern is the nature of the jokes. A big rule when it comes to humor is that you need to know your audience. If the would-be entertainer makes an off-color joke or takes their comments a bit too far, it creates a toxic work environment more akin to bullying.

How to Manage

If the office clown has even the slightest amount of observational skill, you can easily reduce his or her behavior by simply ignoring their jokes. Office clowns seek validation through laughter. If you don’t laugh, they’ll become discouraged and tone things down. Alternately, you can take the honest route and simply tell them that they need to cool it.

The Office Gossiper

When it comes to office personalities, gossipers are arguably the most disruptive. He or she tries too hard to socialize and fit in, resulting in various one-sided conversations and interruptions, typically at the expense of others. These people often drone on about the lives of their peers, often spreading half-truths in the process. They can be quite intelligent, but their behavior doesn’t reflect their intellect.

Many gossipers feel like they’re doing people a favor by “exposing” others’ transgressions, or revealing their targets’ “real” personalities. Alternately, some simply need to feel better about themselves by slandering their co-workers.

Naturally, the last thing you want to hear is derogatory – and largely exaggerated – third-hand information about staff members’ private lives. However, while the office clown can easily be deterred by simply not responding, gossipers will continue to annoy you to the point where you’re willing to duck behind the nearest obstacle when you see them coming. But this is hardly the best way to address such people.

How to Manage

Unfortunately, the gossiper’s sensitivity (and conviction that they’re being heroic) means that honesty is simply not the best policy here, and ignoring them won’t work either.

A good way to stop the gossiper is to avoid giving them the opportunity. If they have time to endlessly chat about pointless topics, then they clearly don’t have anything to do. Therefore, the best solution is to keep them occupied. When they come by to tell you about how Steven has a drinking problem, ask them if they’ve completed their assigned tasks. If they have, request that they do something to help you out – remember, they want you to like them.

Alternately, you can always pretend to be busy. Act like you’re on the phone or working on some critical assignment. They’ll leave, for fear of getting on your bad side.

The Over-Sharer

Some subjects are meant to be kept private. Unfortunately, over-sharers don’t realize this. It’s not uncommon for these workers to disclose very personal – often disturbing – information about themselves. Family, relationship or health issues are all fair game to the over-sharer. For some reason, they can’t seem to grasp the concept that acquaintances don’t want to hear about how hung over they were on Sunday morning.

How to Manage

To be fair, people who divulge too much about their lives typically do so because they feel safe. They see you as a trustworthy individual and simply overestimate the closeness of your relationship.

An excellent way to stop an over-sharer is to change the subject. When they start talking about some aspect of their personal life, immediately switch gears to crucial work-related topics. 

Then of course there’s the direct route that works with some of the other quirky types. If you’re truly troubled by what they tell you, explain to them that they’re being presumptuous about how close you two are. They may or may not be offended, so choose your words carefully when taking this approach.

Life would be boring without diverse personalities. It’s great to meet new people and learn about the strengths – and quirks. Getting along is important in an office environment, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take action if you feel someone’s behavior affects your performance. Take care to address each situation properly and it’ll create a happier, more productive workplace for everyone.


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