Top four challenging personality types you will encounter at work – and how to manage them

Organisations are made up of a wide variety of individuals and, inevitably, some are easier to manage than others. We analyse four challenging personalities found in the workplace and learn how executives can manage them more effectively

Feature image
By studying personality types and learning how to deal with them in an effective manner, you can improve the productivity of your whole team

Learning to deal with tricky employees is one of the most important skills a business leader can possess. We’ve all come across difficult employees in our careers, be it the co-worker you simply can’t see eye-to-eye with, the person who doesn’t pull their own weight or an overly brash employee.

Getting the most out of these characters can be tough but, by studying their personality type and learning how to deal with them in an effective manner, you can improve the productivity of the individual – and even the whole team. At the end of the day, you cannot change other people, but you can change how you deal with them.

Here, we analyse the four difficult personality types commonly encountered in the workplace, and advise how you can deal with each in a professional manner to ensure your workforce remains collaborative, productive and successful.

Often thought of as a workplace bully, employees with a dominant-controlling (D-C) personality are bold and extremely assertive – sometimes even bordering on the aggressive. On a bad day, they are impatient, demanding and power hungry. Employees with this personality type tend to have an attitude of “it’s my way or the highway”.

You cannot change other people, but you can change how you deal with them

They can be great when a tough decision needs to be made, but their narrow mindedness can cause strife for the whole team and makes them difficult to work with.

The unpredictable and brash nature of D-Cs means they can often be quite difficult – even intimidating – to talk to. You might also feel a tendency to dislike or avoid D-Cs that you work with.

The trick, however, is to appeal to their way of working. Employees with this personality type like to get to the point, so disregard small talk and avoid vagueness at all costs. They’re also likely to respect those who stand their ground. By taking this on board when conversing with a D-C, you can ensure that you bring out the best in them.

This personality is more commonly known as the ‘nit picker’. Analytical-obsessives (A-Os) are actually integral to a well-functioning organisation; they are methodical, logical and have very high standards.

This makes them well suited to administration work and number crunching. When it comes to new concepts, however, their meticulous approach can stifle and aggravate other team members, hindering innovation.

A-Os are wary of anything new or different. Managers should do their best to ease them into organisational changes – and give them warning where possible. This will help ease the anxiety A-Os are prone to.

Think of this type of employee as a pendulum. On a good day, they are optimistic, full of great ideas and a boost to team morale. On a bad day, they are highly-strung, erratic and unreliable.

The problem with expressive-impulsives (E-Is) is they rarely think about the consequences of their actions, and refuse to take responsibility when things go wrong. E-Is tend to concentrate on their own opinions and the bigger picture, ignoring inconvenient details in the process.

Being able to change your disposition according to an employees personality type is a great skill for a leader to possess

Despite the energy and creativity they bring, this personality’s impulsive nature can make them very difficult to work with. They aren’t the best listeners, they often make mistakes and they don’t always conform to authority.

Rather than trying to control or scold E-Is for a mistake, make an effort to build rapport. Let them know you appreciate their energy and ideas, and then assign them tasks that require them to organise their thoughts. Challenging them to plan properly will help them focus.

Put simply, employees with sceptical-negative (S-N) personalities are pessimistic. Their glass is always half empty, and this can drag down other colleagues, dampening workplace morale. S-Ns are difficult because they have no problem with criticising other peoples’ decisions and are able to find flaws in almost everything.

It’s important to consciously stop yourself from buying into – or getting dragged down by – this personality type. Support S-Ns by hearing them out, and then focus on how you might be able to improve the issue at hand.

Being able to change your disposition according to an employee’s personality type is a great skill for a leader to possess. The goal of adapting you behaviour to different situations should not be to change who you are, but to help you recognise your own role in difficult interactions.

At the end of the day, it’s tough to make an employee less difficult, but it is possible to learn how to deal with them more effectively. By understanding these personality types and learning to identify them in your organisation, you will equip yourself with the tools to get the most out of your employees – even the difficult ones.