Difficult People and How to Deal with Them (6 Types)

Dealing with difficult people at work can be unbearable. Their behaviour can have a huge impact on your emotional health and happiness.

Dealing with difficult people at work can be unbearable. You may sit across a cubicle or office from someone that you find quantifiable exhausting.

Here Are Six Types of Difficult People and How to Deal with Them

  1. Know-It-All
  2. Gossiper
  3. Chronic Complainer
  4. Credit Taker
  5. Airy-Fairy
  6. Victim

Their behaviour can have a huge impact on your emotional health and happiness.

Many people find themselves dealing with an extremely difficult person (or people), despite their best efforts to avoid them and their issues.

It’s no fun whether it’s your boss, co-worker, or client.

Dealing with Difficult People Can Be a Complete Pain

There are always people in our lives who we just don’t hit it off with. They make you want to pull your hair out.

There’s always going to be someone that doesn’t agree with what you do, how you do it, and even who you are as a person. If they’re out there, they’ll find your Achilles heel.

It’s draining, frustrating and mentally challenging.

Learning How to Cope with Difficult People

The workplace is a hodgepodge of people with varying interests, goals, and personalities.

If you work in a big company, there’s a good chance that your personality and interests don’t match up with at least one of your colleagues.

It’s ironic that many people go to great lengths to avoid difficult situations, but end up dealing with them, anyway.

We have an unfortunate tendency to procrastinate when it comes to these problems until we have no other choice but to face them. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a fact we can’t ignore.

Many of us have had to deal with difficult people at one time or another, and learning how to cope with such challenges often proves fruitful.

There are steps you can take to weather the storm and even harness their negative energy for your own ends if need be.

1.  The Know-It-All

This person is always right. No matter what. They know everything about everything, and it’s their way or the highway.

When you try to politely offer your own opinion, a Know-It-All finds a way to shut you down and put you back in your place.

If you have a question, they’re happy to answer it – in fact, they’ll probably interrupt you mid-sentence to tell you what they would do before you’ve even finished asking your question.

A Know-It-All has to be right about everything, and they will go to great lengths to prove their point.

They assume that they know everything and you know nothing about any topic. They often make you feel frustrated, humiliated, or stressed out when talking to them.

  • Ask a Know-It-All to clarify her/his point of view. This will either expose their faulty logic or force them to acknowledge that there are different ways of looking at things. 
  • Don’t take the bait by engaging in an argument or even raising your voice. Get your emotions under control before continuing on with the discussion.
  • Don’t be afraid to set the record straight.
  • Don’t let them trap you in time-wasting arguments.

    If the Know-It-All keeps trying to debate every point you make, say something like, “I don’t think we’re going to agree on this,” and then change the subject.

    You can also negate their interruptions by saying something like, “OK, now let me finish.”

  • Keep a cool head and avoid getting sucked into their vortex of smugness.
  • Sometimes you can just ignore the Know-It-All. It’s better to walk away from them instead of arguing since it wouldn’t change their way of thinking.

To handle the Know-It-All, make sure you’re prepared for every meeting with them by doing extensive research beforehand.

2.  The Gossiper

You’ve just been talking about your new diet and then, as if you have some sort of gossiper radar, all of a sudden, the person you’re speaking to starts telling you about someone who’s also trying to lose weight.

You know full well that’s not why they’re telling you this – nor is it the reason why they’re whispering instead of talking normally.

It’s because they want to fill you in on the latest office rumours!

The best thing to do if you’re dealing with a Gossiper is to just stop talking to them, but sometimes it’s not that simple.

Gossipers are poison in the workplace, and you can’t afford to let them spread their venom through your work environment.

Here are ways to consider when your office is riddled with gossip:

  • Ask them for evidence to back up what they are saying. Most likely, they’ll say no – and that’s when you need to tell them how irresponsible it is to spread malicious rumours with no proof.
  •  If someone is spreading rumours about you or about others in your office, you can call them out.
  • If they’re gossiping about someone else, don’t participate in it.Gossiping creates a vicious cycle because, when people hear that other people are talking about them negatively behind their backs, it makes them more likely to gossip about those people as well.

    If you participate in the gossip by laughing along with it or joining in on conversations about other people’s personal lives without their knowledge or consent, then it will be harder for the Gossiper to see why they shouldn’t continue doing so themselves.

  • Ignore them. This is the most important thing you can do, and it’s often overlooked. People who gossip are looking for attention, and ignoring them will put an end to that behaviour pretty quickly.
  • Keep your personal information private.
  • Set up a meeting between yourself and the Gossiper in which you explain how their talking negatively affects everyone around them (including themselves).
  • You can change the subject by asking them about something completely unrelated. Not only will this help divert their attention from all those juicy office rumours, but it might even help show them the error of their ways.

If the Gossiper insists on continuing to spread rumours around the office, just walk away. At times, there’s nothing more that you can do.

3.  The Chronic Complainer

Dealing with a Chronic Complainer at work can be frustrating and distracting.

Sometimes you’re going to encounter them at work, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that it’s going to drive you up the wall.

In a workplace where we working together, the Chronic Complainer can single-handedly ruin the positive relationships that have been built among your co-workers.

 It’s tempting to just ignore them and hope they’ll go away, but it doesn’t always work.

  • After acknowledging their thoughts, try to reframe them in a positive light. 
  • Call out their behaviour in a constructive way.
  • Differentiate between a colleague that needs to vent and the Chronic Complainer.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up if they say something that is wrong or hurtful. If you’re not sure whether they actually have a point, ask them if they have any suggestions or solutions.
  • Don’t let yourself get caught up in their negativity. Do not get stuck standing around listening to someone complain all day long.

 Try to understand how they think. Often, they don’t have control over their lives or work environment, so they turn to complaining as a way of feeling like they’ve made a difference.

4.  The Credit Taker

Have you ever worked with a person who always takes the credit, even when their input is minimal or absent? It’s awful.

You’re sitting right next to them, and they will still take credit for your work. They will lie to your boss, and your boss will believe them. Your blood boils with anger, and you feel so frustrated and helpless.

A Credit Taker is always looking to get the spotlight. They think they are more deserving. In their own minds, they are of higher status or have more “experience”. In reality, the Credit Taker is only out for themselves.

  • Ask them directly what they think they contributed to a project and how much credit they believe they should receive. They might backtrack when confronted with their own words. 
  • Be patient. Sometimes these things take a while to resolve themselves and there’s not much more you can do until they do.
  • Be prepared for the Credit Taker and stand up for yourself in a way that lets you keep your cool and integrity.
  • Document your exchanges as proof of their actions. You might need it.
  • Don’t cause drama.
  • It helps if you have a trusted ally at work that has your back on this issue. You can ask them to observe your co-worker taking credit for your work when it happens so that they can corroborate your version of events if it comes down to a he-said/she-said situation with management involved.
  •  It might be necessary to escalate things. Consider calling the Credit Taker out.

    If you don’t mind getting confrontational, calling the other person out on taking credit for your work can be a great way to stop them from doing it again in the future.

    A simple but effective way to do this is to say something like: “When you took credit for that idea I had at last week’s meeting, I was really surprised.”

  • Keep track of all your work. If you’ve been keeping a “paper trail” documenting everything you’ve done on a project, you have proof that you’ve contributed more than anyone else.

    That proof can be used to make it harder for the person stealing credit from you.

  • Learn about how the Credit Taker is operating. Are they purposefully lying about being involved in something, or are they just flubbing the details? Knowing these answers will help you figure out how to handle it going forward.

Sometimes people don’t realize that they’re taking credit for other people’s ideas, so if you can be clear and direct with them about how their behaviour makes you feel, then they might stop doing it going forward.

5.  The Airy-Fairy

The Airy-Fairy has her/his head in the clouds all the time. They’re always daydreaming about what life would be like if they lived on Mars or some other fantasy land far from reality.

They tend to be distracted easily and prefer to do things their own way, even if it means neglecting tasks that need to be done right away.

They are dreamy and impractical. They might seem a little crazy, but don’t mean to harm anyone in the long run.

The Airy-Fairy is often scatterbrained and can’t seem to stay focused long enough to get a job done.

  • Avoid leaving any room for interpretation in your communication, so there’s no excuse for mistakes later on down the line. 
  • Don’t let them change the subject – if they start talking about something irrelevant, steer them back to what you were talking about beforehand.
  • If the Airy-Fairy has trouble making plans with you because they keep changing their mind, tell them how it affects you negatively.
  • If they try to avoid making a decision or postponing until next week or whenever, stay firm. Tell them you need an answer now or that the time for gathering information is over – you need a decision now.
  • Look for something concrete – a little detail that will help you to ground them in reality.
  • Only tell the Airy-Fairy what he/she needs to know for the task at hand. Make sure you have time in your schedule for when (not if) things go wrong due to their absent-mindedness.
  • Set boundaries of time and make everything visual and tangible.

They can also be very helpful and supportive because they usually are in touch with other people’s emotions.

6.  The Victim

The Victim, also known as the Martyr, blames everyone else for their mistakes and struggles, and never takes responsibility for improving or learning from their mistakes.

When confronted with their failings, they might become emotional or lash out at others instead of taking responsibility for what went wrong.

This can lead to toxic behaviour and a lack of trust among team members, who may suspect that this person is attempting to avoid accountability by blaming others for their failures.

  • Don’t engage the Victim. You don’t have to be mean, but you don’t need to drop everything for them either. 
  • Don’t let yourself be intimidated. If it is true that this person is playing the Victim in order to get attention, keep in mind that other people notice too. It may help to talk the situation over with someone without gossiping.
  • Don’t try to make this person happy. It won’t work.
  • Simply avoid them. Being around the Victim will only add fuel to the fire and may cause you to be dragged into their game of victimization.
  • Talk to them when you feel like they’ve gotten out of hand and need to be spoken to directly. Do so in private and calmly explain how their behaviour influences the work environment.
  • Try to ignore them. It may sound counterintuitive, but often when someone is feeling ignored, they’ll move on to someone else who will give them the attention they want.

    If they get frustrated by your lack of response, they may find another ear that’s more willing to hear them out.

Understand that this person has a problem.

To be clear: this is not your problem. You’re not responsible for how someone else feels or acts.

You may be able to empathize with them, but you’re not responsible for making them feel better about themselves.