Seven Difficult Personality Types in the Workplace

How to Handle Difficult Personality Types in the Workplace

by Justine Carroll, on May 26, 2023
Leaders must know how to resolve conflict regardless of their employees’ personalities. It’s essential for leaders to not create biases based on certain employee traits but to build a work culture based on the good that they bring. Effective conflict management requires being able to work with all personality types.

In our recent webinar, “How to Implement Productive Conflict Management Strategies,” we discussed how workplace conflict is an issue, the identification of challenging employees, signs leading to conflict, and conflict resolution strategies.

Below, we discuss common difficult personality types in the workplace and how most of these personalities can be dealt with by finding the why or the root cause of the issue. 

"Attitude" Problems 

Rather than seeing this personality type as an attitude problem, it’s best to refer to this as a conduct and behavior problem. When dealing with an employee like this, it’s best to understand their motivation and to look for the real issue. The why is important to understand what’s causing the employee to conduct themselves in this manner.

Rule Breakers 

Rule breakers are employees who like to test the limit. When you ask for a task to be done a certain way, they’re going to do it their way and let you know why their way is the best. Going with the common theme of why, you can find the root cause. They may be showing off to their peers or showing leadership qualities you can capitalize on.

Does Not Play Well with Others 

This type of employee is your workhorse and does great on their own, but in a team setting, nothing seems to get done, and they are uncooperative. Again, discover the why. They may be introverted, feel uncomfortable, and not understand why they must work in a group if they perform well alone. By understanding your employees, you can minimize these sources of conflict in group settings.

An Excuse for Everything 

Self-explanatory, right? They have an excuse for everything. On the surface, it could be plausible. However, there may be a real issue that a manager would need to uncover, whether it be a personal or work-related issue. They may be scared to ask for help or feel they don’t have the resources to support them in their tasks. For you to understand why they’re not completing tasks, you need to engage with their why.

Keeping a Record 

These types of employees want to know what you are going to do for them. It’s important to keep your own record of certain situations that the employee feels they need to keep a record of. There may be a reason why they feel they need to make note of it, and it can help you understand their why.

Intentionally Difficult 

These employees choose to be combative just to be combative. Sometimes this can just be a defense mechanism from the individual because they aren’t sure how to communicate their needs. You can work with them by communicating your expectations with them. Clear communication is key.

Constant Complainer 

These types of individuals may seem exceptionally tough because everything that you do, they have a complaint for it. We aren’t trying to change their personality; we are trying to give them the tools to modify their conduct and cooperation. Set an example and limit their menu to what they can complain about.

If you couldn’t watch the live webinar, watch it on-demand to hear the complete discussion on how to successfully implement productive conflict management strategies to strengthen relationships among your team.  
Justine Carroll

Justine is a Managing Consultant at LandrumHR. She holds a Senior Professional in Human Resources certification and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Colorado Boulder. With 23 years of HR experience, Justine has served as an internal HR Director, ran her own consulting business, and worked in PEO for 10 years.

View more blogs by Justine Carroll