Strong relationships with colleagues make your work life a whole lot better. It’s nice to have a sounding board when your controlling boss starts micro-managing you, or someone who can lend you a desk sweater when the air-conditioning has turned your office into a veritable tundra.
But for all the potential friends among your colleagues, you’re better off staying clear of some people. Below, workplace experts highlight six types of co-workers you’ll probably regret getting chummy with.
1. The Chit-Chatter
Your office would be a boring, mildly depressing place if you didn’t spend time talking about that new Netflix show or the weird thing your kid said the other night. But if a co-worker gets a little too into small talk, to the point that they’re monopolizing everyone’s time, you may want to keep your distance, said psychologist and executive coach Kate Snowise.
“These are the people in the workplace who are more interested in socializing than getting the work done,” she said. “If you get too close to them, they’ll be quick to distract you. The downside being, you’ll still have that pile of work to get done. The chit-chatter can be a massive productivity suck.”
2. The Know-It-All
Know-it-alls in your office thrive when they make others feel less capable and inferior: They school your IT guy on the new Apple iOS update without ever being asked, and they’re quick to talk over people in lower positions during meetings. Their confidence may have earned them a cushy position, but don’t be swayed by their inflated sense of self or power, said Teresa Marzolph, founder of Culture Engineered, a human capital consulting firm in Phoenix.
“If you get close to them, you are signing up for a life of a lackey. They will not recognize you as their equal, ever,” she said. “Know-it-alls live in a world where they are smart and everyone else isn’t. When something goes wrong, it’s your fault, not theirs. The know-it-all’s loyalty is to his ego. Your friendship, career and dignity will come in second, at best.”
Obviously, you don’t want to befriend someone who steals others’ ideas for points with the boss or gets off on “Mean Girls”-esque power plays, said Lynn Taylor, workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior & Thrive in Your Job.
“Back-stabbers are often charming at first and know how to earn your trust, until you get burned,” she said. “Get too close and you’ll find out that comments you made in confidence have circulated or an idea of yours is suddenly theirs.”
4. The Procrastinator
The procrastinator will do anything except actually work at work: Louie from finance is having a retirement party? Be there. Your co-worker needs help picking a dress for her cousin’s wedding? Pull up Pinterest. The problem is, all too often, the benchwarmer’s laziness cuts into your own productivity, Marzolph said.
“For this person, work is one big day of chores and he is eager to find distractions,” she said. “They will Slack you, email you, stop you in the halls, ask you questions without reason, and may even go so far as to plan their day of dillydallying around your breaks so that they can cajole you into their lives of folly.”
“Stay clear,” she added. “They will rob you of your energy because they are constantly testing your focus and commitment.”
5. The Soul-Sucker
The soul-sucker takes, takes and takes, said S. Chris Edmonds, a human resources expert and founder of The Purposeful Culture Group. They need your reassurance before presenting something to the full group but never think to check in with you before your big presentation. They rant about being passed over for a role, while completely disregarding the fact that you’ve been toiling away in the same position for years.
“They offer nothing in return. They don’t provide assistance or support. That’s not their job,” Edmonds said. “Associating with this person causes exhaustion, frustration and increased skills in hiding from them daily.”
6. The Martyr
If it weren’t for this person, the whole office would shut down ― at least as far as they’re concerned. We all need to air our grievances every now and then, but a co-worker who has a martyr complex spends half the day complaining about how lazy everyone else is compared to them, Marzolph said. They do the lion’s share of the work and everyone else is phoning it in ― including you, even if they don’t tell you that straight to your face.
“If you’re friends with them, be wary,” she said. “If you step on their toes or do something wrong in their book, you did so on purpose and they won’t rest until everyone knows it. In the workplace, you can expect that a well-skilled martyr will feel better only when you, the offender, are punished.”
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