My fascination for people runs deep. I watch them on the road (commuter chaos), I admire them in the store, I sit in the park while my kids play and secretly laugh as they helicopter near their children, and I shake my head as I hear and see them interacting at work. Some might call me creepy, I like to think of myself as a self proclaimed sociologist. People are interesting and come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and volume levels. The workplace is one of the only places on earth that you’ll find a huge eclectic mix of people whose only common tether is their career field…or maybe just those four walls holding the building up.
According to a study by Forbes in 2011, 60.6% of those surveyed said that “people at work” are the biggest contributing factor to their workplace happiness. If asked, I’m sure you could think of at least two people at work who make you happy and two more who you’d rather worked someplace else! In all of the personalities found in your workplace, which is the one that keeps you happiest, which personality to do you look forward to seeing everyday for eight hours a span?
Whether you work in an office, school building, hospital, zoo or a secret location, we all have the same crux to bare—creating a positive environment with a motley crew of coworkers. As a faux sociologist, I have spent many years in the field observing and notating, and have generated the highly professional list of coworker personality types below. My challenge to you…are you brave enough to call yourself out?
THE WANDERER — AKA THE CUBICLE CREEPER
This person never seems to make it to their desk. You see them enter the office, you see their jacket hanging on the back of their chair, but they are never actually where you expect them to be. Every time you run into them, they are visiting or having an “impromptu meeting” with someone, somewhere. They always need to take a file down to Sally in Finance or help Bob reorganize his flash drive. It may take multiple stops, with multiple sources to track them down. Sherlock Holmes would have a hard time finding them.
How to work with them: Maybe these Cubicle Creepers think better on the go. It may not be their fault that they are always moving around. Perhaps they are the real movers and shakers (literally). If you need to pin them down to complete a collaborative project or their take on an upcoming meeting, invite them on a stroll. Haven’t you heard?! Walking meetings are, like, the new craze! Why not earn your steps for the day while getting work done. You’ll just have to FIND them first!
THE COFFEE-HOLIC — AKA THE STARBUCK
This is the easiest person to identify. No matter what time of day, no matter what is going on around them, they are never, ever without a cup of coffee. AND, the coffee most likely came from Starbucks. How in the world do they have time to grab those Triple, Venti, Half Sweet, Non-Fat, Caramel Macchiatos EVERY day…better yet how do they AFFORD them?!? Do they struggle to fall asleep at night with all that caffeine pulsing through their bloodstreams? Maybe it is a vicious cycle… drink coffee, can’t sleep, wake, drink more coffee? As someone who is not a coffee drinker, who does not enjoy the smell of coffee (yea we exist!), I tend to give this coworker a wide berth! If you’re a coffee fan, I bet they can give you the lowdown on all of the coffee places on your commute– at a rapid fire, energized pace!
How to work with them: I hope you like the smell of coffee because the easiest way to lure them to a meeting is to have a pot of coffee brewing in the room (or a Keuring, if you’re fancy). Entice them with the fruit of life; use that coffee as bait! They may even show-up early to make sure they get the freshest, hottest cup (don’t forget the fancy creamers). Just remember to use small and slow motions around them—as they have been juiced up on caffeine ALL DAY! And watch out for coffee breath!
THE STOCKPILER — AKA THE SUPPLY HOARDER
Late Tuesday afternoon is when the shiny Staples boxes are delivered and signed for, yet when you arrive Wednesday morning, all of the good stuff is gone! What the hell!?! Where did those nice pens you ordered go? You’ve been hit by a wily STOCKPILER! This person tends to be sneaky and acts incognito. You may not realize they are a stockpiler unless you investigate the details. Was that new light blue legal pad from the last office order? Is THAT the pen you’ve been waiting for (the one they saw you ordering last week)?!?!? Is their scotch tape dispenser full when everyone else has run out? Do they always have plenty of paper clips and colorful post its?! Suspicious much? I THINK SO!
How to work with them: Make friends! Dude, they have all the best stuff! I bet they wouldn’t mind sharing their office supply stash with a close friend. You need a box of tissues? Done. You need a ream of copy paper? Already sitting at your desk. SWEEETTT! If friendship is not a worthy goal, try out-hoarding the hoarder. Figure out the master plan of getting to the stuff and beat them at their own game. To be fair, the best option would be to have an office supply closet and invite the Stockpiler to be the supply closet manager, making sure everything we need is always stocked. Think of it as a classroom helper job, just like the one you had in first grade. OR if necessary, find their stash and slowly take from it whenever you need something just be careful not to get caught.
THE OFFICE CAPTAIN — AKA THE UNOFFICIAL COMMITTEE CHAIR
Oh yes, you do not need a special indestructible shield to be the office captain (see what I did there? Totally made a Captain America reference). This person is in charge of everything, without EVER being asked. They send weekly updates and make plans for the office chili cook off. They write inspirational quotes on the hallway white board or post them on the bathroom doors. Not only is this person the go-to planner for the leadership of the office, but the person that has the most control. They know who to go to for what, how to schmooze for that holiday party WITH adult beverages, and constantly carry a mental to-do list for every workplace activity. Sometimes they do not know how to stay in their own lane, yet in their minds they do this for the “betterment of the office.”
How to work with them: You have a very hard choice to make—either sit back and let the person be the captain or start voicing your opinion. Change is hard, constructive criticism is even harder. Any change you make is most likely going to be seen as a hostile takeover. Be strong sister! Be kind, but be persistent! If the task is truly something you are passionate about, then the end result is worth the battle!
THE PROCRASTINATOR — AKA THE DISGRUNTLED SPEEDY GONZALEZ
This is often the most ‘chill’ person around the office. They sip and enjoy that first cup of work coffee while reading the paper or bring in breakfast to savor while checking morning email. There is a project due at the end of the week, does that deter this person’s chill mood? Nope. They spend the work week daydreaming, staring out the window, taking long lunches and watching youtube videos until lunch on Friday when relaxation mode turns into hurricane mode. The Procrastinator then becomes the ninth wonder of the world, a magician typing faster than humanly possible, responding to texts at the speed of lightning and magically producing documents and slides minutes before they present that project at the weekly staff meeting. Avoid this person on Friday afternoon or you may just get caught up in the flurry!
How to work with them: Everyone is different. Everyone has a different learning style and different work style. This person must be able to work within their personality. This means that you need to think about how they work and remind them of your habits, before starting a project together. When strategizing about an upcoming collaborative project, think about how to delegate the tasks and be transparent with the person. No matter what, remember that just because someone works differently than you, does not mean they cannot handle the tasks.
THE PANICKER — AKA THE CHICKEN LITTLE
The sky is falling, I must run and tell the boss! The Panicker is always in panic mode—LOOK OUT! Yet, the focus of their panic is always about THEM. Every memo sent out by email or conference call announcement means the end of the world for them. This is the person who jumps to the most devastating conclusion possible. The memo could be about a completely different person, from a different office, in a completely different job yet the Panicker will always think it’s about THEM. “I am not coming back here tomorrow.” they will say or “I think the boss was talking about me when they said…”
How to work with them: You may want to tell them to put their big girl pants on and get over themselves, but that might send them into a phase three meltdown. Be calm and put on your ‘parent’ earplugs. This person is surrounded by a ‘whoa is me’ cloud. The best defense is to keep calm, let them vent to get it out of their systems, and remember they don’t mean everything they say. Once they vent, pull the conversation back to the task at hand, and keep it moving!
So which workplace coworker personality type are you and who do you gravitate to most at work? Looking at my own work life, I am definitely the Office Captain, but not by choice. I have been stuck doing certain events for so long, I am seen as the go-to person. And because of my bossy nature (that’s right, I am owning up to it), I tend to take over when the person in charge is lacking. Sure, we all know those personal attributes we might want/need to fix about ourselves (I’m bossy) and others we do not embody enough (I’m no good as using my “NO”), but no matter what, own who you are, find a way to work with those around you and most especially enjoy those days off!