A Leader’s Guide to Profiling the 5 Common Trouble Makers in the Office

trouble makers in the office

It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle— Sun Tzu, Art of War

There will always be difficult employees in any organization; even Fortune 500 companies have rotten tomatoes in them. As a leader, your job is to lead a team. Encourage them to do their work, do their performance reviews, and talk to them when things go wrong, but how can you do that when you don’t even know who you’re dealing with? This applies to everyone in your team, but more so to the trouble makers. This Leader’s Guide to common trouble makers in the office was designed to help you understand your team members — especially the trouble makers.

The Five Common Office Troublemakers.

  1. The Competitor
  2. This type of employee just won’t let go until he has won and another employee has lost. Rather than being a team player, The Competitor works for his personal gains.

    The easiest way to work with a competitor is to convince him to focus on the big picture, a long term goal where he’s not in direct competition with anyone in the team. This way, it’ll be easier for him to forget short-term goals or deadlines that were given to his teammates.

  3. The Rebel
  4. The Rebel employee thrives on negative attention that comes from putting down people in authority. These are the “badass” employees who like talking back, defying orders, and coming in late.

    Difficult employees under this category miss deadlines on purpose just to make a point that they don’t need to follow the rules. They also love to make fun of things. Sometimes they do it deliberately; sometimes they’re unaware of hurting other people’s feelings.

    The solution here is straightforward: tell Rebels that bad behavior won’t be tolerated. Let them know that the trouble they’re causing isn’t unnoticed. Make it clear that failure to improve has consequences, which may lead to dismissal.

  5. The Procrastinator
  6. This type of employee always says “Yes” and accepts projects, but is not able to follow through.

    When the deadlines start approaching, he can’t be found or reached by any means. Then, when the work is finally completed by someone else, he will resume his normal work routine as if nothing happened.

    Dealing with these people can get frustrating, especially if you have tons of work due. The best way to work with this type of difficult employee is to micro-manage them, at least for a few weeks. Set due dates for things to be done, and create specific and hard to ignore consequences for missed deadlines.

  7. The Drama Queens and Drama Kings
  8. These employees turn everything into drama. They cry, wail, whine, and complain about everything, even the smallest of things. Got no milk in the pantry? Well, they might whine about that, too.

    They draw energy from the drama, all the while draining the energy of others.

    Prevent drama by setting up boundaries, so that everyone is aware of what is acceptable as professional office behavior. Let them know how their actions and attitude are affecting others. Employees that act this way must be taken out of meetings, especially when their actions are becoming obstructive.

  9. The Volcano
  10. These people explode whenever things don’t turn out the way they think it should. They end up screaming in meetings, yelling on the phone, and getting in your face.
    In any organization, it is important that everyone treats each other with respect. If you end up dealing with an employee like this, then you need to speak with a certain intensity as well to ensure that you are heard.

    Let that employee understand that unprofessional behavior is not okay and will not be tolerated in the workplace.

Know Anyone Who Fits these Profiles?

Know any Volcanoes? What about a Drama King/Queen? Try these strategies in dealing with them.

If you know of another trouble maker profile, let us know in the comments.

Michelle Riklan is president of Riklan Resources and an instructor for The Leader’s Institute® in the Northeast region. She is based in Trenton, NJ but she also teaches in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other Northeast cities.
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