How to Manage Unique Personalities in the Workplace

Some employees are easy to manage and some others can be a handful at times; this is natural because we aren’t all cut from the same cloth and do not all behave in the same way. Wherever there is a collection of people, different personalities are bound to clash from time to time and can lead to challenges in the workplace if they aren’t appropriately addressed. Understanding yourself and your colleagues / employees can save you both weeks of tension, unnecessary arguments and silent wars.


I’ve had the opportunity to work with different teams and I’ve had my fair share of misunderstanding colleagues and being misunderstood by them in return. So, I took out time to understand the different personalities that are the most prominent in a workplace and this has helped my relationships at work.


Over time, different terms have been used to describe the unique personalities that abound in the workplace, however, their behavioral patterns are generally the same. I categorized them into seven personalities and here is how to identify and relate with each one of them.


1. The Lone Ranger


Ever met an employee who always has their head buried in work even when there’s not much to be done that day? That could possible be a lone ranger.


The lone ranger can stereotypically be identified as the ‘nerd’ in the room. They often have lunch on their own and don’t engage much with other team members especially when it comes to social activities. However, their work is well-executed as they tend to pay attention to minute details.


Managing the Lone Ranger

Individual assignments work best with lone rangers as they typically prefer working with small teams – or no team at all.


Pushing the lone ranger to be socially active can easily end up being be a futile effort. Instead, show that you recognize their achievements, while giving them plenty of time to process more difficult communications, such as constructive feedback or negative performance reviews.

2. The Excuse Machine


As the title suggests, the excuse machine loves to play the blame game and has an excuse for everything. It’s always about how the internet was slow so they couldn’t get any work done all week or how it rained and they couldn’t make it to the meeting. They hardly ever take the initiative and always seem to run into an unusual number of traffic jams, minor family emergencies, and other forms of mishaps. Often times they are late to work and are the laziest members on the team.  


Managing the Excuse Machine


Working with this personality type requires a clear, frank discussion of goals and objectives – as well as a bit of micromanagement.


Don’t be dragged into their excuses; instead, remain firm and regularly assess their progress and  be direct about the problematic behaviors you’ve observed and the consequences the employee will face if they continue.


Once they know you are monitoring their productivity and they can’t shirk responsibilities, they are usually more inclined to pull their weight.

3. The Yes-Man


The yes-man is that employee who never wants to ‘rock the boat’. They accept everyone’s ideas and opinions and seem to lack confidence to stand by their convictions. They are often accused of sucking up to senior management; as such there is a disconnect because senior management loves them but their colleagues and subordinates hate them.


They can also be identified as the opportunist on the team who tries to play every card right to be able to climb up the corporate ladder quickly.


Managing the Yes-Man


Getting to know the yes man might help, but it’s also important that you not be swayed by their efforts. Sometimes listening to office gist can help you point out the yes-man. When you’re able to keep tabs on them, you can set the necessary boundaries to redirect their attention-seeking behaviors to actual on-the-job work.

4. The Jolly Good Fellow


As a true extrovert, the jolly good fellow is prone to office gossip; you’ll find this employee hanging out by other people’s desks in between attending to their own work. Everybody in the office seems to know their name and in social settings they are usually the life of the party.  


Managing the Jolly Good Fellow


Being able to channel this employee’s naturally engaging tendencies toward getting others involved can help increase productivity on the team. This could either be through formal employee engagement programs or informal efforts toward building company culture.


However, where you have a blend of the yes-man personality and the jolly good fellow, you need to watch out for toxic behaviors as they often collect social information and start rumors that can be used to their advantage.


Paying attention to direct reports and their overall morale can help you pick up on these more subtle schemes and take control before employees begin to feel marginalized.

5. The Time Bomb


You know that employee who gets upset over every little thing? – that’s likely to be a time bomb personality.


Sometimes the workplace can be an emotionally charged environment especially when you have one or more time bombs on your team. It’s not easy to predict when they might blow up but you know you can expect to see their anger at regular intervals or in response to any perceived slight.


Managing the Time Bomb


There is an energy that surrounds angry employees as such you have to be careful not to brush them off. Their strong emotions can color everything from workplace morale to your company’s reputation. Their rage can be used as an opportunity to find out why they are angry all the time.


Such anger may arise from not being able to speak out on certain issues and be heard. Proper employee management—for workers of all types, angry employees included—involves listening closely in order to find opportunities to make positive changes.

6. The Pity Collector


It seems the universe is against the pity collector. There’s the landlord that’s demanding an unreasonable rent increase, a spouse or sibling whose sole mission is to make their lives stressful or some unpleasant situation that seems to make their life dreary. They love to play the victim and take joy in telling tales of their woes to anyone who will listen.


Similar to the Excuse Machine, the fault is never theirs – it never has been, and it never will be.


Managing the Pity Collector


Pitty Collectors vary in relation to the lengths to which they’ll go to make themselves seem pitiable. Some resort to victimhood out of a sense of insecurity while others may do so maliciously in order to avoid being held accountable for their actions.


Properly managing such employees requires maintaining objectivity in the face of emotional storytelling. If discipline seems appropriate in response to a given situation, get the story from all parties involved to ensure details aren’t being left out.

7. The Prima Donna

The Prima Donna is that employee who always seems over confident and overtly charismatic. Often times they make a big show of their success (on the job) and are the first to claim responsibility for a great idea (and also the first to abandon a project once things go south).


They constantly strive to be number one even if it is to the detriment of their colleagues.


Managing the Prima Donna


The narcissistic behavior of the prima donna clouds their perspective as they hardly see their behavior as inappropriate thus making change difficult. Consider whether or not they are indispensable and if they are not, you should try working closely with them to make team interactions more successful.


Often times an employee can be a blend of two or more personalities one of which will be more dominant than the others – knowing how to relate with each employee based on their behavioral patterns will contribute immeasurably to the overall chemistry and success of the organization.


Written by Genevieve Craig