1. The bully with low self-esteem
Bullies suffer from low self-esteem. They prop up a fragile self image by putting others down to look good by comparison. When the bully is also a boss, they have power to play with. Power and low self esteem can be a dangerous combination. Bullies will probably use the same tactics on others that was used on them to create their low self-esteem in the first place. Self-esteem is a fluid thing, so it's something that can be worked on. The first step to combat bullying is to recognise what's going on. The second is to confront it, with the boss first, and then if it doesn't cease, to let them know you are willing to go above. Most bullies, especially the passive/aggressive types, start to cool it when they realise the cost is going to outweigh what they are getting out of it.
2. The micro manager
Micro management is a form of anxiety. When a person feels anxious inside, they need to (unconsciously) create a focus outside of themselves that matches what's going on internally to maintain a sense of balance. Controlling behaviour takes many forms (perfectionism is one of them) but often the self talk is along the lines of "I need to make everything OK so I will be OK". Highly anxious people are always in "survival mode". It's horrible for them and also for those close to them. They can't see the big picture or how they are affecting others. There is so much energy going into managing the internal, it's exhausting which can make them snappy and irritable. There are levels of anxiety and high anxiety is not easily changed, but the antidote is trust. Having an honest chat about the effect of the micro management will gain a manager's respect which goes hand in hand with trust.
3. The jealous co-worker
Jealousy of this type is fear by comparison. Feeling "less than" because you perceive that someone else is "more than" in some particular area. Jealous people don't like feeling this way and are keen to change it themselves. One way of diffusing this type of jealousy is to help the person develop in their own unique ways, ways that are different to you, so they are not in competition. Complement what they do in their own way. This "disarms" them, helps them to feel more confident and you will probably find that the jealousy isn't directed your way any more. Then pass on the advice to the poor person who is the new target!
4. The boundary breaker
Appropriate boundaries are not a concept that's usually taught to us when we need it! Many of us grow up with very rigid or thick boundaries (where we don't let other people in or we don't seek to connect with others) or very wishy-washy boundaries where we don't know where our own (or others) personal "lines" are drawn. Often we don't realise where these lines are until they've been crossed. People without boundaries challenge us to be assertive with our own and it's a concept that can be applied to all our relationships. There are two sayings I have taken on board. The first is "silence implies consent" and the second, that "it's up to us to teach people how to treat us". So, I'd use the feedback sandwich: positive, negative, positive. "Thanks for asking, but I'd prefer to keep my private life at home, I'm getting a coffee, do you want one?"
5. The procrastinator
Procrastination is a form of resistance. Chronic procrastination often develops in childhood in response to someone (usually a parent) trying to control them. There are two things that usually underlie this resistance: power or anxiety. If they are procrastinating to have power, the trick is to avoid getting into a power struggle (this will lead to more procrastination) so don't make it about you, make it about becoming allies to an external force "I have this deadline, I'd really appreciate us working to get this in on time". If it's anxiety, that they are putting things off because of the fear of responsibility, or being judged, or failing, it's about helping them build up their confidence instead.
6. The security seeker
Insecurity is another expression of anxiety. Someone who is pathologically insecure would likely have a history of not bonding well with his/her primary caregiver in early childhood. It's something that can be changed, but usually involves a lot of therapy. This is not the role of a co-worker, or even a friend, because it is a one-way relationship and it is extremely draining. The best way to handle a co-worker like this is to first accept that you can't change them, you will just get more exhausted and frustrated trying to. When they try to engage you with their latest drama, be supportive, but when it gets too much, encourage them to seek counselling.
7. The chronic gossiper
I find gossiping takes two forms. There is what is traditionally thought of as gossip, where it's malicious: one person gets a kick from the attention or sense of power of sharing another's secrets, and then there's people's natural need to talk about things that are shocking or distressing to them to make sense of it and seek comfort or support. First you have to be open to finding out the person's motivations. In the first instance, trust is broken and then friendships can break down, so the person needs to be made aware of the consequences of their gossiping. In the second, limits for the relationship need to be set. If it's a friendship you want to keep, I'd use the feedback sandwich: "I really appreciate your friendship so I need to clear this up, when you passed on that information I felt quite betrayed, and I don't like feeling that way about you. It's important to me that I can trust you with this stuff".
Elly Taylor is a relationship counsellor and author of the book Becoming Us, Loving, Learning and Growing Together, the Essential Relationship Guide for Parents.
- Sydney Morning Herald