You see your colleagues every day, or at least several times a week. You all get along, appreciate each other’s good intentions, and care about the company. And yet, some of your colleagues’ behaviors drive you absolutely nuts.

Here are some common types of challenging behaviors, and a few suggestions for thinking about these crazy-making colleagues.

  1. Colleagues who point out everything you could — or should — have done better: They may be highly imperfect themselves, but they’re aces at calling out where you’re wrong or fall short. The way they preserve their own sense of effectiveness, status, and superiority is by showing you the weaknesses in everything you’ve got. Their content might be accurate, but the constant criticism gets old fast.
  2. Colleagues who take up all the airtime with their own problems and anxieties: These folks obsess about whether they’re liked, valued, or respected enough. They’re fearful that the work won’t go well and satisfactory results won’t be achieved unless everybody is supremely cozy with each other (meaning: with them), so they don’t focus enough on what the work actually is, or the most effective, efficient ways to get it done.
  3. Colleagues who need to be involved in everything you do, whether they belong there or not: They may recognize that your goals are different from theirs, but they don’t understand yours, so they don’t respect or appreciate them. Because they only trust their own framework and perspective, they assume that nothing can be accomplished without their intervention — even if that crushes everyone else’s efforts.
  4. Colleagues who don’t share information that would be useful to you and don’t speak up even though they see something going awry: These folks keep their heads down, leaving you alone to find your own way. They operate on the premise that if God wanted us to fly, we’d be born with wings, ergo, if you really needed the information you’re asking for, you’d already have it; and if you don’t already have it, then you don’t really need it. It’s your job, not theirs, so your concerns aren’t really theirs either.

Fear Creates Unhelpful Behavior

In all four cases, your colleagues don’t realize how they’re coming across, or that they’re exhibiting anxiety about their own performance and how they’re perceived. How can you help them adjust — for their sakes and yours?

Sometimes all that’s needed is some reassurance or renewed attention to the big picture and the real business goals. But other times, the situation requires significant personal development.

Start by trying to identify what these problematic colleagues’ underlying concerns are, whether their fears are relevant and appropriate to the situation, and how they could face those concerns directly — instead of deflecting them onto others (like you).

If there are other ways your colleagues consistently drive you nuts, let me know and I’ll write some more about it. And if you’re guilty of any of these negative behaviors yourself, or others that are unique to you, get in touch and we can figure out how to develop your way out of them.