The skeptic.  The complainer.  The perfectionist.

Every company has them, but how should you handle them?

Variety may be the spice of life, but the wide range of difficult workplace personalities you have to manage can make your job even more challenging – because what works to motivate one type of employee will not necessarily work on another.

To keep your organization running smoothly, you must adjust your leadership style to suit individual personalities.  Read on to find out what makes these 10 challenging personality types tick – and how to best respond to them – to make your company a better place to work.

  1. The Skeptic. The skeptic does not believe things he is told or as co-workers might believe.  Before he goes along with something, he must check it out for himself.  On the plus side, he’s a thorough investigator.  On the minus side, he is suspicious of nearly everyone and everything.  To motivate the skeptical employee, assign him a short-term project that is highly likely to succeed, and then build on that success.  Turn his second-guessing nature into an asset by asking frequent questions to check his understanding of, and commitment to, each assignment.  Get him to verbalize his skeptical thoughts, so you can dissect areas of hesitancy before they become an issue.
  2. The Commander. This individual expresses his negativity by “steam-rolling” over people.  He can frequently be very angry and hostile and takes out his frustrations on others.  While he doesn’t mean to offend, he often forsakes tact to get his point across.  To best manage the Commander, start by refusing to accept his hostile behavior.  Cite examples of how his behavior affects everyone’s work – your own, his co-workers and his own – and suggest more productive methods of communication he could use.  Play into his desire for control and autonomy by giving him independent projects – leaving it up to him to execute them.  Validate his ability to overcome obstacles, to implement and to achieve results.
  3. The Drifter. He has issues with rules, work hours and deadlines.  Averse to structure, the Drifter loses track of important details and lacks the perseverance to see a project through to completion.  Although he may be easy to get along with, his lack of organization and disjointed thinking can make him difficult to manage.  To get the most out of him, give him shorter-term assignments and the flexible work hours he craves.  Use the creativity and out-of-the-box thinking typical of the Drifter to your advantage.
  4. The Perfectionist. If everything is not perfect, the Perfectionist immediately becomes negative.  His standards of performance are not realistic, so that even excellent work, which is praised by others, is unacceptable to him.  When managing this personality type, try to help him set more reasonable goals (for himself and others) based on specific expectations.  Also, make sure the Perfectionist’s workload allows him to exercise his natural tendencies on projects where perfection will be appreciated.
  5. The Avoider. Resistant to change, the Avoider shies away from increased responsibility because he fears it will make him more visible and accountable.  He thrives when working alone in established environments and will rarely take initiative.  To best manage him, give him detailed instructions clearly outlining your expectations.  Occasionally assign him projects that complement his desire to work independently.  Involve him in the process of change, making adjustments gradually so that he has time to get used to them.  Be sensitive to his fear of greater responsibility and validate his reliability and meticulous attention to detail.
  6. The Cynic. The Cynic has never owned a pair of rose-colored glasses.  He sees the harsh realities of life and lives by Murphy’s Law.  On the upside, the Cynic can help present a different perspective in your organization; on the downside, he can be very difficult to manage because he’s usually at odds with the majority of your staff.   Leverage his world view by allowing him to play Devil’s Advocate when discussing future plans.  He may help you see the potential downside of a situation and make contingency plans to head-off problems before they arise.
  7. The That’s-Not-My-Job-er. This individual expresses his negativity by refusing to do any task, no matter how simple, that he does not consider to be part of his job.  He often uses this behavior as a way to get back at colleagues, managers or your organization because of his dissatisfaction with how he is treated.  Often this individual craves growth, recognition and advancement – but loses enthusiasm for his work because he believes he is on a dead-end career path.  To turn things around, try to find training and develop opportunities for the That’s-Not-My-Job-er.  Look for ways to expand his role in the organization so that he can’t say, “That’s not my job.”
  8. The Criticizer. No matter what kind of new idea he’s presented with, the Criticizer will knock it down.  His mission is to be contrary at all costs.  He wants to be right, no matter what, and he constantly looks for problems instead of opportunities.  His motto is “Bad idea.”  To change his negative thought processes, force him to be specific when he criticizes.  Ask him for examples, evidence or his reasoning for disagreeing.  If you are persistent with this tack, he will eventually tire of explaining himself.  All along, emphasize that you value his opinions.  Demonstrate that while you want to understand his concerns, you will not tolerate empty criticism.
  9. The Petulant Child. When things do not go his way, this individual responds by frowning, withdrawing, going on a tirade or moping.  The best way to manage this individual is by providing a supportive environment and regular encouragement.  Help him find ways to manage his work stress levels.  When the Petulant Child starts his toddler-like behavior, stop him in his tracks.  Require him to take a step back from the situation, analyze his own reaction and find a productive, mature way to handle things.
  10. The Finger-Pointer. Unable to accept responsibility for his own mistakes, the Finger-Pointer automatically shifts blame to others.  He seems to feel better seeing others get into trouble, even if they are not the responsible parties.  The only way to get this individual to stop his blame-shifting behavior is by calling him out.  When he starts to point the finger at someone else, give him very specific examples of how his errors, mistakes or miscalculations were really the root cause.  Once he sees that blaming others only shifts the focus back on him, he will be much less likely to try it again.