by Tom Kaneshige

12 Irritating Co-Worker Types to Avoid

Jul 09, 20145 mins
CareersIT Leadership

Every tech pro encounters his fair share of annoying co-workers, but they come in many shapes and forms. To help you quickly identify who you’re dealing with, highlights these 12 office personality types so you can avoid awkward and annoying situations.

Tech companies want to cram employees in open workspaces to promote better collaboration, but is this really a good idea? There is such a thing as spending too much time with co-workers. Bouncing ideas off each other can lead to personality clashes. A co-worker’s annoying quirks will no doubt get on your nerves.

How should you deal with them? Geoffrey James, author of Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know, offers some sound advice: “Ultimately, the best way to look at irritating co-workers is with a sense of humor, especially since your co-workers probably think you’re pretty irritating sometimes, too.”

Here are a dozen types of co-workers and their bad habits.

The Workaholic

When a co-worker doesn’t play foosball, everyone suffers. The lonely foosball table just sits there. No one wants to go near it lest their manager thinks they’re lazy. In fact, the entire game room has become a trap to catch unproductive workers. So the next time your workaholic co-worker declines a game of foosball, just shake your head derisively.

‘I’m Not Sick!’

Another crappy characteristic of the workaholic co-worker is that they apparently never get sick — even if they are. They come into work congested and feverish because they just have to get some work done, often explaining that it’s just “allergies.” Never mind they risk getting everyone else sick. Ever catch the flu from this kind of co-worker? Their behavior should be outlawed. Go home!

The Genius

We all know co-workers who think highly of themselves, as if they’re the smartest person in the room. There’s only one way to deal with these self-described geniuses: Undermine them. “These are legends in their own minds who talk and talk about their accomplishments but never seem to get anything done,” says James. “To work with them, lay out frequent (even daily) milestones, and complain loudly to the genius’s boss when deadlines are missed.”

Drama Queen

There’s a reason soap operas are so popular. Everyone loves drama in their lives, even a lousy one. But over-the-top dramatist co-workers can be a problem. Best to avoid them at all costs. “Dramatists draw energy from the drama they create because it makes them the center of attention,” James says. “Unfortunately, giving them attention only increases their appetite, so your best bet is to ignore the histrionics until they run out of steam.”

Sock King

As everyone works more closely together in open space, it’s more important than ever to practice good hygiene. This means no taking off shoes and forcing others to toil in a polluted air space. Unfortunately, there’s always one in the crowd. Smelly socks, body odor and other rank scents won’t win over any co-workers.


The frenemy is much worse than simply being annoying — they can hurt your career. This type of co-worker pretends to be your biggest cheerleader but subtly sabotages everything you do, says James. They tend to be ultra-competitive workers who see everything as a zero-sum game; in order for them to win, someone has to lose. If you have one in your midst, good luck.

The Health Nut

Fitness apps are all the rage today. Healthy eating and daily exercise can be addictive and lead to a shapely body and a big ego. These healthy co-workers tend to throw their love of good health in the face of others, especially those that aren’t so athletically inclined. They might think they’re helping to inspire people to better health, but really they’re just boasting. Nobody likes a braggart.

Volcanic Eruption

One moment, they are as calm and serene as a mountain. The next, they’re erupting, yelling and stomping uncontrollably. It’s the volcanic co-worker! “Volcanoes appear calm and cool but under the veneer is a roiling cauldron of anger and bitterness, which will eventually explode,” James says. “Your best strategy: Be elsewhere when the volcano blows.”


The Hanna-Barbera 1968 television cartoon The Adventures of Gulliver had a character named Glum who was famous for uttering the words, “It’ll never work,” in every situation. Well, there’s usually a Glum in every workplace. These pessimistic co-workers suck the energy out of a room or project. It’s best to just dismiss their negativity and move on, says James.

Cube Squatter

Have you ever had that eery feeling that you’re being watched? You are! Turn around, and you’ll see the cube squatter. It’s the co-worker that you had a conversation with 10 minutes ago but never left. Now this person wants to chat you up about their big weekend plans or how their significant other doesn’t spend much time with them. Don’t they have work to do?

Can You Hear Me?

Some co-workers just don’t know how to use their quiet voice. Whether they’re talking over a speaker phone, belting out ’80s tunes on a Friday, or just expressing their opinion, it seems they’re constantly talking through a megaphone. Maybe shouting makes them feel their words carry more meaning. Maybe they came from a loud family. Maybe it’s time they learned to speak softly.

The Blood-Sucking Parasite

Don’t you just hate the co-worker who is always trying to take the credit? Doesn’t matter if you or the team came up with a great idea, the parasite co-worker jumps in front to receive the accolades. “Parasites wait to see what ideas become popular and then position themselves as the brains behind them,” says James. “To thwart them, always keep an “audit trail”of your contributions to a project in the form of regular status reports.”