Tips to handle the 9 office villains – Business Etiquette

Every day we work with colleagues, managers and clients with different personalities. Some easy to work with others not so much. Here are the 9 Office Villains who creep most into the workplace, make sure you are not one of them and always display the correct business etiquette.


1. The Computer Peeping Tom: Ensure you are not this annoying person – you know…the one constantly peering into someone’s computer. No matter the urge to see what others are up to, realise this is an invasion of a colleague’s personal space area.

Solution: There are screen shields that you can buy that help prevent people from easily looking over your shoulder. If it becomes so irritating say: “George, do you mind not peering into my computer – its distracting me from getting on with my job.”

2. The Know-It-All: Be confident but be careful that you don’t come across as the know-it-all. The person that always thinks: “It’s my way or the highway.” Be authentic, not arrogant.

Solution: Know-it-all’s think their way of doing things is the only way. They are normally confrontational and argumentative. Meet the challenge with a smile, catch them unawares with friendliness. If you don’t agree with them – you don’t need to.


3. The Gossiper: Gossiping is not networking! At all times attempt to stay clear of gossip.  No one has ever been promoted because they were the best office gossiper.

Solution: When you come across a gossiper, deflect the conversation or tell him/her straight that they shouldn’t always believe what they hear. For a 7 step video on how to handle gossipy co-workers click here .

4. The Flirter: You may be flattered by the attention but office romances seldom work and are frowned upon by many companies.

Solution: From the start stop a flirt’s advances – don’t humour him/her. Say “thanks, but no thanks”. If they persist – report them to your line manager or HR. For a great video on more tips to deal with the office flirt click here.

5. The Moaner: Nobody likes a moaner. Don’t convert your colleagues into your personal “agony aunts” – otherwise they will run away as soon as they see you.

Solution: Don’t agree with them – it further encourages the complaining. Don’t solve their problems  – you can’t. When he starts his usual complaint, say: “We know you feel that way – complaining won’t make it any better and it’s unpleasant for everyone else.” If you can’t get results by discussing it with him, take it up with your manager. Disruptive behaviour in the workplace doesn’t help anyone. Minimise his influence by spending less time with that colleague – negativity is contagious!

6. The Bully: This person is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting. Bullies often focus on someone they believe is weaker than them and won’t stand up for themselves. If you are reading this and think…oh no that sounds like me – please seek counselling.

Solution: Don’t ignore the situation. Tell the person you find their comment/behaviour unacceptable and you will take formal action against them if it is repeated. Don’t lose your temper – let them know that you are serious about not allowing them to walk all over you. Follow this up in writing to them – so you have proof if the bullying persists. Document it – keep a log of their actions. If the bullying continues – inform your line manager and/or HR as they have a responsibility to resolve the issue. Click here for a video on bullying prevention at work.

7. The Joker: When in doubt…leave it out.  If you have just met a potential client or new colleague don’t tell them your latest funniest joke – they might have a completely different sense of humour to you (or none at all). Don’t tease or laugh at someone else’s expense – nobody wants to be made the butt of jokes.

Solution: Your first choice in reacting to an offensive joke should be – not to laugh. This is often enough feedback to a joke teller that his joke missed the target. Use “I” language, say: “That joke made me uncomfortable.” rather than “That joke was in poor taste.”

8. The Chatterbox: She is friendly and wants to share all her thoughts, plans and ideas with you. Her idle chatter is keeping you from concentrating on your work.

Solution: Tell her you have trouble concentrating while you are listening to her interesting stories. You’d love to hear them at some other time, just not while you’re working/having to meet deadlines. If you enjoy her company, tell her to come with you for lunch.

9. The Yes Person: In an effort to please people and avoid confrontation, this person over-promises and under-delivers or does not deliver at all.  They agree with everything others say so they are liked and accepted.

Solution: If you need them to carry out certain tasks – make sure that they understand what you need from them and set clear time guidelines as to when you need this. Remember that a “Yes” doesn’t mean it will get done. Follow up and avoid surprises. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.


“You can’t always choose the people you work with, but you can choose to learn how to deal with them. They are all different “– Rowan Speewell; Kindred Hearts 

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