One of the benefits of work is that you get to meet all kinds of people that you may otherwise never get to meet. With temp and contract workers rotating through workplaces, the sheer volume of people most of us encounter at work is increasing. But you’ll run into a few bad eggs eventually. So what can you do to protect yourself?
First, according to Joe Navarro, author of Dangerous Personalities: An FBI Profiler Shows You How to Identify and Protect Yourself From Harmful People, familiarize yourself with the four personality types whose behavior can be irritating or can unfortunately escalate to something much worse.
The Paranoid is consumed by irrational mistrust, is overly suspicious, jealous, and easily insulted. S/he is likely to repeatedly argue with supervisors, have an unrelenting one-track mind about particular issues, and regularly devolve into diatribes. S/he dislikes or hates those who are different and has few friends.
The Emotionally Unstable careens from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other, stockpiling perceived slights for future arguments, having outbursts disproportionate to the circumstances, and always needing to have the last word. S/he is prone to all-or-nothing thinking, falling apart under stress, demonstrating unreliability, and demanding undivided attention.
The Narcissist cheats, lies, and schemes to be number one regardless of how others are affected. S/he is likely to put others down to make themselves seem superior, always arrives late to meetings, needs to be the center of attention, and never asks questions about you or your projects.
The Predator enjoys lying and does so even when s/he doesn’t have to. S/he is likely to be haughty, opinionated, arrogant, and reckless—never seeming to learn from their mistakes. They gain the trust of others in order to take advantage of them.
While everyone may exhibit one or more of these traits, please note that these are provided as a guideline, not a diagnosis.
So how do you deal with it if you’re working with one of these types and they harass or lash out at you?
- Write it down. You need to take notes so that you have a record of exactly what happened and when. You may need this to take to HR, the police, or a lawyer.
- Set boundaries. Sketchy people want you to accommodate them. The more you reward their bad behavior, the more of a target you become.
- Keep others informed. Make sure friends and family know what’s happening, along with your office mates (if appropriate).
- Set your own pace. Shady people like to create urgency—they’ll push you to hire them, sign the contract, or take action on something. Refuse to be rushed.
Keep your composure. You are in complete control of how you respond to others. While these personality types can be frustrating, annoying, and sometimes actually dangerous, staying calm and consistent in how you deal with them can ratchet down the drama in how they interact with you.
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