Every office has its personalities

People do need to be treated differently

Are you the office hypochondriac? Power monger? Or perhaps you’re the Loose Cannon? Is your cubicle next to the office backstabber or the delegator? Or maybe even the office space invader?

A US firm called Coporate Kingdom has been selling office personality-themed trading cards, coffee mugs and calendars for about a year now and is releasing series two next year.

Included in next year's selection will be the vanishing technician, the pack of smokers, the secret office couple and the one-upper.

The developers of the cards say they were all inspired by real people. They’re a light-hearted way to deal with people who might get to you if you let them. An article on Employment Zone advises that not getting too uptight about workmates with quirky habits is the best way to go.

“If they're producing good work, they may be entitled to acceptance by co-workers as well as leniency from the boss,” the article by Jennifer Plotnick says.

Plotnick quotes one workplace where one staff member is called the sticky note king for the sticky notes “sunflower” on his computer terminal helping him stay organised. He is a top producer. The same workplace has a staff member who is super organised, keeping track of not only her own work but others’ work too.

Plotnick quotes Eric Menor from a temping agency as saying people may not realise their habits are annoying. He suggests talking to them privately before complaining to the boss.

“If a co-worker doesn't take constructive criticism well, the other employees may have to adjust their behaviour or work environments,” writes Plotnick.

This is particularly the case if the worker’s behaviour does no harm. Plotnick writes of "Blue Suit Bob" who wore a blue suit to work every day.

“Finally his co-workers got sick of it and reported his attire to the boss. The manager talked with him and found out he had identical suits — one for each day of the week. There was no reason to force him to change.”

Sure, it might seem unfair to others that some employees seem to get leniency. But Plonick writes that people can’t all be put into the same mould.

“And if everyone is treated the same, it creates a work culture of mediocrity, where the slackers and hard workers all get the same reward…”

A survey of British workers by recruitment firm Manpower asked what sort of co-worker they wanted and found that nearly 40% thought reliability was the ultimate quality sought.

“Thirty-nine percent of the 1187 people surveyed said their ideal colleague would be a Reliable Richard — that dependable colleague who’s always on time and never misses a deadline. Conversely, Suck-up Sarahs need to rethink their position in the office popularity stakes: despite being regular providers of teas, coffees, cakes and treats, these eager to please colleagues would only be chosen by 1% as the ideal co-worker.”

The second most popular colleague was the straight talking, honest one, followed by the colleague willing to put in extra effort to help out, “for example by working through a lunch hour or staying after 5pm”.

The Office Clown wasn’t popular and neither was the Agony Aunt.

Manpower UK director Charles Ashworth is quoted on the Manpower site as saying good co-workers are fundamental to happiness in our jobs.

“A colleague who injects laughter into the workplace is always a ‘nice to have’ but being able to rely on a colleague to deliver on promises and not slack off is clearly far more important. We depend on our colleagues to fulfil their work commitments so that we in turn can fulfil our own.”

Mills is a Dunedin-based writer. She can be contacted at kirstin_mills@idg.co.nz

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