Health & Fitness

Dealing with differences in character at the office

One of our workmates needs help. He doesn’t care about the feelings of others, gets easily frustrated, fights people on simple provocation, and generally finds it hard to have close relationships.

Sometimes he does things on the spur of the moment, doesn’t feel guilty, and doesn’t learn from unpleasant experiences.

How can we help him?

I am not sure whether it is you or your workmate who needs help. From what you say, he does not care for the feelings of others and does not seem to have capacity for guilt.

I am surprised that any employer could keep such an employee on his payroll, unless the employee had very special skills, which you may not be aware of.


He could, for example, be a very creative, insightful individual, able to produce high quality, if sporadic work, say in a creative studio, or even an advertising agency, where the skill of thinking, and sometimes acting out of the box is an asset rather than a liability.

You, on the other hand, could be one disposed to acting with care and caution, planning and anticipating events with great care and detail, much as would be expected of an auditor. What you describe of your work colleague could well be a normal variant of an outgoing, gregarious person, loved by the girls as well as the customers!

Your view of him could be one through a tinge of jealousy and be reflective of different personality types, rather than true clinical challenges requiring the input of the coach.

Let me explain. People’s personalities are fairly constant from early childhood, and some experts believe, since birth, with others claiming that personality is determined at conception and that mother’s can sometimes tell the personality of the baby in their womb.

I have certainly come across mothers who talk about a calm baby in the womb, while another will claim that her baby is so playful (or active in the womb) that she feels embarrassed by the movement of her belly as the baby kicks away. Both babies are normal to a large extent.

Studies on the psychology of new born babies are conclusive with regard to the constancy of personality since infancy, and such personality traits, as impulsivity or acting on the spur of the moment, such as your colleague does, is reflected in infancy as an irritable, restless infant.

It seems as though to a large extent, we are born the way we are. You might therefore be criticising a fellow for things that are beyond his control. That view alone, however, is too simple and does not reflect the importance of the environment we live and work in.

Develop a consensus
With regard to your work environment, I would suggest you try and develop a consensus with your colleagues as to whether in fact there is or there is no definable problem with your colleague in question.

In the process, you might want to establish whether this is a recent trait or whether he has been like that from the beginning. In other words, is this part of his personality or is it a recent change in behaviour.

If it is recent, then consult the coach as we might be dealing with a clinical condition, such as depression.

The next step is to discuss it with your superiors explaining your concerns and pointing out the fact that you are not alone in your observation and concern. That done, you must let the boss carry his own cross, lest you push too hard and he thinks you have something against your colleague.

In this way, you will have helped not only your provocative, easily frustrated colleague, but will have helped yourself and your colleagues deal with the challenge that truly belongs to his employer, whose duties to you and to himself include the creation of a harmonious working environment.

Far too many employees suffer mental and psychological trauma in the hands of a hostile working environment sometimes caused not by too much work, but by thoughtless. Those familiar with bullies in high school will readily relate to such situations.

Remember that your employment entitles you to a safe and secure work environment free of all environmental hazards, including hostile work colleagues. Many modern firms have clear written policies on how to handle difficult employees and such programmes are highly recommended.