How to Manage 5 Difficult Personalities at Work

Guest post from Merrick

At extreme levels, our most
admirable personality traits undermine us. Charles Dickens
said it best in his novel Dombey and Son:

“…vices are sometimes only virtues carried to excess!”
To understand the vice, and address it, we must examine the
virtue first.

In your work
environment, you manage four main personality types. No one style is superior
or inferior – they all complement each other. Indeed, effective leaders learn
to employ and mirror each style, like a chameleon. I’ll introduce you to the
virtues and vices of each style, and then I’ll explain how to counter the extremes.

Eagle: Dominant to Domineering

Eagles are impossible not to spot. Direct, confident, and results-driven, they soar into the situation with an appetite for action. In crises, you want an Eagle on your side. 

When Eagles take their virtues to extremes though, they become what I call The Commander. Their natural leadership ability morphs into bossiness and aggression. Their frankness can devolve into callous insensitivity. They degrade and even frighten their coworkers in the insatiable pursuit of results.

When Commanders emerge, understand their inner need for achievement and respect. They must do what they perceive to be great things in order to validate themselves. Counterintuitive as it may seem, giving the Eagles that desired recognition can tame their vice.

Parrot: Passionate to Promotional
are the social birds who rally the team. Enthusiastic, outgoing, and
optimistic, they have a knack for engaging people. Parrots can talk your head
off and keep you enthralled.

Parrots go overboard, they become The
, a self-involved chatterbox. Their emotional intelligence and
interpersonal skills lose sight of any objective. In their clamoring for
attention, they distract themselves and their coworkers. Meetings become
pontification sessions, as Promoters love the sound of their own voices.

need to feel liked, and a little positive feedback can quench their desire for
appreciation. Something as simple as, “Hey, I really need your opinion on
____,” can guide Promoters back into productive

Dove: Conciliator to Martyr

help their coworkers feel supported. Harmonious, helpful, and compassionate
almost to a fault, they genuinely want others to be happy.

when Doves go too far, they become The
, their passive-aggressive twin.
Because Martyrs must solve everyone
else’s problems, they become overwhelmed. They suffer quietly rather than voice
their frustration. If no one recognizes their sacrifices, they’ll dish out
contempt instead of empathy.

Dove finds self-worth in service to others – a virtue, no doubt. But if others
fail to acknowledge that service, here comes The Martyr. Commend Doves for the specific things they
thought no one would notice. It’s the little things, not the massive achievements,
that Doves want recognition for. 

Owl: Analytical to

detail-oriented, and accurate, Owls sweat the small things, and we love them
for it. They charge headlong into data analysis, strategy, and planning with an
obsession for getting it right. Let’s just say that Owls tend to make better
accountants than Parrots.

in excess, the Owl becomes The Critic.
Such Owls become hyper-skeptical of people and new ideas. They overwhelmingly
find faults instead of solutions. Nothing will work and no one is to be trusted
in a Critic’s opinion.     

Know that Owls are perfectionists. Work is integral to their
identity, so they take shortcomings very personally. Change the dialogue to
bring the Owl back. Questions like, “How would you improve this?” and “How you
would add to this?” help the Owl become a builder instead of a bulldozer.

Energy Vampires: Personality #5

people lose passion for their work. They go through the motions, count down the
minutes, and leave the office as soon as they can. Eagles, Parrots, Doves, and
Owls can all become The Energy Vampire,
the disgruntled person who

sucks the spirit out of coworkers.

than firing Energy Vampires outright, or telling them that negativity isn’t
tolerated, identify the root of this disengagement. If you don’t address the
cause, it will create more Energy Vampires.

you didn’t hire a dead battery. You might find that a new project, a change in
teams, or more self-direction recharges the person in question.

Don’t Hesitate

cannot tolerate difficult personalities without bringing down the person, the
team, and, eventually, the whole organization. When you enable and tacitly
condone toxic personalities, you lose credibility with the people hurt by them.
Without credibility, you can’t lead.

than fight the symptoms, fight the disease. What stressor, situation, or
dynamic fuels the negative behavior? What virtue, in excess, has a become a

good in people doesn’t vanish into thin air. Usually, it hides behind a cloud of
unmet needs. Stay calm, find the need, and pull the virtue back down to Earth.

Merrick Rosenberg is the author of The
and CEO of Take Flight Learning.