The 3 people you need to avoid at work

Watch out for bloodsuckers, hyenas and swinging male chickens, says A Very Good Company founder Natalie Campbell.

by Natalie Campbell
Last Updated: 02 Dec 2014

For some reason this week my inbox has been flooded with articles about the ‘top three’ or ‘top 10’ things entrepreneurs need to know. According to one article there are 10 things every entrepreneur should know about success. Another states there are three steps to finding happiness.

I’m an optimist (no laughing in the back), but I sincerely doubt the recipe for success more generally can be boiled down to ‘10 things’ (although, shameless plug, I have pinned down Starting a Business in Seven Simple Steps). I’d also love to be happy in three steps, but, given my disposition to challenge the status quo, problem-solve, invite the elephant into the room and ‘do good’, I have resigned myself to a life of see-sawing between happiness and misery.

Lists aren’t all bad, however, and I’d like to share one everyone needs to keep in mind when climbing the ranks in business: the top three people to avoid.

The Innovative Ineffective

I’d say about 20% of an organisation is made up of Innovative Ineffective characters. They are nice people, very nice people indeed. But don’t be fooled: like a hyena on the Serengeti, they are there to maintain their own position and will snatch an opportunity out of your mouth without you even noticing.

They are always in the right meetings with the right people, networking with those more senior than them, but never with colleagues or peers on the same level or lower. Goodness, that would be like hell for them.

You’ll notice them because they never actually do anything spectacular, and they definitely avoid conflict, but they’ll encourage you to voice issues and be the disruptor, all the while watching from behind the curtain. This person has the power to make people believe they are innovative and a doer, but if you wrote a list of things they actually instigated themselves you’d be hard pushed.

Why do you need to be aware of this person? They have no interest in you,m unless you can help their assent to the top. And they will in no way help you progress above them. Be nice to them, as nice as they are to you, but keep them firmly away from your inner circle.

The Big Swinging Dick

Depending on your industry, this person, who can be male or female, probably makes up another 25%-30% of an organisation. They walk around looking important, feeling triumphant and swinging - at the expense of everyone else.

They ‘lead from the front’ and talk over everyone at meetings. However, as soon as the proverbial shit-hits-the-fan they are quiet, except for a few statements about the ‘cock-up’ being so-and-so’s fault, or their plotting to move blame to someone, anyone, other than themselves. They instantly forget conversations they’ve had and things they said previously. They’ll lie, but for some reason believe their own lies.

This person is detrimental to your career, if your team, client or boss has yet to identify them as a BSD. This is because everyone will think the mistakes are down to you - said person will convince everyone as such.

How to prevail? Keep all email conversations and follow up every in-person conversation with an email confirming actions. Entertain their jokes and alpha energy, but know they are not there to help you unless you enable them to look good.

The Vampire

Run. Run while you can. Or be drained of all blood, happiness, life and love you have for your work. They hate their job, they hate the team, they hate life, and they hate, well, everything.

Some big drama always happens to them, but somehow they transfer their energy and stress onto you. If you’re really unfortunate, you might have to manage this person. As quick as you can, manage them out.

Why are they detrimental to you? If you manage them, their moaning will make you look like a bad manager or leader. Everything you do will be wrong. They’ll talk about you to anyone who’ll listen - in the toilet specifically - but then they’ll cry their heart out to you.

How to manage them? Give them a good, metaphorical slap and tell them to shape up or ship out. There’s a chance you’ll receive a letter from HR, but you’ll feel so much better and the vampire might even go vegetarian.

So there you have it - a far more useful list. If you have more characters to be avoided at all cost, drop me a tweet at @NatDCampbell. I’d love to hear your stories.

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