Quiz: Can You Spot a Toxic Coworker?

Here's how to spot inveterate bullies, schemers, users and passive aggressive colleagues

Psyche Pascual Health (June 12, 2015)

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Is your boss or a coworker driving you crazy? You may be dealing with someone with a personality disorder. Can you spot the warning signs?

narcissistic man

Question 1 of 11 Score: 0

A coworker with narcissistic personality disorder may:

Many narcissists are attractive and charismatic people who make good first impressions. But don't expect a narcissist to behave in a way that benefits anyone but himself. If you have a narcissistic coworker, avoid wasting time trying to get him/her to change. If you're a boss, try giving positive feedback that will encourage him to become a team player.

boxing gloves office conflict

Question 2 of 11 Score: 0

Which of the following is not true of people with borderline personality disorder?

People with this disorder are usually fighting with their colleagues. They usually have a stormy personal life as well. Try to look behind their anger and exercise compassion: Many with this disorder have a history of abuse. That said, trying to befriend such an person could put you at risk. Set your own boundaries for what you can deal with.

obsessed to work

Question 3 of 11 Score: 0

Which are signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Someone with OCD has trouble seeing things from other people’s point of view and tends to be more like Mr. Spock than Captain Kirk. An OCD boss may be so controlling and demanding that his workers lose their motivation. An OCD coworker may work extremely hard, but if he is insecure, he may constantly find fault (and report it to the boss).

boss bully secretary

Question 4 of 11 Score: 0

The best way to handle a boss with OCD is to work overtime to show you're a team player.

It's fruitless to get into a debate with this kind of boss about the fairness of her expectations. Simply be realistic about the amount of work you are able to do and tell her what's possible. Ask her what projects take priority and send a follow-up memo summarizing the conversation. Even if you're resentful of her unrelenting demands, it's best to present yourself as a team player.

woman working alone

Question 5 of 11 Score: 0

A coworker who prefers to work alone and avoids social contact may be:

A worker who's avoidant may not be much of a problem — except when there are certain jobs he or she wants to pass the buck on, such as having a difficult conversation. These workers don't like confronting unpleasant situations. When befriending someone like this, be patient and low-key.

deceitful coworker

Question 6 of 11 Score: 0

Which traits suggest antisocial personality disorder?

The antisocial personality has also been called a sociopath, a sub-criminal psychopath, and — in corporate circles — a white-collar psychopath. Many who suffer from antisocial personality disorder are actually gregarious, dynamic and outgoing, with a ready smile and polished social skills — traits that let them climb the corporate ladder. But because they lack a conscience, they are also generally cunning, deceitful and cold.

businessman embezzlement

Question 7 of 11 Score: 0

How should you deal with a coworker with antisocial personality disorder?

Watch your back. Never confide in him: You’ll find what you said in private used against you. He may also lie, take credit for your work or embezzle company funds. If necessary, document any illegal activities and enlist the aid of someone in your organization you trust. You are dealing with a person who is ruthless.

passive aggressive woman

Question 8 of 11 Score: 0

A passive-aggressive employee often:

Passive-aggressive employees generally irritate other employees by shirking their tasks, complaining, blaming and feeling resentful of more fortunate colleagues. They tend to feel misunderstood, be sullen and argumentative, and alternate between being defiant and feeling contrite. Since they tend to be negative and sullen, passive-aggressive employees are often thought to be depressed; however, their procrastination, anger and irritability give them away.

employees collaborating

Question 9 of 11 Score: 0

You can get along well with a passive-aggressive employee by:

Don't take on tasks that aren't yours; you’ll end up feeling more frustrated. And don’t let her know how angry you are, since she takes pleasure in making other people miserable; it gives her a feeling of power. Ask what she needs to get the job done and offer to meet her halfway.

seductive employee

Question 10 of 11 Score: 0

A coworker with histrionic personality disorder...

“Dramatic” best describes people with histrionic personality disorder, but the drama is theatrical and exaggerated. She may show rapidly shifting but shallow emotion, call attention to herself through revealing outfits and consider her relationships more intimate than they really are. Beneath the friendly and sociable exterior, she may be deceitful, capricious and demanding.

mean boss with woman

Question 11 of 11 Score: 0

If your boss has histrionic personality disorder, you can cope by:

As psychologists Alan Cavaiola, PhD, and Neil Lavender, PhD, have pointed out, bosses with this personality disorder will flit to another crisis soon and leave you alone. Wait it out. You can politely ask for credit, but don’t expect changes overnight: People with this disorder want to be the star and have a hard time acknowledging others' work.

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