How to Deal with the Schmuck in Your Office – The Wharton School

How to Deal with the Schmuck in Your Office – The Wharton School

If you’re going to succeed and maintain your sanity in the business world, dealing with difficult personalities at work is a necessary skill. At this year’s Wharton Entrepreneurship Day, Dr. Jody Foster, WG’00, shared her expert advice with EMBA students and alumni about to handle some of the most common offenders.

“The message is that we all have conflicts at some point. It’s important to recognize those conflicts early and try to understand them both from the standpoint of why they upset you, but also the other person’s view,” Jody said.

A practicing psychiatrist and co-author of the new book, The Schmuck in my Office: How to Deal Effectively with Difficult People at Work, Jody explained how she categorizes the 10 most common types of individuals who tend to have conflicts at work. Here are a few of that might sound familiar:

  • The Narcissus — the condescending attention-seeker who carelessly steps on everyone’s toes
  • The Flytrap — the creator of chaos whose emotional instability causes an office maelstrom
  • The Bean Counter — the orderly perfectionist who never gives up control, even when it’s full-steam-ahead to disaster
  • The Robot — the unreadable stone wall who just can’t connect

During her session, Jody focused on the Narcissus and Bean Counter categories, which are two of the most common difficult personality types in the working world. She also discussed micromanaging, bullying, taking credit for other people’s work, and how to handle challenging interactions to improve working environments.

“Getting underneath the core anxieties that drives the bad behavior can inform your approaches to them. Developing some empathy for why people act a certain way can improve our interactions,” she said. “I advocate early, direct, honest and concise intervention after a conflict. It’s also important to be aware that what bothers you may not bother the person in the next office.”


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