Updated 27 September 2013

Are you a problem at work?

We all have really crappy days at work. But are you a problem to your boss and co-workers? Check whether you recognise yourself in these scenarios.


We all have them – really bad days at work. The photocopier breaks down at a crucial point, you lose a morning's work because of a powercut and your arch-rival got the promotion you have been hoping for. But do you rock the boat more than you should?

Here follow characteristics of difficult employees. If you recognise yourself in more than three of them, your chequered career may be your fault:

Job-hopping Jerry. Gone are the days when people spent 45 years with one company, working their way up from messenger to MD. But if you have changed jobs more than three times in the last three years, you should ask yourself why you can't seem to settle down for a few years in one place. Unless you're contracting, it looks bad if you're never employed anywhere for more than a few months.

Bosses from hell. All right, these do exist. Many people in managerial positions didn't get there because of their people skills. You are sure the first words they ever said, was "No more Mr Nice Guy." But if you've had seven jobs and all seven of the bosses were dictatorial and unreasonable, it may be time to face up to the fact that your work and attitude might need a bit of attention.

Disciplinary dramas. Right, it could happen to anyone to be called in to the manager's office for coming late, not meeting a deadline or whatever. But, once is enough. If your career is dotted with disciplinary action or hearings, your work is simply not up to scratch and your attitude to your job and colleagues leaves much to be desired.

Telephone terror. This employee treats the office telephone as a personal free chatline to all friends and family. These conversations take precedence over work-related matters and loud conversations about very personal matters continually happen in an open office.

Casanova of the copier. Have you ever been threatened with sexual harassment charges? Do you make your sexual feelings clear concerning fellow employees? If  you get the feeling that you make people feel uncomfortable and there is a pattern in your life of becoming embroiled in relationships with co-workers, you might have to take a good look at yourself. Business and pleasure do not mix and should be kept apart if you want to further your career. The office is not a dating service.

Backbiting Billy. Wherever people are working together, there will be occasional discord. If you are always embroiled in the midst of it and have often been identified as the source of rumours, the red light should go on. It is simply unprofessional to talk to colleagues about other colleagues. If there is a real problem, raise it with the right people. Whether the new secretary is flirting with the boss or phoning her mother in Broederstroom on the company telephone, stay out of it. You are paid to work, not to be a moral guardian.

Big talk, no do. Are you one of those people who talk a lot in meetings, but when it comes to delivering on your promises by the deadline, it simply just doesn't happen? You can use your eloquence to run circles round people for a while, but in the long run, you always get caught out. And other people always end up doing the work.

Come late, leave early. Everyone has to go to the doctor once in a while, or go to the school, because your child has fallen ill, but there are some people whose lives seem in permanent turmoil. If the alarm at home doesn't go off twice a week, then his girlfriend has left him – again. The only AA meeting he can attend is at 2 pm and he was the only person in a bus of 72 people who was injured when the brakes failed. Some people are just disaster magnets, but the long and the tall and the short of it is, this person does half the work of everyone else. But happily draws the same salary.

Mount Etna. Working with this person is a bit like camping next to Mount Etna. You know she is going to blow up, you just don't know when and why. It sets all the other employees' teeth on edge and hampers work production. She also specialises in taking out personal problems on surrounding colleagues.

Injustice collector. This is a troublesome employee, because they can poison an entire workforce. This is the person who bickers about the R20 tea money contribution, the fact that he fetched 12 boxes of photocopying paper and everyone else 11, and his desk is slightly smaller or narrower than those of the other employees. All this person's energy goes into making sure he doesn't do one stitch more than anyone else and there is, not surprisingly, little energy left for working.

Hangover Harry. Monday mornings mean bleary eyes and pounding headaches. And it's not just Monday. This one only works to finance his drinking and can often not be relied on to be at work at all – never mind bright and early. This career is on the slippery slope, not on the up and up.

Passing the buck. This employee never takes responsibility for anything that goes wrong, but only for things, which require praise. Everything that goes wrong is always someone else's fault and pinning it on them is like trying to clutch wet soap.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated August 2012)


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