Strategies for coping with the most common types of challenging colleagues, from Gossip Girl to Brown-Nosed Brian.

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Inspired by true events, I wrote a book called Things I Want to Punch in the Face a few years ago, covering all the things that chap my hide, including bizspeak, back-handed compliments and TED Talks (yeah, I went there). There’s a lot to complain about when it comes to the workplace, and irritating co-workers usually top the list of things that get under the skin.

I know this is the holiday season and I should have goodwill toward men, even Gary in the cubicle down the hall. But I’m not there yet. So instead, here’s my gift to you: a list of the most irksome colleagues and coping strategies for each.

Opiniona-Ted: Throughout my entire working life, there’s been that outspoken individual who mouths off about every topic, mansplaining or playing devil’s advocate just for kicks. The best approach in a one-sided conversation? Walk away and make it truly a soliloquy. There’s no winning this one.

Passive-Aggressive Patrick: Got a colleague who regularly throws sneaky shade your way? Call them out just as subtly but with a dash of kindness: “Wow, you must be having a really hard day.”

Gossip Girl: If your office mate loves to gossip about co-workers and managers, do your best to remain neutral. Engaging in this kind of talk can create a toxic environment and leave you vulnerable. When it gets really bad, let her know that you’re on deadline and need to focus.

Lazy Susan: Each office has that one special snowflake who consistently shirks her workload. Make sure everyone’s deliverables and deadlines are clear, and worry about your own side of the street. If you are a consultant and working alongside a lazy FTE, just stay focused on your scope. Someone slacking off can actually translate into more billable hours for you.

Brown-Nosed Brian: Is there someone in the office who constantly sidles up to the boss, even taking credit for others’ work? In this case, pick your battles. Focus on your own relationship with your manager, and if that little suck-up tries to steal your thunder, send your boss a memo that details that work that you and your team have accomplished.

Chatty Kathy: Like Gossip Girl, the office talker can be really distracting. If you share space with a talker, cultivate the habit of wearing your earbuds at all times. If you get cornered in the hall, look at your watch, apologize, and let her know that you have a meeting or meeting prep to attend to. Suggest catching up over lunch to corral the conversation.

Jennifer Worick is a veteran freelancer/contractor, publishing consultant and New York Times bestselling author. Email her at