Home > Social Commentary > How to Recognize 7 Personality Types in Office Politics

How to Recognize 7 Personality Types in Office Politics


schwarting_callinginDo you feel like you’re going crazy at work? Up is down? Left is right? Day is night? Chances are you’re in a sick system. Welcome to the wonderful world of office politics–there’s never been a better time to telecommute.

It’s a jungle out there and the big cats are forever sharpening their claws. Even if you make a conscious effort to stay out of the fray, it’s almost impossible not to be sucked into the vortex of people scrambling for power, favor, or recognition. Office politics are typically the most vicious when there’s very little to fight over in terms of money and glory.

There are some basic office politics personality types that can be found in most work settings. It’s helpful to be forewarned, if not forearmed.

1) The Ego Monster. They’re right. They’re always right. They’re the smartest person in the room. Their ideas are the best and the only ones that count. These are the folks that pay the most lip service to “teamwork” (i.e., do what I say or suffer the consequences).

2) The Bully. They use verbal and intellectual (if they’re capable of it) intimidation. They openly belittle others’ ideas, work, dress, speech, etc., (with the exception of their immediate supervisor(s) and/or boss). They only feel good about themselves when putting others down. Be careful if you choose to confront the bully. They become quite malicious and vindictive when someone tries to unmask them.

backstabbed3) The Climber. They have to be on top. It doesn’t really matter if the top is a glory-less position. If there’s a rung above them, they’re going to climb it. They usually ascend by using the daggers they plunge in people’s backsides as rappelling instruments.

4) Mr./Ms. Good Intentions. They’re a variation of the Climber, but disguise their agenda with “the best of intentions.” They smile as they sharpen their oyster knives–right before plunging them into your back while patting you on the shoulder.

5) The Pilot Fish. They’re the shameless suck-ups. They suckle at the power teat, hoping to avoid attacks from the Bully and Climber, while currying favor with the Ego Monster.

6) Harry/Harriet Half-Ass. Incompetent? You bet. Sloppy? Yup. Colleagues forever push the elephant broom behind them. They’re the masters of Dump & Run. They submit incomplete tasks and/or non-usable projects. “I know you wanted time codes for Project Video, but I co-created a company tee-shirt instead.” Huh? They’re continuously reassigned to different departments to “help out,” when, ironically and inevitably, they create more work instead of lightening the load.

7) The Innocent Bystander. You can never stay entirely out of the fray, not really. Even working from home doesn’t make you immune. The best you can hope for is a reasonably grounded leader who creates an environment of trickle down sanity (rather than trickle down INSANITY).

There are many reasons office politics exist, including:

  • Re-creating family of origin roles.
  • Feeling undermined at home and compensating at work.
  • Adult bullies in the grown-up playground.
  • Power hunger.

Whatever the reason, it makes for a thoroughly unpleasant workplace.

The crazy thing is, 20 years from now, none of the things we rage and plot over matters. Ultimately, the workplace one-upmanship in which we engage to bolster ourselves against life’s petty indignities is silly. Can’t we all just get on with it?

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

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Photo credits:

Calling in sick on artslant.

Backstabbed on bored.

  1. Mike
    June 29, 2010 at 10:38 am

    1, 2 and 3 can often coexist in the same person. I think this article on office politics is very relevant to the rest of your blog because I’ve found that the tyranny of NPD/BPD is usually at work in vicious office politics.

    “Ultimately, the workplace one-upmanship in which we engage to bolster ourselves against life’s petty indignities is silly. Can’t we all just get on with it?”

    No, we can’t. Because not everyone is talented and hard-working. Those who aren’t, compensate by trying to find an angle to climb their way to the top as opposed to the persistent application of true, on-the-job excellence.

  2. tammy
    May 15, 2009 at 2:08 am

    i knew my boss was wageing a war agenst me for 9yrs he didnt want to hire me from the start. i had more knowledge and skill than he. i had looks & client base galore. finally after years of rude attacks telling customers & new hires that im a battered woman, i dont know as much as i think i do, not to run my dept as am-structured it simular to places i worked prior. telling people im emotional and on crack. finaly hired a guy just as jelouse of me. a highly educated psycholoist- and artist fluent in 7 languages why mix paint? i have my whole life before and after college- grew up in trade. yet im a reactor evan knowing their goal. they created the mobster attack i fell into it and im out a job looking like the bad guy– sales are down and losses are up==clients are calling me telling me of his attacks. i delt with them forr years now i want to break him like he did me as corporate is turning the blind eye– then he wins all around as ill be just like him god help me what do i do!?!?!?

  1. March 7, 2012 at 3:34 pm
  2. December 17, 2010 at 6:32 pm
  3. March 17, 2009 at 2:15 am

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