Handling Abrasive Personality Types

Persons with abrasive personalities who are also poor workers do not present a problem since the choice to dismiss is more easily taken. But what about the high performers with difficult personalities? These people may be intimidating to others. They may be aggressive, sarcastic, arrogant, argumentative, and generally difficult to get along with, creating a tense work atmosphere wherever they are.

Persons with rude personalities who are also good performers are very often extremely ambitious, at all times pushing themselves toward impossible aspirations but never being able to get them. When they fall short of the perfection they expect from themselves, they are frustrated, angry, or upset. Self-control for such people is very important. Such persons often over-organize and cope with imperfections by over-controlling, by not delegating, and by refusing to take any responsibility for problems they create in interpersonal relationships.

What can you as a supervisor do? First, realize that abrasive and provocative behavior arises from a person’s awfully vulnerable self-image. Such people need for affection and are eager for contact. Do not become angry. Instead, initiate frequent discussions with them; describe their abrasive behavior and how it affects you and others. Point out that you recognize their desire to achieve and that you want to help. If your workers are willing to listen to you, you may even enter into a mutual agreement to point out the abrasiveness every time it happens since they are not always conscious of it.

If your caring and gentle counseling does not work, then these people must be firmly told that their behavior affects the workplace and is therefore unsatisfactory and that they may need professional help. You should clarify further that their being referred either to a company counselor or to an outside psychologist means that you feel they are so competent or skilled that you don’t want to lose them. You want to do everything you can so that they can mature and assume superior responsibility. Being sent to a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a counselor should not be seen as a reprimand but as a step forward, representing your belief that they will come through all right.

Also, pay notice to workers with attractive personalities. Not all are self-centered, but many are. Notice that the more exhibitionistic these people are, the more they need approval and the less thoughtfulness they may extend to others. How often do these people use the pronoun “I”? This may indicate that they have problems working as part of the team.



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