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How to work with tricky personalities

Never underestimate the value of teamwork. When a group of people come together to achieve a common goal, they can change the world. Just look at the recent results of the Ice Bucket Challenge

There can, however, be a few teething problems when you first start working together. To misquote Forrest Gump – working in a team is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. 

Understanding how to navigate the muddy waters of clashing personalities will stand you in good stead, both in your studies and later career. Here we take a look at a couple of personalities you might come across, along with some advice from Swinburne Online students about how to tackle them.

The Doubter

In a team there is always one person who likes to play Devil’s Advocate for the rest of the group. Sometimes referred to as the Debbie Downer or Negative Nigel, The Doubter likes to rebut new ideas and spends a lot of time explaining to the group why something isn’t going to work. They are the typical Eeyore, seeing a thunderstorm in every clear blue sky. 

Advice from our students

It’s easy to dismiss these people as a pain and ignore their commentary, but if you think about it they see themselves as truth tellers or realists. Perhaps because of this penetrating insight they can see a flaw in your otherwise brilliant plan. Don’t just dismiss their opinion as negative, but weigh it equally against the others in the group.

So how do you get them on board with the team plan? In a friendly way explain that the group would like to give this idea a try. But if it doesn’t work they have everyone’s permission to say ‘I told you so.’

The Missing In Action (MIA)

After you’ve put in the effort to bring the team together in a Google hang out, there is nothing worse than having one of the group not turn up. Say hello to The MIA.

MIAs come in all shapes and types, like the over enthusiastic promisers, “yeah I will totally be there!”, the continuous excuser, “my car broke down and I couldn’t get a lift” and the ghoster who no one has seen or heard from for the entire project, “has anyone ever met this Dave person?”   

Advice from our students

Be proactive. Get in touch and give them the opportunity to re-engage with the group in a friendly way. Ask if everything is okay and if there is anything you can do to help. If you don’t hear back within a reasonable amount of time let them know you need to push on with the work and ask them to get back to you by a certain date to let you know they are still part of the team.

The Overachiever

Overachievers are actually a great asset to any team. They are often the first to arrive and the last to leave. Usually very active in the online forums and great at answering other students' questions, if you see one in the wild they can be easily identified by the large bag bursting with documents for the many projects they are currently involved in.

How to work with them:

Think of this person as the Hermione Granger of the group. While their endless energy and ambitious attitude might make you feel like an underachiever, why not use their incredible powers of planning and time management for good? Ask them for tips on how to manage your own workload and put them in charge of project management for the team. Their unbelievable organisation skills will help everyone bring their best work to the project.

Do you have suggestions for how to deal with different personalities? Connect with us on social and tell us your story!