Five Folks to Avoid at the Office

Good co-workers can help make a bad job seem a lot better. But the wrong co-workers can make your dream job seem like a nightmare. Here are five people you should avoid in and out of the office to keep your sanity -- and your job.

1. The Gossip

The office gossip knows everyone's business -- especially if it's personal. So if you want to find out what really happened at last year's Christmas party or why Tom in Accounting took a leave of absence, the office gossip will tell you. However, by listening to such tales, you are damaging your co-workers' reputations and your own. No one trusts the office gossip and if you ally yourself with him, no one will trust you either.

2. The Pessimist

You have a great idea for a new marketing campaign for your company. You can barely contain your enthusiasm and excitement … until you start sharing it with the office pessimist. Instead of offering up constructive criticism or support, she starts poking holes in your plan and telling you either why it won't work or why your boss will never buy into it. Shrug it off -- and avoid sharing your ideas with the office pessimist in the future. Innovators get ahead. Pessimists get nowhere.

3. The Slacker

The office slacker is usually very likeable. He'll give you all sorts of helpful hints on how to beat the system at work. He'll invite you to sneak out for long lunches -- or an early cocktail. He may even brag about how much he gets paid for how little he actually does. If you count this character as your closest friend at work, you stand the chance of being seen as a slacker even if you're not. Be cordial -- but keep your distance.

4. The Bully

Many offices have a bully. And, sadly, not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to totally avoid this person. To minimize your exposure, do not engage with the office bully unless it is absolutely necessary. Avoid one-on-one meetings whenever possible. Accomplish everything you can over e-mail and via instant messages. A paper trail will protect you by proving that you've always behaved professionally, while it may reveal the bully's aggressive and inappropriate actions.

5. The Boss's Pet

Think because you're in with the boss's pet that you're in with the boss? Think again. This employee is only out to further her own interests. While yours may align with hers for a time, you can bet that will change, especially if she senses that you are about to usurp her position as the boss's favorite. Do not count on anyone to herald your praises to the boss. Instead, focus on doing a great job and tactfully toot your own horn from time to time.

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