schmuck at the office her magazine

There is always one – a difficult, disruptive person who upsets the workplace, confuses coworkers and causes concern says Dr. Jody Foster, psychiatrist and co-author of “The Schmuck in My Office: How to Deal Effectively with Difficult People at Work.”

“By looking inward at ourselves and the person who is acting badly, we can develop a more rational roadmap to proceed in our office relationships,” says Foster.

It’s hard to understand why people act the way they do, but Foster has found that disruptive people come in all shapes and sizes.  In her new book, she breaks down how to recognize, understand, and help manage relationships with people who are in some way difficult at work.

Foster has identified ten types of “schmucks” who tend to disrupt the office: Narcissus, Venus Flytrap, Swindler, Bean Counter, Distracted, Mr. Hyde, The Lost, Robotic, Eccentric and Suspicious.

The Schmuck in My Office Cover her magazine

“Narcissus is someone whose ego fills a room as he takes credit for your work,” Foster tells HER Magazine.  “The Swindler is smooth, glib and has a larger-than-life persona that turns out to be shady enough to get him into trouble.”

The Robotic is so “utterly lacking in interpersonal skills that you can’t find any way to connect with him or her,” meanwhile, The Suspicious leaves you “looking over your shoulder each day as you leave the office,” says Foster.

Nobody wants that!  Toxic coworkers decrease productivity, destroy teams and generally make everyone else unhappy.  It can be especially challenging when that person is your boss and it can be intimidating to confront them.

“A boss acting badly is still just a person acting badly, and the behaviors should be called out as with any other colleague,” says Foster.

If your boss is making it impossible to intervene, you should have a conversation with Human Resources.  If talking to your boss or HR doesn’t work, it might also be a good idea to start thinking if working at this place is really worth it.

If YOU are being the difficult person at work, there is still time to make some positive changes.  It could also be time to change the office place culture you’re in.  “If you’re fortunate enough to realize that you’re the office ‘schmuck,’ you’ve been given a unique opportunity to see exactly where your behaviors interact badly with others,” she says.

november issue her magazine

Go here to access our digital magazine for free.

Some behavior requires intervention in the moment and some needs an overarching strategy for the long haul.  “Having empathy for the difficult behavior in others also helps to subdue our anger and allow for compassion and a workable path forward,” she says.

Be aware of your roles in these relationships.  Think about how you can change your perspective, behavior and understanding.


  • When you have attempted to intervene in some way to improve your situation but cannot.
  • When your manager or HR have been unable to effect change.
  • When you realize that everyone around you has a different outlook about the office culture.

How do you deal with a difficult person at work?  Share your experience with us in the comments.

Never Miss A Beat

Subscribe for updates on business, leadership, tech & more.

You have Successfully Subscribed!