Being Teammates With “Type A” Personalities

By: Neville Gayle


Have you ever had to work with someone that you felt was an extremely controlling person? Maybe they required you to check in with them every time every time you had to make a decision, or held up progress because they wanted final say on everything? Is it possible that this same person have taken over your meetings, undermined your leadership, or pushed their point on view on everyone on your team? Do you and your co-workers find it hard to continue to work with this person because they very pushy, lack basic soft skills, and refuse to compromise because they always want things to happen their way? If so, then I am also willing to bet that you have had at least one disagreement that has reached an impasse in which the other person when whining to your boss, or another manager to try to get their way.

Characteristics such as this could be describing a person that has a Type A personality (Type A). People that are “infamous” for having Type A can be described as an extreme form of perfectionists. Rarely is anything ever good enough and doing something over and over again may be required to satisfy them. They are always in work mode. It is common to see them eagerly arrive early in morning and eager to stay beyond the wee hours of the night. Their energy level is also very high. As a business owner and consultant, I love those traits. I would feel very comfortable in allowing someone like that to manage my projects. However, there is a downside to this personality type. Their extreme behavior eventually leads to being very controlling and dominating. This prevents true teamwork and collaboration from taking place. It can kill the momentum of the entire team when others are not able to make a contribution of feel like their opinion doesn’t count. At some point, Type A will either be doing all the work themselves, or spend a great deal of time criticizing others and pushing them to perform based on Type A’s expectation.

So, what do you do when you have a very controlling and domineering co-worker that you have to put up with? Allow me to give you some things that I have learned during my encounter:

1) Re-evaluate Your Values – If you’re like me, you may refuse to give in to someone just because they have a strong personality. However, I had to revisit my own personal values to determine what was important to me. I strongly recommend others who are in a similar situation to do the same. If necessary, list them out. Use this list to determine in advance what you are willing to fight for and what you will let go. Otherwise, expect to bang heads with Type A every single day. I remember someone saying to me years ago to “pick and choose your battles; otherwise you will end up fighting all the time.” What are the most important things to you? List them out and then refuse to give in ONLY on those things. Everything else should be up for negotiation.

2) Give Up Some Control – The keyword here is SOME control. This may sound like a bad idea, and it is if Type A is actually horrible at what they are doing. However, if good results are produced, use them to your advantage. Give them additional responsibility. They have a tremendous amount of energy and like to work hard. This would not be a good time to get territorial on the workload, unless you are also a Type A (which I don’t understand why you are reading this article… shouldn’t you be working???) Get out of their way and let them go at it. Be sure to ask if they need help every now and then, just to be polite.

3) Manage the Progress – Since you are giving up some control, it may also be a good idea to check to see what their progress is like. They may be having a tough time in a certain area that requires your help. Don’t expect them to ask you. Continue to make yourself available by checking on their status. It will give you visibility to ensure that work is actually being done. It also helps in case you are asked about the progress of a task. You want to be able to speak intelligently about how things are going.

4) Stay Your Ground When Values Are Tested – A way of confirming that you are working with Type A folks are when one has to experience times that they test you to see how far they can get with living out their “unhealthy” personality. Remember your list of values that I had you list earlier? Never allow them to make you go against them. I have seen Type A test some co-workers and win. Then, I have seen the same person test other co-workers and lose. When saying no, it doesn’t have to be done in a loud or aggressive way. However, it does have to be consistent. If you are consistent, they will eventually back down on the subject. Beware, they will attempt to test you again on a different subject, it’s just a matter of time.

5) Build Allies – If you really tick off Type A, they will go cry to whoever will listen to gain support. However, if you already have enough support in place, the whining should fall on deaf ears. Don’t be blindsided. Be sure to keep your allies in the loop about your progress with Type A and how they can be more supportive of you. If you believe that you can talk to your allies confidentially, be sure to let them know about the behavior (which they may already know) and how it may not be in the best interest of the team. In the end, it is extremely important to have ally support otherwise Type A will feel free to run wild!

6) Document Altercations – A possible explanation that Type A can get what they want when they whine to superiors is because there’s no evidence to support your side of the story. Don’t expect other co-workers to stick up for you during these battles because they may not want to feel the brunt of Type A in a retaliation match. When you find yourself butting heads with Type A, keep a log of each occurrence, what it was about, the immediate result, and any additional developments. That way, once you are officially called into the Principal’s office, you have a track record of each occurrence as well as a thorough defense. No one can argue the facts, not even a Type A.

7) Ask Challenging Questions – While Type A can convince anybody to bet on them, it may be necessary to ensure that things have been thought through enough. Asking Type A questions to force them to think things through may be necessary to convince them to change their own minds, or to get them to do more research before they lead the entire team out to the battlefield only to be slaughtered due to a ill-prepared plan of action.

Asking questions will also help when there is an opportunity of only being told half the story. As a way of maintaining control, Type A may only reveal so much during general discussion or team meetings. Therefore, it is vital to ask additional questions to gather important information that may not be disclosed upfront. Try to ask questions with a calm demeanor so that it doesn’t appear that you are confronting them or putting them on the spot. It may also help if it is done in front of a group of people (for additional support). That way, if you begin to see Type A squirm or, in rare occasions back down, then you know that you are on to something. Try not to smile too big if you see that happen.

8) Equal Treatment – Lastly, be sure to treat Type A just like the rest of the teammates. They may have made things difficult for you, but try to fight the temptation of treating them worse that everyone else. Remember, there are benefits of having a Type A on your team. Their high strung energy helps them to produce results that the whole team can benefit from. We can all use a little bit of that Type A personality every now and then. In the end, it is the person that understands the dynamics of Type A that will generate the best results out of the work relationship!

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Neville Gayle is the founder and president of Executive Intervention, LLC, a training and development company that specializes in developing and facilitating customized training solutions in the areas of information technology and organizational development. He has worked with several Fortune 500 companies around the world to help businesses increase employee productivity and has obtained several industry-related training certifications including the Development Dimensions International (DDI) Training Certification and the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) Certification as well as an Instructor for the Human Resource Certification Institute. He is a member of ASTD and SHRM. For more information, logon to www.execintervention.com or email [email protected]

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