​6 personality traits that can sabotage your projects

​Don't let these six destructive personality traits turn a simple project into a nightmare. Recognize the signs of trouble before it makes an impact.

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Whether intentionally or unintentionally, stakeholders with certain personality traits and behaviors can damage relationships, impede progress, sabotage your projects, and negatively impact company-wide performance.

Here are six types of personalities that may be destructive to your projects, whether they are from internal or external stakeholders—or even project managers.

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1. The narcissist

It is estimated that approximately 6.2% of the population is narcissistic. Narcissistic stakeholders may believe they are smarter or more accomplished than others at all levels throughout an organization. At the same time, they may also see themselves as victims whenever things don't go their way. As a result, their behavior can be extremely destructive to relationships with peers and leadership, as well as for junior staff.

Their moods and behaviors swing between extreme highs and lows, which is difficult for project teams and other stakeholders to deal with or understand. It can make it extremely difficult for others to work with a narcissistic stakeholder since their behavior may create unnecessary conflict, lead to resentment, and result in significant amounts of disruption. Although the behaviors as a result of this trait may be unintentional, the results can be devastating to others around them.

2. The rebel

We all have a bit of a rebel in us, but it becomes problematic when it consistently hinders progress, especially for no justifiable reason. This trait is shown by behavior that frequently displays defiance and a need to go against the grain or avoid rules or protocols. While individual thought is a great thing and can inspire innovation, it can result in blocking great ideas from other stakeholders when they are not seen as sufficiently "radical."

Project Management requires stakeholders to go through a specified, structured process. A rebel may be highly reluctant to do so, and this can create unnecessary risk. Rebels may not always recognize when and where to exercise their rebellious nature, making it hard for others to know when the rebel's points are beneficial.

3. The passive-aggressive

Passive-aggressive behavior is one of the most-tricky traits to work with because it is hard to isolate and prove. Stakeholders who are passive-aggressive may or may not know they behave in this manner. However, the impact is likely to result in other stakeholders becoming angry and frustrated. Often this type of stakeholder appears cooperative and friendly yet misses deadlines, withholds information, refuses accountability, and may even use humor to mask negative comments directed at other stakeholders. Problems have an increased chance of going unresolved when passive-aggressive stakeholders are at the helm.

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4. The non-starter

Non-starters typically do not like conflict and practice avoidance as a strategy so that they don't rock the boat. While conflict avoidance may seem like a good thing, it can have the opposite effect when it comes to weighing in on decisions or confronting difficult situations. Sometimes even the most passive stakeholder must provide input. Failing to do so gives other stakeholders the impression that the non-starter is disinterested in the project or is incapable of providing any useful or valuable input. This can leave other stakeholders irritated and distant.

5. The negative thinker

Negative thinkers are unfortunately infectious. These stakeholders may not be aware they are perceived this way, viewing themselves as cautious or merely pragmatic, but nonetheless, they dampen creativity and balanced thinking. This can be highly troublesome for project team collaboration. It won't take long before other team members and stakeholders suffer from low morale and become unwilling to work with this personality type. Project Managers will need to address negativity head-on to ensure it doesn't infiltrate the behaviors of others and impact productivity levels.

6. The drama king or queen

This personality trait is more prevalent than you might think. We are all impacted by our environment, whether at work or at home. It becomes problematic when a stakeholder becomes immersed in their own unhappy dialogue and mixes it into workplace tasks. When this occurs, it can muddy the waters between a real project or task-based obstacles and perceived obstacles. If this becomes a common occurrence, relationships can become strained due to too much unwelcome drama.

These six destructive personality traits can turn the simplest of projects into a nightmare. The key is recognizing them and the signs of trouble before they completely sabotage the entire project and even company-wide progress.

One must be careful, however, when working on international or projects with multi-cultural personnel, given that there can be different behavior types that may seem to exhibit these destructive traits—but in reality—are merely a reflection of different norms.

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By Moira Alexander

Moira Alexander is the Founder of PMWorld 360 Magazine and Lead-Her-Ship Group, and a project management and digital workplace columnist for various publications. Moira has 20+ years in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large busine...