the mole coworker

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They can be complete and utter nightmares, but executive coach Alicia Bassuk, who's worked with CEOs, sports stars and entrepreneurs, identifies the causes of troublesome colleagues' behavior and how best to respond.

The Moles

Who They Are: Mole colleagues hide when they feel insecure, allowing problems to become overwhelming. Reluctant and quick to embarrass, they are easily intimidated.

How to Identify Them: Look for these socially inept types eating alone at the cafeteria, sitting in the back of the room at the training and sneaking away early at office parties. They may seem laid-back when passing on opportunities for promotions, but they would rather languish in one position than extend themselves to advance. They can appear easygoing when accepting blame for a missed deadline, but actually lack the courage to confront the true offender. Fearful of risk, failure and rejection, they will shun attention at any cost. The moment your project requires communicating with others, moles will flee from their responsibilities and disappear under the radar.

What to Watch Out For: You might find the reclusive and pitiful nature of moles to elicit your compassion. But moles only know how to burrow down. Align yourself with them, and you will fall down the same career-isolation hole they dig for themselves.

How to Protect Yourself: Don't waste time helping moles become less isolated. They don't want to be noticed, and will convert anything you say into self-loathing. Count on them only for routine work that can be completed without drawing attention from senior management, especially for tasks which they volunteer to do.