Among other difficult people consultant Robert E. Mumford Jr. thinks you should be prepared to handle on the job:

* Put-down artists: Typically rivals or subordinates, they may take pot shots while you conduct a staff meeting. "We teach people to respond immediately to those shots," says Mumford, "to bring it out in the open."

If you know it's coming, "Sit right next to them and chat. It's hard to pick on somebody next to you."

* Vacillators: They can be nice guys, but it's a pain to get a decision out of them. "Get them to talk about options," advises Mumford. Ask, "What do you like about that?" If they get to the point of making a decision, "Strike while the iron is hot."

The next day, follow up with something like, "I just want to make sure you didn't have any second thoughts." Or: "I believe we did the right thing" (using "we" takes the pressure off--"anything that will allow him or her to ease into a decision").

* Whiners and cryers: They are the people who corner you to "gripe, complain or bad-mouth." Or they will tell the boss, "Charlie's driving me crazy."

If you are the boss, ask: "What can you do to make it better?" Get them to give you a plan.

If you are tired of hearing about Charlie's faults, "Start talking about his good points." The whiner, says Mumford, will probably skip you the next time around.