A recent article in BusinessWeek provides a step by step guide for confronting the problem personality at work. The suggestions are certainly sound advice for managers and they represent a compassionate way to address what can be a painful process for all parties.
While "problem behavior" certainly needs to be candidly and firmly addressed, confronting a "problem personality" can be a much greater challenge. As much as ego would have us think otherwise, every one of us has been a problem personality at one point or another. So, what if the problem is thought of in different terms?
There is a charming story about the great Buddhist teacher Atisha. As he planned to travel to Tibet, he was told that the people of Tibet were very easy going and kind. Instead of feeling relieved and complacent, he was concerned that he would not be challenged enough in his daily spiritual practice. So he brought along with him a mean-tempered, ornery Bengali tea boy to remain "awake". However, upon arriving in Tibet, he discovered that the Tibetans offered him enough challenge with their own "problem personalities".
It is perfectly reasonable to work on your relationship with the problem personalities in the office, but be grateful they exist and give you a training ground for dealing with all the other problem personalities you will encounter on your journey. And, hope that those personalities will afford you the same gratitude.