How to Deal with a Toxic Coworker

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Most people have experienced having a coworker that they don’t get along with. It’s nearly impossible to work at a job where you enjoy working with everyone surrounding you. In most cases, we get by and learn to co-exist.

One thing that can make this dynamic dysfunctional is toxic people — the type of person who drags you down or influences your work ethic and your enjoyment of your career itself. A toxic coworker is considered to be someone who is rude, aggressive, confrontational and disrespectful. They’re seemingly always unsatisfied with their position and the job at hand. This trait can express itself through their words, their behavior and body language, or even their productivity and work output.

How can a toxic coworker hurt your company?

Although a toxic coworker can be difficult for an individual worker to handle and keep at bay, it can also be detrimental to the company as a whole. One toxic employee can destabilize an entire work environment and its ability to function at peak capability, which is one of the reasons why a toxic employee can be so dangerous. It’s important for managers to spot the problem before it gets out of control and drags down the entire team.

Related: 6 ‘Win-Win’ Ways to Deal With Toxic Employees (Without Causing Lasting Damage)

What are the signs of toxic coworkers?

But how do we identify a toxic employee? Look for signs like the inability to compromise or be held accountable for their own work and any other difficulties that may arise at the office.

Another easy way to identify toxic employees is by noticing that they complain and play the victim card often. Although some work complaints are normal and to be expected, a mindset that everything is a personal attack on them is what you need to watch out for. Regardless of if it’s a new edict from management or something happening with a coworker, toxic workers view actions and decisions as being made by others to specifically disrupt their flow. Everything is always personal to a toxic person. This can also turn into gossiping about other workers at the office.

Toxicity in the office could also turn into bullying. If a worker believes people have it out for them, they’ll play the victim card and go into defense mode. Bullying coworkers is a logical and unfortunate outcome in this situation. It’s a constant struggle to avoid conflict with toxic workers — the drama weighs everyone around them down.

Related: How to Excel When You Have Toxic Coworkers

How to deal with toxic coworkers

There are several action steps for dealing with toxic people. First of all, keep tabs on who you are surrounding yourself with. Try to limit your time with someone who is toxic; you should instead try to associate with responsible colleagues who take responsibility for their work and have a positive outlook on work (and life) in general.

If a situation with a toxic coworker becomes too much for you to handle, or certainly if it has reached a level that is consistent with bullying, speak with your manager about the situation. If your manager is the toxic coworker, reach out to your company’s human resources department. If you’re not comfortable with that, many businesses have an anonymous tip line where you can report what is happening.

When the workplace becomes toxic

Sometimes, the end result of not dealing with a toxic coworker or toxic people within the office is a toxic workplace in general. This is a situation where there is negativity surrounding nearly everyone and everything.

This toxic environment will not only stunt progress when it comes to employee growth and general satisfaction, but it will also have serious ramifications on your client relationships and overall business success. Wait too long, and one person or one conflict will erupt into an all-encompassing negative environment that nobody wants to be around.

To avoid reaching this level of toxicity at the workplace, identify toxic traits among coworkers and staff immediately. Your company will be better off for it in the long haul, and your workers will be happier, too.

Related: How to Recognize a Toxic Employee and the 3-Step Process for Addressing Them


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