Corporate Wellness

How To Deal With Toxic Co-workers

Do you dread going to work because of that one rude co-worker who just makes everything miserable? You're not alone. But there is hope! Learn how to deal with a toxic co-worker and regain control of your happiness at work.

By URLife Team
16 Dec 2022

Working in a professional environment often means dealing with people we don’t always get along with. Unfortunately, some of these people can be downright toxic and are instrumental in creating a hostile working environment.

It's important to remember that there are ways to handle challenging situations to make the workplace more enjoyable for everyone. In this article, we will provide tips on how to effectively deal with toxic co-workers so that you can operate in a stress-free environment.


Related story: Signs of A Toxic Relationship


What Are The Signs Of A Toxic Co-worker?

Toxic co-workers can make going to work a nightmare. It can be hard to tell if someone is really toxic or just having a bad day, but it’s important to recognise the signs of toxic behaviour so you can protect yourself and your job. Here are some red flags that show signs of of a toxic co-worker.

  • They insult, threaten, or hurt other co-workers.
  • They are egotistical.
  • They influence and manipulate people by using gaslighting techniques.
  • They always act like they are the victim.
  • They refuse to cooperate.
  • They don't always tell the truth.
  • Toxic co-workers are unreliable. They never follow through on their commitments.
  • They complain about every little thing.
  • They judge others, circulate rumours about co-workers, and hold grudges.
  • They are passive-aggressive.
  • They don't care about the boundaries set by others.


Related story: Gaslighting in Relationships: How to Recognise and Deal With it


Types of Toxic co-workers

1. The Brown-noser

A manipulative lackey is another type of toxic co-worker you may encounter. They often act friendly or do favours for those above them in the chain of command while engaging in negative behaviours with those who have to report to them. They may also try to gain control over others by manipulating situations to make themselves look better or appear more powerful.

These individuals will often use their charm and charisma to get ahead in the workplace while taking any opportunity they can to put down their co-workers. To do this, they may act like your best friend one minute but then backstab you the next; this behaviour is often referred to as “brown-nosing”.


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2. The Do-Nothing Co-worker

This is someone who shirks their duties and gets others to do their job for them. While this behaviour may seem harmless at first, it often results in an uneven workload and a hostile work environment. They can drain the office morale and productivity due to their lack of commitment and drive. So what exactly does this type of toxic co-worker look like?

First, there's the slacker, who always looks for someone else to help them with their tasks or projects without any intention of returning the favour. Then there's the manipulator, who uses guilt trips, flattery or false promises to try and get others to do their own work instead.

They avoid taking the initiative or completing tasks assigned to them, instead opting for someone else to handle the job for them. This type of colleague tends to take credit for the efforts of others and shift blame onto those around them when something doesn't go according to plan.


3. The Credit Thief

Do you have a co-worker who seems to be working against you? It’s almost like they want your hard work and dedication to go unrecognised. If this sounds familiar, chances are you’re dealing with a toxic co-worker, the credit thief!

From subtle comments about taking all the credit for work completed by teams to more blatant forms of intellectual theft, these co-workers can drain your motivation and make it difficult to stay productive at work. It’s important to recognise these types of behaviours early on to protect yourself from feeling devalued at work.


4. The Energy Vampire

We all have that one co-worker who just can’t stop talking. Even when the point has been made, the talking just keeps going on, and it can waste your office hours. They disrupt meetings and can be overwhelming to be around. This type of toxic co-worker can make it difficult for others to get their ideas across, leading to tension and stress in the workplace.

What makes this type of behaviour so damaging isn’t only that they monopolise conversation; an energy vampire might also show little interest in what their colleagues say or think, making them feel unheard and excluded from important conversations. Unfortunately, this type of co-worker often doesn’t recognise that what they are doing is inappropriate or harmful, which makes it hard for other team members to confront them directly about their behaviour.


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5. People Who Must Get Their Way at all Costs

One of the most frustrating types of co-workers is someone who has to have things their way no matter what. These people may think that they know everything or feel overly entitled and can make work life miserable for everyone else in the office. They are basically the combination of all the toxic traits mentioned above, and they can be extremely difficult to deal with.

People who ‘have to get their way’ often take credit for ideas that are not theirs, push their agenda , and will go behind your back if you disagree with them. They usually put themselves first and don't care how it affects other people or how it might damage team morale. This type of person will talk over others in meetings, use manipulative tactics on colleagues who disagree with them and refuse to listen when others offer different opinions or solutions. This behaviour can cause serious problems for co-workers who feel silenced by this bullying behaviour.


Related story:How to Break up With a Toxic Friend


How To Deal With Toxic co-workers

1. Highlight their Work

The first step to dealing with a toxic co-worker is highlighting their work in an authentic way. If you focus on what your toxic co-worker does well and give them recognition for it, it'll positively affect both of you. When people are praised or recognised for something, they feel good about themselves and tend to be more productive and cooperative. Doing this often enough can help build up their self-esteem, making them feel appreciated and more likely to approach things from a different point of view. This can also open up lines of communication that might have otherwise been closed off due to negative emotions on both sides.


2. Avoid Taking their Behaviour Personally

One essential step to dealing with toxic co-workers is avoiding taking their behaviour personally. It's easy to think that if someone misbehaves towards you, they must have something against you; however, this isn't always true. If we take a step back and remember that their behaviour likely has nothing to do with us, it helps us stay emotionally detached from any negative energy. It also gives us more control over how we react in the situation.


3. Look On The Bright Side

When dealing with a problematic co-worker, it’s important to remember that there are good qualities in everyone. Even if these qualities aren’t immediately visible or your colleague doesn’t display them often, they exist. Try and focus on these positive traits when interacting with them. Consequently, this will help to open up more productive conversations and create a better work environment.


4: Set Your Personal Boundaries

One of the best ways to manage negative interactions with a toxic co-worker is by setting personal boundaries for yourself. This means standing up for yourself and being honest about what you will and won't accept in terms of behaviour from your co-workers.

Setting personal boundaries involves respectfully communicating those boundaries in a way that encourages others to respect your limits. This could be anything from refraining from gossiping about other co-workers or not discussing topics such as religion or politics at work. It also means drawing clear lines between your own work life and theirs—for example, by saying no if they ask for extra help with tasks outside of their job description.


5: Protect Yourself If You Find Them Toxic

Protecting yourself from toxic co-workers is always a good idea. Try to throw yourself into work. This will help you keep your focus away from any negativity they may put forth and instead invest your energy into completing tasks that benefit both you and the company as a whole. It is important not to let your co-worker’s behaviour take away from your own productivity levels.

When dealing with a very negative colleague, thinking of yourself first is essential. Keeping conversations brief and polite yet firm will help protect you from getting sucked into their drama or manipulation tactics.


Related story: How to Spot And Deal With Workplace Bullying


Don’t Let The Toxicity Get You Down!

Dealing with toxic co-workers can be a difficult and emotionally draining task. However, developing a plan of action to address the situation will give you the strength and confidence to take charge of any negative workplace dynamics. It is important to remember that you are in control of how you respond and react to toxic behaviour and that it is ultimately up to you to create the work environment that you desire. It may also be beneficial to seek support from a supervisor or mentor if it becomes too overwhelming.


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