We have all had the displeasure of dealing with toxic co-workers. Here is how to handle toxic co-workers who make work unbearable.

Call It Out

Calling out unacceptable behavior shortly after it happens allows you to have some leverage. Passive-aggressive behavior is a way for toxic co-workers to maintain some power balance, and it is deliberately done to belittle and demean you. Whatever the reason, calmly confront the aggressor on what you are perceiving and why you feel the way that you do. Doing this will send a clear message that you know what is going on, and you will not stand for it. When you confront them, be straight to the point and avoid going off on a tangent.

Don’t Take It To Heart

It can be difficult not to perceive a slight as offensive, but ultimately, a person’s difficult work persona is a direct reflection of who they are, and has nothing to do with you directly. If you take what they are dishing out personally, then ultimately, they win. Ignore. Block. Delete, and distance yourself from the drama.

Try To Be Neutral

It can be hard to stay neutral in the face of anger, but an emotional reaction to provocation does not bode well either. If your co-worker is trying to provoke you, then it is best not to give them the satisfaction. When you remain neutral during a confrontation, or even while the person is trying to get the best of you, then you win. Try as much as possible to maintain a calm and neutral demeanor.

Co-workers conversing
Photo Credit: Darlene Alderson

Blow Off Steam

Work life can be draining. Let it out by talking to a friend, your therapist or anyone who is in your corner. Holding it in and acting like all is well is not a good idea and will further frustrate your efforts to heal and overcome your nagging co-worker’s toxic antics.

Avoid Them, If Possible

If possible, try to stay away from the aggressor. Don’t feel bad for removing yourself from the drama, and limiting your interactions with them. Don’t blatantly ignore them, but stay cordial and keep all interactions with the person to pithy, straight-forward responses.

Focus On The Positive

Instead of focusing on the relationships that are not healthy in your workspace, focus on the relationships that are going well for you. Invest time in forming strong relationships with other workers who will be a healthy community for you. Casual conversations with uplifting people throughout the day can make you feel happier at work.

Photo Credit: Ron Lach

Make It Known

It is important to document continuous harassment or problematic behavior over time to protect yourself if for any reason the situation ever escalates. If possible, bring in a third party and involve someone in a leadership role who will be in the loop of what is going on.