How To Deal with Toxic Coworkers

· November 15, 2015

When we talk about dealing with toxic people, we know one solution is to distance ourselves from them. In certain situations, however, this isn’t an option. In the workplace for example, sometimes we are faced with a toxic person and we have no choice but to put up with this type of them, and deal with them every day with no chance of avoiding them. 

In addition to seeing this person every day, we have to work with them, achieve a concrete goal together with them (or as part of a group), and make this attempt successful. This can seem disheartening, but we can deal with it.

7 types of toxic colleagues

First, we can distinguish seven kinds of toxic colleagues that we may find in work environments:

  1. The protagonist. This is a person who is always trying to be the center of attention. They take control of conversations, imposing their points of view. They are always very competitive and do anything necessary to achieve their goals.
  2. The unreliable one. The unreliable one never respects deadlines. They always get behind on their work, show up late to meetings or work, etc. This kind of person’s irresponsibility affects others in a work group.
  3. The gossip. The workplace is ideal for this type of person. We can see them, especially during the coffee break, commenting on others’ actions or sharing information about them. Sometimes, they act as a “spy” and inform their superior about irrelevant details, but ones that are harmful to others.
  4. The apathetic one. One of the worst coworkers is the one who does their job in an extremely inefficient way. They care neither about their work nor about their coworkers. They follow the “law of minimal effort,” something that has negative repercussions for the work group.
  5. The hothead. The hothead always seems really busy. This is why they will never greet you or offer you a smile. They do not like to work as part of a group; they prefer working by themselves.
  6. The contradictory one. This is a person who never agrees with the opinions or decisions of others. They always contradict them. It is very difficult to work with them since it is so difficult to come to an agreement.
  7. The competitive one. Their competitiveness has no limits. They never let a good opportunity go by. They are always waiting to steal the accomplishments of others in the eyes of their superiors.

How do we protect ourselves from a toxic coworker?

As we mentioned, it is difficult to avoid a toxic coworker because we have to work with them every day. This is why we must ask ourselves: how can we work with them without letting it affect us?

For starters, we must not get wrapped up in their game. Our best option is not to let ourselves be carried away by someone who is constantly angry or who always wants to be the center of attention. We must accept them, but without letting them influence us.

If it really affects you and you cannot avoid it, reflect on the situation. Think about why they are affecting you so much, if there’s anything you can do to prevent them from affecting in this way, and what you might be able to change. Change your perspective, try to see it in a humorous light or as a learning opportunity. That will help you.

If you are dealing with toxic coworkers, never seek their approval. If you do this, you are giving them power and you are undervaluing yourself. They will never praise your work, so show your pride, do your work to the best of your ability, and most importantly, respect your coworkers, even if they are toxic people.

Can having a toxic coworker ever be a good thing?

Not all toxic coworkers affect us negatively. Although it may be difficult to believe, many of them can improve our productivity.

Having a gossipy coworker, for example, can be beneficial. Gossips allow us to disconnect and strengthen a group. In addition to improving productivity, they help relax the office environment, increase camaraderie, and promote a better efficiency within the group.

Everybody talks about others. The problem is if this is used as a negative mechanism or if we believe everything that they tell us.

The person who continuously disagrees with others can also strengthen the group. Why? Because they allow us to see “the other side of the coin,” consider the opposite view, and be conscious of whether or not we are on the right track with our work.

It is good for everyone to share the same opinion, but it can also mean that something is going wrong. The problem arises when someone continuously plays the devil’s advocate with the sole intention of irritating others.