If you find that after you tell something to your coworker, everyone in the office seems to know, you’re probably dealing with a toxic coworker (via Zen Business). This person works full-time as a rumor mill and spreads rumors about you to boost their ego. The worst kind of rumor-spreading coworker is a tattletale who tattles on coworkers for every little thing. They may be looking for attention by getting coworkers into trouble. Whatever the reason, stay away from this person and let HR know that you’re uncomfortable with their behavior (via Zen Business).
A quick and easy way to determine if a particular coworker is truly toxic is if the person is not a team player (via InPsychful). They thrive on hearing themselves talk and voicing their own opinions instead of allowing others to contribute. They have no value for other people’s ideas and what they can bring to the table because they think that they’re the most important people in the world. Because these people cannot listen to anyone else’s opinion, they cannot receive any feedback on their performance. Working with them is usually annoying at best (via InPsychful).
Having a busy and productive employee may sound like a boss’ dream. However, some employees take this trait to extremes by constantly insisting that they’re so busy they cannot possibly get everything done (via InPsychful). In fact, they need to know that they’re doing more than anyone else in the office. And they need you to know this, too. In their minds, the whole office would shut down if they should miss a single day of work because they’re so valuable to getting the job done. More often than not, those people are not doing their own position and are trying to take over for coworkers they believe to be incompetent (via InPsychful).
You probably spend so much time with your colleagues that they become sort semblance family. And what family doesn’t have its own dysfunctions, however small or enormous they may be? But seeing your colleagues at work as a family is exactly the wrong approach (via Daily Mail) if you want to avoid toxicity and ensure that you get your job done well. In families, the focus tends to be on smoothing over differences so that everyone can enjoy each other’s company. You’re not at work to enjoy each other’s company, you’re there to get a job done (via Daily Mail).
Of course, you should want your time with your colleagues to be enjoyable. However, you can have a fulfilling relationship with them without mistaking them for family and glossing over problems to cause dysfunction. Instead of thinking of your colleagues as your family, think of them as a team (via Daily Mail). You’re part of a team that works towards high performance. People on sports teams have differences that they can set aside to win, and this difference is the key to moving past toxicity to get to high performance.
The stakes are always high for professional sports teams, so tempers flare – and you sometimes see these flare-ups on national television. But 99% of the time, team members respect each other, even when making mistakes (via Daily Mail). Bullying and gossip don’t only hurt people’s feelings; they bring down the entire team so that games are lost instead of won. The same principle applies in a high-performing workplace (via Daily Mail). There’s no room for the negative behavior that family members may gloss over and make excuses for.
If you’re dealing with a toxic coworker, you may feel so trapped that the only way out is to quit and move to another job (via CNBC). The situation can be even worse if this person has the boss around their finger. The good news is that there are things that you can do. However, you can only win the battle if you refuse to engage the toxic coworker, as well as people who may be in cahoots with this individual. You can’t help this person; the best thing you can do is restore your work environment to a level of sanity so everyone can function better (via CNBC).
If you have a toxic coworker trying to get their feelings, especially victimhood, validated, the worst thing you can do is agree just to get the person to leave you alone (via The Ladders). Deciding that this person is truly being victimized is like pouring hot grease onto a fire. According to expert Adam Chase, “There are a lot of traps toxic people will try to pull you into, but the one I see most often is a cycle of vindication. Whatever they’re currently being negative about, they’ll try to pull you in. They’ll appeal to your emotions, to your sense of right and wrong, sometimes even to logic and reason–whatever it takes to get you seeing things their way” (via The Ladders).
Toxic coworkers stir up trouble by talking about inflammatory subjects such as politics (via The Ladders). They may also try to talk about office politics because they thrive on playing a game instead of doing their work well. If you have a coworker who tries to drag you into a conversation about something controversial or personal (including your own opinion about a person at work), shut the conversation down immediately. Let the person know that you’re not comfortable discussing those things. Change the subject, walk away, or let the other person know that you’re busy if you’re at your desk (via The Ladders).
One of the most frustrating things about dealing with a toxic coworker is wanting to help this person and recognizing that you can’t (via InPsychful). You’re responsible for one person and that’s you. That person has a workload that you need to complete, and that person also needs to feel sane when leaving work at the end of the day. The toxic coworker is responsible for changing their own behavior and challenging personal growth. If you try to take on that challenge for the other person, you will only be more frustrated than before (via InPsychful).
Your toxic coworker may be an expert at sucking up to your boss (via Daily Mail). However, the responsibility of people in HR is to manage these complex situations impartially and objectively. If you have some genuine concerns that can be documented, ask to speak with someone in HR. If you know that this toxic coworker has compromised one person in HR, ask to talk to a different person (via Daily Mail). And if you really feel trapped, if your office is part of a franchise, ask to speak with someone in the corporate office.
If you’re working on a team and are uncomfortable with a toxic environment, at your next team meeting, let your coworkers know you want things to improve (via Daily Mail). Say something like, “I’ve noticed that there has been a lot of negativity happening at work, and this energy is hurting our ability to get the job done. I want things to improve.” This way, you are keeping the accountability away from specific people (who will probably not handle the blame well) and shifting the focus to where it needs to be – getting the job done (via Daily Mail).
Toxic coworkers thrive on feeling victimized; they draw their energy from thinking that they have a hard lot in life. Don’t encourage this behavior by complaining about them. Instead, focus on the behavior that is causing problems (via Daily Mail). Document this behavior as necessary so that you can bring it to your superiors (via Daily Mail). If you’re a leader at work, tell your coworkers the specific behavior occurring and that you want it to stop. Remember, you’re not trying to fix anyone, you are trying to make work a safe place for employees.