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Here’s How To Stay Sane By Avoiding Toxic People In The Workplace

TristaMay 28, 2021

Not everyone enjoys going to their work. It may not be because of the work itself, but because of those who work there. Toxic co-workers may have a few cubicles down from yours, or you’re always put on the same shift as them. Whatever the reason, toxic co-workers can make work far less than desirable. It’s even worse if the person is your manager or boss.

Some ways may help you to avoid these types of negative people in your workplace. If you find that you’re working with a toxic person, this article is for you. So continue reading to see what may be able to be done to help you out in this type of situation at work. No one wants to be more stressed out at work than they already are due to someone they could avoid. Check out these effective ways to avoid toxic people at work.

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17. Distance Yourself

It may not be possible to put physical distance between a toxic co-worker and yourself if you share a workspace, but it’s worth a try. Watch out for any opportunities that may come up with open space and find a reason to work somewhere else in the building. Distancing yourself emotionally and mentally may work as well if physical distancing isn’t possible. Try wearing headphones at your desk if you’re allowed to, whether you play music through them or not. People usually tend not to talk to others when they know they aren’t listening to them. 

Making yourself look unavailable and busy to others helps cut off the instant access that might have someone in your ear every chance they get otherwise. However, if breaks are the issue and you’re getting swarmed by the toxicity of said person in the break room, start taking your lunch break outside if possible. Maybe find a part or even go for a short walk outside somewhere to get away from the toxic person for a brief moment.

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16. Play Nice

Sometimes blocking out the toxic person isn’t always possible because you work together, whether you like it or not. So don’t completely block them out. You don’t want to be accused of being the difficult one in the situation who won’t listen or who is toxic. Let them speak and share their ideas and let them give their input without interrupting. Allow these types of people to have their say as well. 

If letting them have their say shows others how toxic this person is, then that’s a bonus. No one likes to be shut out entirely, so letting them talk and give their input, whether you like it or not, is also good so that things don’t get out of hand and become explosive. Give this person the respect they deserve, even if they don’t deserve it, because you’re in a professional setting. Since you want the same respect, showing others how you want to be treated may help as well.

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15. Create Boundaries

Know your boundaries, and be sure to let others know around you what they are as well. If the toxic person goes past the annoying line and starts to become abusive or inappropriate, make a complaint to someone higher up. By not setting boundaries, you allow this person to push the limits, so draw the line and don’t take what they are dishing out. They will believe that they can get away with more than what they are already doing if you allow them to walk all over you.

Be sure, however, not to allow it to become personal. A complaint about the inappropriate behavior the toxic people have done in the workplace should not become a long list of every nasty thing they have ever done to you. Keep it professional and succinct, be clear about which workplace rules they are breaking and how it affects everyone. Don’t take it to heart if there is backlash from this toxic person, and don’t be surprised by it either. You may find that others start to follow your lead and put their foot down as well.

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14. Power-Check Yourself

Please don’t give this toxic person any space inside your head, so firmly and swiftly boot them out. You can’t control how other people act. Luckily, you do have complete control over how you react to them and the situation. It may be challenging, but you end up sabotaging your efforts in the workplace if you’re obsessing over what someone else is doing or what they might do next. Don’t let them know how much they are bothering you, or they’ll take it and ride with it. 

By overthinking your decisions and considering their feedback before it’s even been offered or thrust upon you, you are letting it control your mindset, which isn’t suitable for your mental health. Try taking the emotions out of your reactions to these toxic people. They will do what they want, but you don’t have to get upset about it or waste energy on it when it’s not necessary. Take control of your life in your workplace again and take your power back.

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13. Aim for Positivity

Drowning yourself in positivity to the extent that there is no room for negative feelings is one effective way to stay sane in any negative situation thrown your way. Harvard professor Nicholas Christakis and political scientist James Fowler indicate that happiness is spread between pairs of people and from a person to their friend. Furthermore, it can go to their friends’ friends, and so on. Their findings have revealed that even frequent face-to-face interactions can dramatically influence your happiness.

So whenever you start to feel any negativity start to creep in, interact with positive people. Also, don’t forget to remind yourself of what you have been doing well with while at work. Performing positive self-talks consistently can also help you to stay calm in a stressful situation, as well. The stress toxic people put on you is not needed, so why deal with it if you don’t have to?

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12. Cleanse Your Employees

It’s true how the saying goes, “One bad apple can spoil the bunch.”. If you have a naysayer in your organization who tries to bring gloom with unsolicited criticism and talk, you know how to try and get through the workdays while dealing with a toxic person. Before you know it, the negativity may spread like wildfire. Your business will be fractured into smaller groups, which could very well harm your organizational productivity, not to mention the company’s reputation may also suffer. 

It’s important to nip that negativity and toxic behavior by said person in the bud. Also, you have to take the necessary steps to cleanse your workplace of all toxic people. Try to start a conversation with your toxic employees by reminding them of the company’s policies and encourage them to change their behavior with positive energy. Try to find out if their behavior results from stress or personal issues they are dealing with outside of the workplace. If nothing seems to work and you can’t get through to them, it may be best for everyone involved to part ways. 

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11. Stop Overanalyzing Everything

Not surprisingly, negative people generally behave irrationally and absurdly. Furthermore, most of the time, even what they have to say is nothing more than baseless tirades. You may even notice that sometimes they go as far as spreading ridiculous and unnecessary rumors that may not make any sense. Have you seen that the more you think about their actions, the more stressed you feel, and maybe even drained? You are wasting energy on them when they don’t deserve your energy. 

Even trying to figure out what they mean or why they are acting out negatively will waste your valuable time, with no results in the end. While it may not be easy to ignore such individuals, especially when their negative behavior hurts and angers you, detaching yourself from such toxic people and their own issues is imperative to spare yourself the agony. Coming to terms with the notion that you have little to no control over their behavior is vital for your own mental well-being.

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10. Focus On Yourself

It doesn’t make sense to let the negative people ruin work for you if you love your job and the company you work for, and even other positive people you work with. Instead of letting these toxic people deviate and distract you from your goals and purpose in the workplace, try to stay focused on what you aim for instead. Tune all the negative people out and maintain a positive outlook instead of giving them the time of day. 

If they are struggling and taking it out on others, maybe your positivity may rub off and help them out. Sometimes a smile and a friendly word or two can go a long way. If there is only one harmful or toxic person at your workplace, and everyone else is optimistic and cheerful, they may catch on and start to turn their attitude around, as well. Don’t try to change them, though. They need to figure it out on their own. Just focus on yourself and what keeps you in a positive mindset.

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9. Lean In If You Can

Whether the toxic person you work with is your manager, employee, or coworker, they probably act irrationally. The toxic person thinks it helps them accomplish a goal. Arguably, irrational people “often approach situations this way because they feel this is the way for them to get their point across or to get out of a situation where they might be blamed for something. To them, it’s not irrational. They believe that if they can either manipulate someone or overwhelm them that the other person is not going to ask them to do something they don’t want to do or is not going to hold them accountable,” says Mark Gloston.

A way to deal with this irrational behavior would be to lean in, so to speak, and figure out what’s making them react in such a way. Goulston continues, “If you can realize that there is something underneath the way they’re behaving if instead of reacting to them, hold a little bit of yourself back, let them finish, and then pause, and lean into what they are saying and ask with a proper tone, a tone of inquiry wanting to hear more.” They may open up to you if they feel like you’re generally concerned about what’s going on. 

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8. Lean In, If You Care

By leaning in and showing you are concerned and want to help if you can, Goulston calls this listening into the eye of the hurricane. To put it into simpler words, you have to seek out the core message that they are trying to convey amidst the storm. It can be beneficial when trying to get through to someone toxic, especially to someone you manage. Engaging in dialogue and listening to what is bothering them is one way to get to the center of their toxicity. 

When you can get to the center of said person’s toxicity, you can help them confront the negativity at the source. Goulston aptly puts it like this, “Inside most people that are not dyed in the wool dysfunctional, there is a desire to get better results.” You have a chance of avoiding much of the toxicity if you can tap into the desire of them wanting to help themselves, as well. You not only can help yourself out, but you can help them out, too.

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7. Avoid The Sabotager

It seems that the most difficult of the toxic types of people is the sabotager. That’s especially true if they have somehow become a powerful part of the organization. It may worry some people about keeping your distance from someone for fear that they may sabotage your work and reputation. Besides, fear is a valid feeling to have in this situation. A few tips on dealing with this type of person include limiting your engagement with them. You can do so in different ways. Pick the one that fits your situation, and makes you comfortable. Try giving verbal cues, cutting off the conversation, re-framing, or being direct with them. 

By responding to triggers, you may be encouraging a toxic person to be more toxic. It’s best to ignore them as much as possible and not let them know they are bothering you. Please don’t give them satisfaction. Furthermore, let your work speak for itself. A sabotager can’t ruin a great attitude and work, so show your best face to the rest of the organization. By doing so, you lower the risks that the toxic person can ruin your reputation.

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6. Reward Good Behavior

It doesn’t matter if you’re in a position of power or not. You can use your confidence to reward others for their excellent behavior, thereby showing toxic people that you will not tolerate or engage with their poor and hostile intentions. Spend more time with good people and less time with toxic people, sending a strong message to those around you. Moreover, use praise when someone is being optimistic or shows positive behavior. Whether you are the boss or not, you can do this through physical and verbal cues, such as agreeing, smiling, engaging with, and working more with positive people. 

Using your body language to show those who are toxic that you will not put up with them or let them bother you is another good way not to reward their negative behavior. Physically turn your body away from them or take a step back when they approach you or even move to the side when they walk by. Doing so will consciously and subconsciously tell the person that you are not interested in engaging with them. 

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5. Tactfully Limit Engagement

Limiting your engagement with toxic people will help you avoid unnecessary stress and help your mental health in the long run. There are plenty of ways of doing so tactfully. That way, you don’t seem rude to others. More importantly, you can still get the point across to those you are directing it to. Use verbal cues such as responding in short sentences and unenthusiastically. Alternatively, you could even use staying silent. You can also cut off the conversation with a pre-planned excuse such as “I have a deadline.”  

Trying to re-frame what they are saying positively when you respond to them. You are showing the toxic person that you don’t think the same way they do. However, if all else fails and the person persists, be direct. Directly tell this person that you are not interested in having ‘this’ discussion with them. It may seem hard at first, but it should come easier to you to be able to respond to them in such ways after a while.

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4. Confront The Bully

If you have already let them be aware of your boundaries and limits on what you will tolerate from the toxic person and they persist in bullying you, the ball is in your court on what to do next. It is now your responsibility to face them about their behavior, which is easier said than done. The importance of confronting the toxic person about their behavior can’t be overstated. Considering what you’ve already tried to do, there isn’t another choice in the matter.  

You can be passive and let things go. Alternatively, you can confront the negative person. By being passive, you convey to them that you are indeed a qualified target for their abuse. Confronting the bully about the behavior they have towards you shows them that you not only have clear boundaries but that you also are willing to stand up to defend them, as well. The truth about most bullies is that after they are confronted, they usually back off. Why? Because bullies generally feed on the helplessness of their victims. If they realize that you are not helpless and will stand up to them, they will most likely back down and stop their toxic behavior towards you. 

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3. Document Their Behavior

Once you find yourself on the receiving end of workplace bullying, it’s your prerogative to document their actions towards you. It also goes for any misconduct you encounter while in the workplace. Keep precise records of what is said, including the time and date are necessary if the situation escalates and someone else is called in to mediate. By making records of what occurs, you provide yourself with detailed proof that will work to your credit. Documenting the toxic behavior also shows that you are serious about this and are unwilling to neglect what’s happened. 

Here’s an example: The workplace bullying has escalated and involves your manager. When you are questioned about what precisely the bully has done, you will be able to provide a detailed account of every act of negativity done by them. In turn, it immediately removes any potentially held suspicion on the part of the supervisor. It also sends the toxic person a clear and straightforward message that their actions have bothered you, and you are not willing to let it go so quickly.

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2. Speak To Others About the Toxic Situation

Ideally, it would be best if you combine this tip with the previous one about keeping documents. Is a coworker being toxic towards you and bullying you at your workplace? Chances are you aren’t the only one. You may benefit from asking your coworkers if they have also been dealing with the same issues. Alternatively, they might have witnessed the negativity, as well. If you find someone else dealing with the same problems from the same person as you are, you may decide to confront that toxic person together jointly. 

However, there is a chance that if your coworker has also been bullied and has kept it quiet the whole time. Furthermore, they might not have any interest in confronting the said person. Nevertheless, standing with them might give them the strength to stand up against that person once and for all. Are you the only one at your work that is being harassed? It is still important to talk with your coworkers to at the very least provide yourself with credible witnesses.

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1. Report The Toxic Coworker or Boss

Have you set your boundaries with this toxic person? Also, have you confronted them, documented their actions, and talked to your coworkers? Has nothing been resolved between you and this negative person? Then the next step may be obvious for most. You need to report their behavior to management or human resources in a final effort to put this situation you have been dealing with for some time to an end. 

Have you followed the previous steps mentioned above? Then you should be well prepared for when the time finally comes to talk to your manager or HR. You can provide a list wof specific instances of bullying by this person. Hopefully, you will more than likely have some of your coworkers to help back you up. They can attest that what you are stating is true. That will probably be the last action you will need to take. Hopefully, you can stop the cycle of bullying by this toxic person in your workplace. 

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