Strategies to Deal with a Toxic Coworker

Ideally, your workplace should be a place where you feel safe, comfortable, and productive — not unwelcome and uncomfortable. Toxic coworkers can create an antagonistic environment for everyone in your organization. Constantly interacting with someone who behaves disrespectfully takes a toll on your mental and physical well-being, and this is something that should be addressed. 

3 Strategies to Deal with a Toxic Coworker

Toxic coworkers aren’t people who annoy us — they are people who drain us. Between their behaviors and interactions, they drain us mentally and physically. We spend a lot of time thinking about what to do with them, talking with other people about how to respond, or even spending time trying to please them. Here are some strategies you can use to deal with a toxic coworker:

1.   Don’t make their problem your problem

There is no secret that toxic coworkers have some sort of problem in their lives. What you see on the outside, such as their behaviors or how they treat people, is a cover for something that is going on internally. If that person is miserable and rude to people, don’t let their behaviors bleed into you. Their problem(s) are not yours and you are not responsible for solving their problems.

2.   Minimize contact

If this toxic coworker is a part of your department, it’s important to minimize contact with them as much as possible. For example, if you are asked to be on some sort of committee in your workplace that the toxic person is already a part of, it is likely the committee will have an unhappy or uncomfortable environment. By not joining, you can minimize contact with that coworker. But, when that is not an option, you may need to take other committee members’ leads to see how they interact with your toxic coworker, and if applicable, speak to the Chairperson or Project Lead if you are seeing disruptive behaviors.

3.   Create awareness

If you only focus on minimizing contact with that coworker, they will never know that their behavior is bothering you. If you have a coworker that is constantly talking over others but you don’t ever make them aware of it, they won’t stop. If a toxic coworker’s behavior is bothering you and other coworkers, it’s important to create awareness of the specific behavior so they can work on it. Try using an Assertive Ask to remedy the situation.

Toxic coworkers drain you of your energy, time, and happiness and sacrifice your wellbeing and workplace performance. Dealing with toxic coworkers can be challenging but doing so is possible. If you want more tips on how to deal with toxic coworkers, listen to our PK Pods episode on the topic