How to Identify and Deal with Toxic Coworkers

Coworkers toxic relationships

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Toxic coworkers are harmful to individual, team, and company performance. When you work with toxic colleagues, the consequences can be devastating for your mood, performance, and well-being. In addition, a toxic work environment can cause unhealthy relationships between team members, decrease efficiency, and diminish work satisfaction. 

However, the impact of a toxic workplace goes far beyond the office. Studies show that toxic relationships at work can be a significant source of ongoing stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout. They can cause considerable emotional distress, relationship problems outside work, and health issues. 

If you work in a toxic environment, it is critical to identify toxic coworkers and develop strategies to deal with them and protect yourself.

Identifying a Toxic Coworker

All healthy relationships are founded on trust and reciprocity, allowing each participant to feel safe, communicate their needs, and meet the other person’s needs. 

Toxic relationships at work can be recognized by a breakdown in trust, imbalance, and poor communication. In addition, a toxic coworker may play a victim, never accepting accountability for their own actions. 

Your regular interactions with this coworker will most likely deplete your energy, causing you to feel insecure, frustrated, and emotionally drained

Furthermore, a toxic coworker may use every opportunity to intimidate you. They will use gaslighting and other manipulation strategies to confuse you, diminish your self-esteem, and gain control in your relationship. 

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Signs of a Toxic Coworker

Toxic abuse may go unnoticed for a long time as it often comes in subtle and elusive ways. However, here are some red-flag behaviors that can help you pin down unhealthy patterns and identify toxic coworkers:

  • They are not cooperative.
  • They rarely tell the truth. Sooner or later, you’ll catch them lying.
  • They are not accountable. You can never rely on a toxic coworker because they never keep their promises.
  • They complain about everything.
  • They play a victim.
  • They put down, bully, or offend other coworkers.
  • They always procrastinate at work. 
  • They use triangulation to draw others into their conflict relationships. 
  • They spread gossip at the office, judge others, and hold grudges.
  • They have no respect for other people’s boundaries. 
  • They deliberately omit or hide information to obstruct or sabotage your work
  • They intentionally undermine the skills and contributions of others. 
  • They are self-centered. 
  • They are passive-aggressive.
  • They use gaslighting to manipulate and control others. 

Types of Toxic Coworkers

Once you identify a toxic colleague, you will notice specific patterns in their behavior and relationships with others. So, here are nine common types of toxic coworkers and how you deal with them to avoid stress and burnout. 

1. The Politician

You will recognize the Politician in the office by their constant need to show off and impress the bosses. Politicians are those toxic coworkers who always seek a new job opportunity or new promotion without really putting effort into their current tasks and responsibilities. They are self-centered and purposely withhold or omit information to sabotage others.

However, they will stop by the manager’s office many times a day, trying to convince them in own superiority and necessity.

2. The Office Flirt

This toxic coworker tends to be unprofessional and will do everything to pull you in flirtatious conversation at work, so try keeping a distance when you recognize this pattern. 

3. The Rooster

The Roosters among toxic office people have an inflated ego and the victim mentality. Their perfectionism and fear of failure keep them passive. They tend to ignore problems and back away from making important decisions and taking accountability for their own actions. Instead, they will always look for someone else to assign blame for mistakes and poor choices.

4. The Taskmaster

The Taskmasters are pros at assigning tasks and duties to others and then taking credit for other people’s success. They create the perception of being so busy that they simply can’t handle the work alone. 

5. The Wakeboarder

The Wakeboarders are generally outgoing, and other colleagues like them. However, like the Taskmasters, they will always pass their work to others, hiding behind their friendly personality. 

6. The Funeral Director 

The Funeral Directors at your office are those coworkers who thrive on drama. These individuals are driven by negative energy, so they will delay work and procrastinate to create tension and drama at the office. As a result, they are disorganized and never meet their own or their team’s deadlines, spilling out stress and frustration on other team members. 

7. The Tattletale

The Tattletales love to gossip spread rumors and bad news about others. They use negativity to climb the ladder and advance, so anything you say to them can be used against you. 

8. The Points Saver

The Point Savers keep records of everything they have done for you, expecting you to repay at some point. However, they will forget every favor you have done for them.

9. The Networker  

The Networker spends most of their time at work making connections. They believe that their success depends on who they know instead of what they know, so they spend time socializing instead of working.

Coworkers toxic workplace

How to Deal with Toxic Coworkers

Here are a few tips on how to protect yourself from toxic coworkers. 

Set Boundaries 

It is important to have friends at work. Research shows that friendships at work can increase productivity and job satisfaction, improve communication, and boost confidence

However, try staying professional by setting boundaries and learning to say “no” to unreasonable requests, avoid flirting, gossips, and conflicts at work.

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Be Assertive

Standing up for yourself positively and calmly is one of the best ways to deal with toxic coworkers. Becoming aggressive or passively accepting the toxic person’s manipulation and abuse can diminish your sense of self-worth, cause anxiety and depression, and hinder productivity. 

So, for example, when you deal with a toxic coworker who keeps loading you with their work and then takes credit for what you have done, openly and politely tell them outright that they are making the work experience challenging for you

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Show Empathy

To manage your relationship with a toxic coworker, try being empathetic and perceive the situation from that person’s perspective. Try to understand their behavior and their gain from it. You will be able to take the best approach and improve the situation for everyone involved.

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Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood is a Certified Life Coach, and best-selling author. Her mission is to empower high-performing adults and teens to become resilient self-leaders by reducing stress and anxiety, overcoming imposter syndrome, working through trauma, and re-discovering their AuthenticMe®.

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