Toxic colleagues – here’s how you deal with them

toxic colleagues

Toxic colleagues? Here’s how you deal with them.

Working with toxic colleagues can be frustrating and working in a toxic environment can often be debilitating to your health.

Unfortunately, there will inevitably come the point in your professional life that you may have to work with someone you find difficult, distasteful, or obnoxious. It helps to remember that whatever we may feel about an individual, someone else may feel the same about us. After all, we’re all human and have our weaknesses and faults.

But that doesn’t mean we have to take it all in and let their negativity rub on us.
Deal with it with these strategies.


Accept, be mindful and move on

The reality is we are not going to like everyone we meet. Accept that you aren’t going to get along. Then, whenever you clash with these toxic individuals, acknowledge the issue, focus on the work problem, and seek solutions to resolve it. Do not engage in a conversation that will perpetuate the negativity. That doesn’t mean you completely disregard your feelings. Recognise your emotions be it anger or irritation. Remind yourself this challenging moment will pass. You have power over your emotional state.


Tact trumps

Each time you feel your temper is peaking, choose to be tactful instead. While it’s not easy, cultivating a poker face during meetings or sessions with a toxic colleague can give you the upper hand. Treating people with civility and politeness will also mean focusing on the issue and not the other person. Stay firm on the subject. Keep this up, and people (even the toxic ones!) will see you as someone level-headed and professional.


Be direct

Establish that you do not appreciate certain behaviours, for example, if they have been saying untruths about your work or sharing gossip about others. Make your expectations, not your feelings, clear. You do not want to engage them in a meaningless conversation, so stay poker-faced and focus on the issue while speaking calmly. Toxic individuals thrive on passive and adverse reactions, so don’t give them what they want.

If it’s the environment and you just want to disengage, my favourite has always been the headphones trick. Wearing headphones can make you appear less approachable and less likely to be interrupted. 


Seek Help

Suppose you continue to feel harassed and troubled by situations created by these toxic colleagues. In that case, the next step is to raise the issue to either your supervisors, union, or HR personnel. Again, be honest and open with the situation and cite examples of how the behaviours affect your work performance and mental health.

Suppose you feel your stress levels impair your ability at work and cause you to feel down and sad. In that case, a referral to a therapist may be beneficial.


It’s easy to react emotionally to a toxic person, especially if their behaviour seems ridiculous and frustrating. However, don’t let your emotions get the best of you or allow yourself to be consumed by the antics of toxic colleagues. Instead, rise above it and focus on facts while giving rational responses. 

Diplomacy is key to dumbing down the negativity. The best way to handle the situation- remain positive at the workplace!


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