Types of Toxic Coworkers and How to Deal with Them

Close proximity and frequent interactions with toxic people in the workplace can be detrimental to both physical and mental health. Exposure to harmful behaviour can cause chronic stress and frustration and make you question your self-worth. The actions of toxic individuals range from annoying to abusive. Learn to recognize their behaviours and deal them accordingly.

Below is a list of some of the most common types of challenging people in the workplace. Chances are you have encountered some of them.

  • The Micromanager

  • The Bully

  • The Gossip Monger

  • The Drama Queen

  • The Whiner

  • The Critic

  • The Underminer

You cannot choose your coworkers or necessarily control toxic behaviour; but you can control how you react to them.

  • Focus on yourself and your goals. Remember why you are there in the first place. Do not let toxic people control your headspace. As tempting and as easy as it may be to focus on and obsess over the behaviour of others, do not fall into this trap. In doing so, you actively sabotage your own goals and ideals. Focus on work.

  • Do not take it personally. Toxic individuals are masters of laying the blame on others and making themselves seem like either the victim or the saviour. Whichever part they choose to play in their heads, keep in mind that their actions say more about them than you.

  • Keep your distance. Toxic behaviour is not only damaging, it is contagious. Distance yourself so you do not absorb or emit their toxicity. This does not only mean physically distancing yourself from them. Detach emotionally and mentally as well. Take note of their actions, interact with them if you must; but try to manage emotions and reactions.

  • Report when necessary. If a coworker becomes grossly inappropriate and unprofessional, make a complaint to your Human Resources department. Limit your complaint to rules they’ve broken and policies ignored. Be ready for backlash from the offender, but don’t take it personally. If that person reacts and starts lashing out, let them. Stand your ground without being defensive.

  • If all else fails, leave. Toxic individuals can be quite charming and manipulative. More often than not, targets find themselves fighting a lost cause. Studies of workplace toxic behaviour state it often goes unpunished. Victims and targets of office bullies have a significantly higher chance of being terminated before the bullies themselves are confronted. If you find evidence that your company is supporting a toxic individual, leaving may be your only choice.

If your career is a major source of enjoyment, do not let the toxicity of the workplace unbalance you or distract you from your goals. If you’ve become the target of toxic behaviour and it’s taking a toll on both your physical and mental health, seek the guidance of a professional counsellor.

Give yourself the opportunity to assess where you stand and how you can cope with your situation. Call Living Well by Design at (780) 246-8100 to schedule an appointment.

Wendy Hart