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  • Part II: Coping with the Five Types of Toxic Coworkers

    In a prior post, we took a look at the five types of toxic coworkers. Here, we’ll discuss different ways in which you can cope with them. 

    Coping with the Five Types of Toxic Coworkers

    Coping with Toxic Coworkers

    You may have some immediate, fantasy-related ideas for what you would like to do when dealing with these coworkers, but cooler heads must prevail.

    In general, when coping with toxic coworkers, it’s probably safe to assume that they are unhappy in some way and have issues that you don’t know about or won’t understand. No one is toxic without having issues of some kind. Also, keep in mind that not everyone thinks or communicates in the same way as you…shocker, I know. Lastly, be respectful to everyone, regardless of their status within the company.  If you consistently treat others with respect, they will be more likely to do the same.

    In terms of specifically dealing with the five types of toxic coworkers:

    Handling the Hater
    In general, don’t indulge the hater’s complaints and negative comments – it just encourages them to continue because they know you are a receptive audience. It’s better to keep quiet and politely refuse to listen. If appropriate or possible, try to offer the positive side of the coin. Once the hater knows you’re not an outlet for their negativity, they tend to lose their energy and move on.  

    Dealing with the Slacker
    When dealing with any variety of slacker, it’s important to focus on your own work and make sure you’re doing it well. Don’t obsess about the other person’s lack of effort or unproductive behavior. At some point the slacker’s attitude, poor work ethic and/or consistently missed deadlines will be noticed by someone higher up. However, if the behavior is affecting your work, keep a log of what is happening and make sure you talk to a manager about the situation. If you have to deal with the gossip, the whiner or social coordinator slacker, your best bet is to refuse to listen or participate. The information shared is typically inaccurate, unproductive and will ultimately negatively impact your morale and your own reputation. Lastly, if any of the slackers appeal for your help – and at some point they will – resist the urge to do so. Once they know you’re willing to help, they will be back again to get you to do their work for them. While it may feel harsh, saying “no” or “I’ll need to check with the boss” is your best bet.

    Managing the Manipulator
    A manipulator’s behavior is about that person getting their way and gaining control/power. They are all about bullying you into doing something you don’t want to do or should not be doing. When dealing with a manipulator, remember to put on a happy face. It won’t change their behavior, but it may help you keep control over your own. This will let the manipulator know that their behavior isn’t controlling you.   Next, be assertive and stand your ground. Depending on your personality, this may feel difficult at the start, but it is essential – assertive people are more difficult to manipulate. Lastly, get management involved. Work with them so they understand the extent of the situation and to determine boundaries and tell them when they are crossed.

    Thwarting the Threatened
    The coworker who feels threatened by you – for whatever reason – is usually waiting for any opportunity to make you look bad with a goal of taking you down. When dealing with the Threatened coworker, there are two key things to do. First, try to maintain a safe distance as much as possible. Next, watch your back. Maintain copies of everything you do that involves this person or their area of responsibility. When they find the opportunity to blame you or make you look bad– and they will – you’ll have evidence of your good work. Lastly, keep your boss apprised of the situation and what work you’ve really done.  This will help you both call the Threatened on their conduct – which only serves to make them look bad.

    Schooling the Know-it-all
    When dealing with the know-it-all, remember to not take their behavior personally. This type of person may not be able to separate fact from opinion. They also don’t necessarily think you’re dumb – they’re just thinking about themselves.   Since the know-it-all is usually self important and has an unspoken need to be right, employing some reverse psychology is one tactic you can use. When introducing a new idea, say something negative about it first that they have to disagree with (e.g., I’m sure you’ll think this is a goofy idea) and then introduce the new concept/ idea. This scenario puts them in a position of having to agree with the idea because they first disagreed with your initial statement. Another option is to ensure everyone has an equal and limited time in meetings to discuss ideas – this may help prevent the know-it-all from dominating the conversation.

    So which tactics have worked for you in dealing with a toxic coworker? Which have not?

    Tim Holdsworth is a Business Analyst at AlignTech Solutions.  You can read more about him here.


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    About Tim Holdsworth

    Tim Holdsworth is a business analyst and marketing specialist for AlignTech Solutions.

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