Don’t Miss the Slideshow: 10 Tips for Coping with Toxic Coworkers
Is there someone in your workplace — a domineering manager, a difficult coworker, or maybe even a demanding client or customer — who drives you crazy? Are there people at your job who make you feel inadequate, unworthy, or just plain miserable?
Difficult people exist at work as in all facets of life, and they come in every variety. Dealing with these types is easier when the person is just generally obnoxious or when their behavior affects more than one person. But it is much tougher when they personally attack you or undermine your professional standing.
While you probably can’t change such a person, the good news is that by following these 10 tips for dealing with problem people in the workplace, you can avoid being their victim:
- Identify problem people. Learn to recognize when a coworker is “toxic.” Difficult people come in all shapes and sizes: Some talk constantly and never listen. Others must always have the last word. Some coworkers fail to keep commitments. Others criticize anything that they did not create themselves. A toxic coworker can take the form of a cut-you-downer, a two-faced backstabber, a gossip, a meddler, an instigator, or a nasty competitor.
- Beware bad bosses. Bosses are in charge, whether you like it or not. If your intention is to keep your job, you will have to learn how to get along with an arrogant or controlling boss. If you need to confront your boss, avoid putting him or her on the defensive. This is the most risky situation with which to deal.
- Assess your situation. Initially, you might be shocked that you are being treated unprofessionally. Take a deep breath, and try to understand exactly what is happening to you. Realize that you are not alone.
- Take concrete action. Once you are fully aware of what is happening, deciding to live with the situation long-term is rarely an option. Your situation won’t improve unless you do something about it. In fact, left unaddressed, it usually gets worse. Let the coworker in question know that you are on to his or her game and that you will escalate it to a higher authority if necessary.
- Don’t let the problem fester. Make sure to take action swiftly. You may eventually become so angry that your efforts to address the situation could become irrational. It’s far better to tackle the problem while you can maintain some objectivity and emotional control.
- Safeguard your reputation. Constant complaining about the situation can quickly earn you the title of “office whiner.” Managers might wonder why you’re unable to solve your own problems, even if their tolerance of the situation is part of the problem. If you are embroiled in a constant conflict at work, you may end up getting blamed for other problems.
- Don’t sink to their level. As problematic as the person may be, there are many dysfunctional approaches to dealing with them in which you do not want to engage. Some no-no’s: sending anonymous notes, gossiping about the person, bad-mouthing him or her to the boss.
- Keep it private. Be sure to keep all of your dealings with the person private. Never lose your temper at work or engage in a confrontation in front of your boss or colleagues.
- Make the first move. If you approach a difficult person with the belief that he or she is as eager as you are to restore harmony, you can make the first move. Start your conversation with Start your conversation with statements such as “I’m sorry for what I may have done to hurt you” or “I could be wrong.”
- Agree to disagree. If you personally dislike a coworker or boss, you can still learn from their opinions, viewpoints, and ideas. If you can find something to appreciate about them, comment on it in a favorable way. If that person senses your allegiance, they will be naturally drawn to you, and you may both learn to get along despite your differences.