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How to Deal With Toxic People at Work

After reading the post written by Paul White about the toxic achiever, I got inspired to write some tips to deal with toxic co-workers.

As much as I enjoy my line of work, one harsh truth that I’ve had to deal with over the years is the realization that toxic people are everywhere – and the workplace is no exception. I thought I had put stories of petty bullying and insults behind me when I left high school, and yet life quickly taught me how wrong I was.

But in the end, it doesn’t bother me as much as it does most people. I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is a part of life. And learning to deal with toxicity is a basic skill everyone should work on. At some point, you can’t keep blaming others for your own thin skin, even if they’re objectively wrong.

Don’t Let It Get to You

It sounds simple, and yet it’s the most difficult rule to follow. The best thing I’ve learned about dealing with toxicity is that I should never let someone’s comments get to me. When I get insulted on a personal level, it’s not because there’s something objectively wrong with me. When a manager calls me stupid for making a mistake, that doesn’t make it true. In fact, it says a lot about the person insulting you.

At this point, I welcome insults from toxic people. They’re little windows into their personalities, and piece by piece, I keep figuring their weaknesses. Not that I’ve ever had to use that information. But it’s comforting enough to know that I can fire back in a way that actually hurts. And it’s all because they’re telling me what matters the most to them in those situations without even realizing it.

Go Through the Proper Channels

But that brings me to another important point. I’m not Batman, and I shouldn’t go around verbally harassing people just because they’re doing it to me (or to others). Using toxicity to deal with toxicity can only lead to more of the same. And when it comes to something you’re doing for 40 hours a week and depend on it for your income, that’s not productive for anyone involved.

So if you have to deal with something like that, go to your manager, HR, anyone else who might be appropriate for dealing with that. Document every incident and be prepared to treat this like a court case.

Speak Up When It Counts

Another important thing I’ve learned is that dealing with toxicity is important even when it’s not directed at you. In fact, these moments can be even more impactful on the person being toxic. It’s one thing to be told off by the person you’re attacking – but when a completely random person joins them and starts berating you, this can quickly give you the impression that you’re in a minority.

And that’s exactly how those people need to feel until they’ve learned how to cooperate with others. I’m not afraid of saying something when I see a coworker getting bullied. It’s earned me a good deal of friends and has kept me away from people I wouldn’t want to get close to in the first place. And I believe that this is the exact way I should proceed on as well.

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Avatar photo Spencer Grady-Pawl

Definitely agree that it’s important to take action even if you’re not the one experiencing the toxicity–building a culture where people stand up for one another is key to a happy, healthy office!