Walk into any random workplace of your choosing and, in no time, one or more disruptive employees will reveal themselves. They’re easy to spot: Their bad attitudes cause office morale to plummet, they are constantly creating drama and, generally, no one wants to deal with them because they’re too toxic to engage with or even be around.
Not that anyone needed a formal inquiry into why toxic coworkers are bad for business, but studies show that companies shouldn’t hire jerks. Sadly, for anyone who, you know, has to work for a living, employers appear to continually ignore this wisdom.
Unfortunately, we’ve made our fair share of mistakes in the past when it came to dealing with a toxic coworker (or two). On the flip side, that makes us more than qualified to help you deal with your office nuisance.
If you’ve spent numerous hours wishing this loathsome individual would quit, feel free to continue saying silent prayers at your desk for them to ghost the job, never to return (except in your nightmares, which sadly, we can’t do anything about). Until that becomes a reality, borrow these hacks for dealing with a coworker who is seriously toxic.
1 Avoid gossiping with them.
We’ve all been tempted to give the office gossip our open ear, or even worse, our two cents on whatever juicy rumors are being circulated. But there’s only one way to deal with a toxic coworker who wants to spread the latest work “news” to you: Keep it moving.
Be direct, and let your colleague know in no uncertain terms that you are not interested in hearing about or discussing any items from the rumor mill, and swiftly keep it moving.
2Keep your relationship strictly professional.
A toxic coworker is not your friend, unless you’re the type who lives for the messy, dramatic shenanigans this person will inevitably bring to your desk every. single. day. Protect your space and your sanity by never allowing an open-door policy with someone who thrives off negativity.
3Address them directly.
How many times have we worked with a downright insufferable individual who continues to spread negativity, while everyone else in the office steers clear of them and remains miserable as if fear and avoidance will solve the problem?
Pretending like this annoying person isn’t completely obliterating office morale — or even worse, encouraging others to simply accept their horrible behavior — will only allow the issue to fester. This may lead to tense confrontations between employees, making the work atmosphere even worse.
As Fortune points out, in the event that you ask your boss for backup, you want to be able to assure them that you have already tried addressing the toxic coworker before taking the situation to the next level.
4Focus on your work.
Without fail, your unpleasant colleague will do something so incredibly aggravating that you’ll want to lean over and read them the Riot Act. (We feel your pain.) But if their tantrum of the day doesn’t directly involve you or your work, mind your business.
It’s easier said than done, but remaining focused on your actual job instead of their latest office saga will keep you out of the line of fire from the inevitable fallout. Additionally, it shows your boss that you take your work seriously and are able stay above the fray. (Promotion, anyone?)
5Set firm boundaries and stick by them.
No matter what happens, always be prepared for a toxic coworker to test your boundaries. However, having some strict personal guidelines in place keeps you ready to deal with unacceptable behavior.
No, you will not immediately kowtow to their demands, no they are not allowed to take up your time filing hourly complaints, and you will not tolerate the use of abusive, intimidating language.
6Know when to get the higher-ups involved.
The number of adults who endure workplace bullying is astounding. According to a 2016 Forbes article, 75 percent of employees are affected by workplace bullying, but many stay quiet out of fear of losing their jobs or attracting negative attention, which only leads to increased mental health compromises among the affected.
If standing up to the offending colleague on your own doesn’t curb their continual terrible workplace behavior, don’t be afraid to address it by filing a formal complaint with human resources. It’s literally what they’re there for.
7Find another job.
This is a last resort, but sometimes you’ve done everything in your power, and the coworker’s awful, unchecked behavior is still taking a huge toll on your mental and physical health.
As a 2016 Business News Daily article notes:
If no other measures are mitigating your awful coworker’s impact on your day-to-day working environment, their toxicity is a completely legit reason to start looking for a new gig.
The thing about people like this is that they clearly have some unresolved issues — but there’s no reason why their personal problems should become yours. Hang in there, power through your tasks like a boss, and remember to prioritize your well-being above all else.