How To Deal With a Toxic Coworker

How To Deal With a Toxic Coworker

You are bound to meet at least one difficult teammate no matter where you work. This isn’t a new issue because we have had bad coworkers since the beginning of organized work. But, if you aren’t careful enough, they can spoil your entire work experience and perhaps affect your career along the way.

To thrive, companies rely on teamwork, and teams need to be proactive, adaptable, and collaborative. That’s why the toxic employees' effect on others is even bigger and more destructive. While they undermine the workload, they can also drain you mentally and physically if you let them.

How can you prevent toxic employees from dragging your company or your team down? We will share some useful techniques and show you how to deal with toxic employees.

What Is Considered a Toxic Employee? 

We all have bad days when we only want to be left alone. When it comes to toxic employees, their entire work experience is one bad day after another. They usually range from mildly annoying to outright intolerable, and we can group them in the following categories:

  1. Incompetents: they are often unreliable, disorganized, and helpless. More often than not, they have no credibility.
  2. Slackers: if you want to recognize a toxic employee just observe how motivated they are. Slackers have high absenteeism and low motivation. They will browse the web, chat with coworkers, and seldom get their work done on time.
  3. Egoists: often believe they can do anything and this makes them prone to burnout. Egoists usually complain and possess uncompromising attitudes, which leads them to undermine their team members.
  4. Gossips: these types of employees know the latest news about their teammates. Keep in mind that when out of control, their gossips can be pretty vicious and ruin someone’s reputation or career.
  5. Backstabbers: they neglect any type of authority, don’t like competitors, steal ideas to grab the glory, point fingers to blame others when something goes wrong, and are often the most harmful to your company.

How Can You Identify a Toxic Employee?

You can meet all kinds of toxicity out there, but do you know how to spot a toxic employee? Here are the behaviors you need to look out for:

  • Negative attitude: toxic employees reek of negativity, nothing can make them happy. They are prone to anger and aren’t satisfied with their jobs.
  • Don’t want to take responsibility: they are backstabbers and often blame others. Every criticism or problem is someone else’s fault while playing the classic victim.
  • Gossip: gossiping employees usually form groups and create cliques that encourage conflict. They tend to bring others into their circle and promote an “us vs. them” environment.
  • Sabotage: they tend to make their coworkers and company look bad. Toxic employees undermine others by building themselves up.
  • Unprofessional and clock watchers: they feel like their only job is to show up, and that’s it. They will waste the company’s time and resources by shopping online or emailing friends.

How Do You Deal With Toxic Employees?

Have you ever wondered how to manage a toxic employee? This can be a tricky situation that affects your team and organization. One of the first things you should do is have a thoughtful discussion in private.

Sometimes these people exhibit such behavior because of what is happening in their homes. Therefore, you don’t want to make a mistake before determining the root of the problem.

Next, you need to be prepared for a pushback because toxic employees are known for denying things and arguing about anything. They aren’t going to change their behavior overnight. It takes some time, perseverance, and repetition for one person to realize that rules are changing.

Although a private conversation is a good place to start, if you want to know how to deal with a toxic coworker, you also need to offer constructive feedback in public. For example, you could start with something like this: “Hey, you seem frustrated. Is there any constructive criticism you would like to share with us?”

What if a Toxic Employee Is High Performing?

This can often be the case, and we can find one high-performing toxic employee in every organization. While you can take a different course of action, don’t be blinded by their brilliance. You can’t dismiss complaints and concerns of other employees about disruptive or toxic behavior.

Some managers feel uncomfortable opening a discussion, but you must provide constructive behavioral feedback, so other employees feel safe. On top of that, it’s your job to evaluate the level of toxicity. In many cases, toxic employees step on toes, treat critics rudely, and violate individual and team trust. If you are dealing with such a person, it’s time to notify authorities in your company.

Coaching is another approach you could try. Of course, this will only work if a toxic employee embraces the opportunity and commits to changing and recognizing bad behavioral patterns.

Setting Boundaries With Toxic Coworkers

It can be quite challenging to separate yourself from toxic teammates. Setting boundaries with toxic coworkers is crucial for creating a decent working environment, primarily if you work in a small organization.

We can’t offer you a magic solution, but there are still a couple of ways to navigate your interaction with them:

  • Focus on something else; there are more pressing matters than dealing with drama-seeking employees.
  • Keep in mind that you control your actions, not someone else.
  • Establish healthy boundaries and let them know what's bothering you.
  • Engage in peaceful and meaningful conversation.
  • Notify HR or your boss about your coworker’s toxic behavior.
  • You should take care of yourself first and not let toxic teammates drain your energy.

How Do You Deal With a Coworker Trying To Undermine You?

Dealing with someone who is taking specific actions or saying things that will make others question your ethics, abilities, knowledge, and professionalism is never easy.

You may face many undesirable consequences, and one of the worst is losing the respect of your bosses and manager. To protect yourself, you need to build relationships with others, address the issue immediately and ask for clarification.

If toxic behavior isn’t something that will jeopardize your reputation, you may as well forget about it. However, when your credibility is on the line, react immediately.

Can You Fire an Employee for Being Toxic?

Only when a person is unwilling to change their behavior should you serve them the notice. Why invest your time and energy into a toxic person when you can give that to people who want to improve. However, if after discussing with them their behavior you notice a genuine change - give them another chance!

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