Dealing with toxic colleagues

THERE they have always been terrible collaborators since the dawn of organized labor. However, their influence seems bigger and more damaging these days. To function, companies require teamwork. Plus, teams need to be more collaborative, adaptive, and proactive than ever. Top-down decision making is a thing of the past in many companies and industries, replaced by core creativity released by peers connecting freely and exchanging knowledge across borders.

Due to this new dynamic, problematic teammates can negatively impact the results of an entire team in ways that were much more difficult to achieve in previous separate work modes. A toxic work environment not only impacts mental health, it also reduces productivity at work. While there are many factors that contribute to a toxic work environment, it’s much worse when the people you spend the most time with at work are the reason you’re having a bad day. Here are five professional techniques for dealing with a colleague’s toxic problem.

Set limits

The first thing you can do is avoid entertaining them and set appropriate boundaries. Stop dating them if it impacts your mental health and avoid office politics and gossip, even if it’s directed at others. Also, tell them about the clear and concrete boundaries you want to keep at work. It’s wonderful to have workmates, but you don’t have to be friends with everyone. It’s okay to urge people to leave you alone if they are raiding you to dump their stuff when you are trying to get things done. It’s okay to be professional only. We don’t need to know everyone’s deep dark secrets, or see other people’s lives on Facebook, or hear about complaints in various departments, unless it’s directly related to our work. Wearing headphones may also help you appear less accessible.

Try talking about it

If you notice that your colleague is behaving inappropriately towards you, call him as soon as you notice. He talks to them directly and urge them to stop gossiping about you, constantly criticizing you, or stabbing you in the back. Make sure you use the appropriate phrases and don’t sound objectionable or theatrical. Remember that being clear and courteous is far preferable to continuing the course. Allowing things to slip can lead to bigger problems in the future.

Raise your game

Don’t stoop to their level. Keep an eye on and moderate your fight or flight reaction. The more you can keep your focus on the team’s goals, the less likely you are to become blinded from thinking “win / lose” with this highly toxic teammate. Set a good example for how you want the team to behave. Set a standard for the rest of the team that encourages collaboration and open communication rather than revenge.

Talk to your supervisor

Actively recommend to your boss that the team get together to set team standards and start addressing some of the team’s problematic behaviors and disagreements. This session should not be used as a ploy to deal with the toxic team member. It should be a genuine and honest commitment in which team members can gain insight into each other’s points of view, establish clear expectations of behavior, and promote peer accountability. You shouldn’t use this meeting to ambush a colleague. Instead, ask all team members to find real solutions to the challenges everyone is experiencing.

Think of yourself first

You don’t want to become the toxic co-worker you despise. Finding out how they got there is an excellent way to prevent this from happening. You may be able to avoid this by picturing yourself in their shoes. Looking at things through their eyes can help shed some light on the problem. Consider your attitudes and how you act in response to them, for example. Consider how they see you, especially if you’re the one they hit often. Is it something you do unknowingly? If so, change your ways and they may change theirs. You might even avoid becoming so pessimistic. Try to learn as much as possible from the circumstance and see it as an opportunity to progress. This could help turn a negative circumstance into a positive one.

Leave the workplace

Now, you can’t always make a bad situation better. You may not be able to influence the person’s behavior. Instead of sitting back and waiting for something to happen, as the toxicity slowly fades towards you, your best choice may be to walk away. There is a small chance that the individual in question will resign or be fired. Unfortunately, you may have to leave. It may seem difficult at first, but it will definitely benefit you in the long run.

Take care of yourself. Don’t overlook toxicity to the point where people feel comfortable stepping on you and talk about it if necessary. You’re making an effort. You don’t want to be fired. You want to please everyone, but trying to please everyone could lead people to trample you. Don’t let this toxic behavior harm your mental or physical well-being. Own what you can, let go of what you cannot control, and make a change if necessary.

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