6 Strategies for Dealing with Toxic Co-workers
Almost every workplace has them. This article provides some insight in how to survive (and thrive!) despite the presence of toxic co-workers
We have all been there. You would love your job if only it wasn’t for that toxic co-worker. You don’t understand why they don’t like you. They don’t even know you! They are however quick to make you miserable at work. So, what would be the next step? Are you destined to have an unfulfilling career, walking on eggshells, ultimately having to quit just to escape the toxicity?
The answer is “No”… “Nope”… “Definitely Not”. The 6 strategies below will help you to survive (and possible even thrive!) in your workplace, despite the presence of the toxic colleague.
Strategy 1: Don’t take it personally!
It is not about you. It is all about them. They have issues. It could be their own lack of confidence, worry, fear that they might look bad if you shine. Fear that if they are not as excellent as you and someone needs to be made redundant, they may be on the chopping block! You will note from all these examples that the common factor here is them and their issues; not you!
Also, it can be exhausting spending so much energy to be continuously frustrated and irritated. It is really a lot of energy to spend and on such a fruitless exercise. Surely, you can think of better ways to spend your energy!
Strategy 2: Let’s talk about it!
Here I mean, talk to the person involved and not others! We will get back to gossip a bit later. Sometimes people may or may not realize the effect they have on their surroundings. This type of discussion is not something to be held in the open plan. It will be best to invite the colleague for a cup of coffee, or a walk around the garden or to meet in a private office or meeting room. During this discussion I would also suggest you use the COIN-methodology. COIN stands for Context, Observation, Impact, Next.
First you will set out the “context” – for example I have realized that I am often frustrated in meetings and have spent some time to reflect on this. Then follows “observation” – I have observed that often during meetings where our manager is involved, you will interrupt me or criticize my ideas before I could even completely formulate them. Then follows “Impact” – when this happens, I feel as if I do not matter. I feel unheard and ultimately frustrated. I also feel as if my value in the office becomes diminished. At this point a discussion can be held or if the toxic colleague doesn’t want to partake, you can just state what you would require “next” – I will appreciate it if going forward you will try not to interrupt or wait until I am done explaining my idea before you add your contribution.
What is wonderful about COIN is that it is in essence a blameless discussion. It relies on facts and the impacts of those facts and as such it is difficult to be defensive. You may think that it would not work to talk to a toxic co-worker as they will not change as a result of a discussion. Best case scenario, they take the talk on board and you are on your way to build a fruitful relationship. Worst case scenario, it doesn’t work, and you are exactly where you are now. That seems like quite a reason to try…
Strategy 3: Do Not Gossip!!
Even if this person is driving you up the walls, do not talk about him or her in a negative manner to other colleagues. Your colleagues in the office won’t like it, because they will wonder if you also talk about them behind their backs. Further you will look like a troublemaker and no one likes troublemakers. This is the time to take the high ground; you really are better than this.
Strategy 4: Document everything!
It is important to cover yourself. Ensure communication is in writing as far as possible and if you had to have a verbal discussion, confirm the contents with an email. This strategy is not so much to help you in the moment, but if things don’t work out and you cannot get the toxic colleague to see things your way, despite your best efforts; you will need evidence when you take the matter forward as required by your company’s policies.
Strategy 5: Kill them… with kindness!
This may be difficult, but if executed correctly, this strategy will really help you forward in a positive manner in the quickest possible turnaround. It is simple to follow, although as indicated may be a bit difficult to implement. In essence, you ensure that you are super polite to this colleague. You greet them in the morning and say farewell when you leave at the end of day. If they ask you to do anything, you respond in a friendly and upbeat manner, as if it would be your greatest pleasure Similarly, if they do something for you (even if it is their job!) you thank them and say you appreciate their effort. When you communicate in writing with them, ensure the tone of your email is polite, upbeat and professional. This strategy works for the simple reason that it is very difficult, almost impossible, to be rude and mean with someone who is just overall nice.
Strategy 6: Accept that everyone doesn’t have to like everyone.
Some colleagues in the office will just have personalities that do not gel. This does not mean that we have to be in one another’s hair all the time. We can however always be professional and cordial. This is what is required by the collective in the workspace and is also necessary for your own professional development and future career.
Hoping these tips will help you thrive, despite the presence of a toxic co-worker!