Dealing with a Toxic Co-Worker

Toxic Co-Workers

We spend a lot of time at our workplace. For the sake of our mental well-being, it is essential that the place we spend more than half our day in be a place of comfort, security and happiness. Our relationships at work have a huge effect on our productivity. When we feel happy in our work environment, we are actually excited to go to work. If a feeling of camaraderie at work exists, teamwork becomes easier.

That said, it doesn’t mean that you need to be best friends with everyone at work. All you need are strong relationships with your co-workers which will help both you and them thrive at the workplace. Any good relationship takes time and effort and workplace relationships are no different.

While good workplace relationships are what all of us wish for, it is unfortunately not always possible. Toxic co-workers who steal your thunder, undermine you and make the whole work environment stressful are a reality in many cases.

Toxic Co-Workers – What They Do and What You Can Do About It

Being aware of toxic work relationships and doing something about it can give you a feeling of empowerment. Taking things lying down or hoping it will get better is often unfruitful. We are in charge of the way we respond and often being assertive itself will show your co-workers that you have boundaries they need to abide by.


  • While gossiping does happen everywhere, it can be hurtful and harmful.
  • Gossip can also promote an unhealthy feeling of lack of trust.
  • If you are dealing with a co-worker who constantly gossips, you can confront the person directly about it.
  • You could also cut short the conversation by saying something nice about the person who is being gossiped about.
  • This will let the gossipmonger know that you are not going to be a part of such slander.
  • If neither work, you can always report it to your superiors or your HR department.

All Boys Gang

  • An informal environment of men bonding together can happen at the workplace.
  • While this might not be intentional, sometimes it does result in women not being given the promotions they deserve or men being picked ahead of women for important roles as they share a better relationship with their superiors.
  • If your workplace has no women in executive positions, does not promote an inclusive culture, burdens women with mundane tasks that have no scope of improvement, etc. chances are that you work in an isolationist set-up.
  • Did a man get a promotion he dint deserve which another woman clearly did? Are the company’s rules so stringent that there is no flexibility for women who perform caretaker roles at home? Are the maternity leave policies indifferent?
  • You can always bring this up with your superiors and talk to them about it.
  • If you are in a position where you can take action yourself, you could elevate other women in your organization.
  • You could even have mentorship for women and bring about a change in the organization’s set-up.

Domineering Personality

  • Some people are the first to claim credit for a job well-done even though there were obviously a lot more people involved in the process.
  • They are also the first to blame others when something goes wrong.
  • Having this kind of a person as a colleague is sure to get anyone down.
  • They are also untrustworthy and may manipulate situations to show themselves in a good light.

There are three things which you can possibly do in such a situation:

  1. Speak out in front of them and mention the names of whoever else you think also contributed to the project.
  2. If you have been sidelined yourself, don’t feel shy to claim credit.
  3. If the above two options make you uncomfortable, speak to your superiors in private and let them know what is bothering you.

A Whiner

  • This is a person who constantly complains about something or the other and refuses adamantly to see the silver lining.
  • Whether it is about work, another colleague, the management or the work environment, this person is just never happy.
  • The sad part is that they bring others down too.
  • All they do is complain and take no effort to come up with a solution.
  • In such cases, you can point out the positives of a situation, prompt them to take action or if they really annoy you, just keep a distance.
  • They will get the message that you will not be a silent listener to their grumbling.


  • Purposely excluding a co-worker from informal office meet-ups is discriminating and mean.
  • Sometimes discrimination and intolerance increase to such an extent that it can lead to verbal insults and sometimes even sabotage of the other person’s work.
  • When you see discrimination happening right in front of you, you could gently remind that the person left out has to be included too; you can confront the perpetrator or you could talk to your HR department and request them to handle it.

Taking Care of Ourselves

It is not easy dealing with a toxic co-worker. Taking care of our mental health is very important.

  • Eating healthy and staying physically active play a huge role which not many of us are aware of.
  • Make sure you get adequate rest.
  • Dealing with stress requires a well-rested mind.
  • Try breathing exercises and stick to it for some time to see the results.
  • Have a gratitude diary and write down all the things you are grateful for.
  • Often, our mind will keep brooding over something disturbing that happened. Practice mindfulness to help with this.
  • Stop allowing the toxic person to control you and pull you down.

Don’t Shy Away from Professional Help

A toxic work atmosphere can have adverse effects. You don’t have to deal with it on your own. Reach out to your superiors or your human resources department. If that doesn’t help and you find yourself upset and worried, you can always reach out for professional help. We all need that helping hand at some time or the other and no problem is too small if it affects our mental health. Never hesitate to ask for help.