If you’re tired of your toxic co-workers and want to deal with them once and for all, follow our tips to make your workplace the place you want to be (rather than have to be!).

Toxic co-workers are, unfortunately, an occupational hazard, but when left unchecked, they can make an otherwise wonderful workplace uncomfortable and unproductive.

It only takes one toxic colleague to create a whirlwind of drama, over-expectation, and office politics. Before you know it, you’re fielding email after email, doing tasks way out of your remit, and your time is being sucked into the insatiable vortex of expectation.

Toxicity in the Workplace

Toxicity in the workplace can also be a key factor for poor worker retention.

A study released by RandstadUSA showed that the environment of an office as being a crucial reason why staff chooses to leave a position. Where 38% of workers want to leave their positions due to toxic work culture, a massive 58% of workers have already left jobs due to toxic work culture and negative office politics.

Dealing with a toxic co-worker can be exhausting, and it leaves us feeling negative after an interaction. Feeling this way in the workplace is fatal for productivity, so dealing with a toxic worker is essential to boost staff morale, improve office culture, and create a workspace where creativity thrives.

The first step of dealing with a toxic co-worker is learning how to actually spot one. Toxic behavior in the workplace can manifest in a range of ways, which makes it difficult to pin down exactly what behavior makes a colleague toxic.

Here Are 3 Ways to Spot Toxic Co-Workers:

1. The Gossip

Don’t get me wrong, we all love a bit of office gossip. It breaks up the day and gives provides some light-hearted entertainment when the workday is feeling particularly long.

However, office gossip has its limits, which a toxic co-worker will not respect. They can also be difficult to spot, meaning if there is a toxic gossiper in your workplace, you might not realize until it’s too late.

Toxic co-workers tend to overstep personal boundaries and leak private details without the consent of the subject. Talking about people behind their backs causes riffs in a team environment and leaves people feeling angry and embarrassed. And, chances are, if they’re gossiping to you, they’re also gossiping about you.

2. Refusing to Share Knowledge

Knowledge sharing is an essential part of office culture. It allows for the improvement of processes, helps limit mistakes, and improves overall team performance. Yet, we all know a colleague who just doesn’t want to share their knowledge with everyone else.

Perhaps they think it will give them an edge for a promotion they’re angling for, or maybe they want to be the star of the team. Whatever their reasons, anyone who refuses to collaborate with or educate others a toxic co-worker.

3. They Always Play the Victim

Typical of a toxic co-worker is playing the victim card to avoid accountability. They might complain about the boss, their team, or having too much (or too little) responsibility. Complaining to as many people as possible makes them feel better. And if someone agrees, they feel vindicated and the behavior gets worse.

Toxic co-workers will take constructive criticism as a personal attack and use it as fuel to fire their victimhood. They will also hold grudges, and bring them up as often as they can, using them to explain away why their poor performance gets called out.

How to Deal with Toxic Behavior at Work?

1. How to Deal with Gossip in the Workplace?

Gossiping can be an easy habit to fall into. It can be fun to share and listen to stories and have a little giggle, but toxic co-workers take it a step too far.

Pay attention to the length of your conversations

If your co-worker is gossiping more than they’re talking about work, or even just having a meaningful conversation, chances are they’re presenting toxic behavior. If they’re taking 20 minutes out of your day, they’re probably taking 20 minutes of the days of others, and that time adds up.

Pay attention to the content of your conversations

Gossip can be harmless when you’re sharing funny personal stories. Gossiping is toxic when you’re whispering about people behind their back and telling personal information they may not want to share. If you’re gossiping with a toxic co-worker, it’s likely the conversation will go the way of the latter.

Make a conscious effort to walk away from gossip

It’s going to be difficult at first because gossiping is a habit that might take some breaking. When you begin to recognize that you’re being pulled into a toxic gossip share, actively make a decision that this is not a conversation you want to be a part of and walk away.

Call it out

Calling out gossip takes bravery, but it’s necessary to show a toxic co-worker their behavior is inappropriate. You don’t have to be mean, but be clear and firm in explaining why you don’t like their behavior. It might cause them to be more conscious of their own behavior.

2. How to Deal with Co-Workers Who Refuse to Share Information?

If someone is refusing to share information with you, it can be difficult to wangle it out of them. Time spent trying to get someone who doesn’t want to share knowledge with you to do so is most often wasted. Unfortunately, the way to fix it is to go around them, but these methods can be the most effective.

Keep a log of when you’ve asked for help or knowledge

By noting down when and why the information wasn’t shared gives you evidence to properly deal with the situation.

Talk to their manager

Communication is essential in an office environment. Talking to your superiors about your concerns takes the onus off you to deal with the situation. Present them with the evidence you have collected and raise your concerns around why this information should be shared.

Managers will know the proper processes to deal with the situation, rather than causing potential confrontation by addressing it yourself.

3. How to Deal with a Co-Worker Who Plays the Victim?

Depending on your tenure at a company, it can be difficult to know whether these complaints hold water. Toxic co-workers are good at disguising them, so it’s important to feel out how you feel about the company before taking their word for gospel.

Seek out positive people

In every office, some drag you down and those who lift you up. Seek out those who feel uplifting, especially when a toxic colleague makes you feel low. Take note of those who take responsibility for their mistakes and take feedback as an opportunity to improve. Spending time with the right people can turn any workplace into a great place to work.

Talk to your HR Department

They’re there for a reason. Prepare to talk about specific instances and facts, and limit the conversation to facts and not personality traits. There could be a real issue at play, and raising it properly gives it the best chance of a resolution.

The Moral of the Story

Toxic co-workers can be a real drag on productivity and your overall motivation to work. They can leave you feeling negative and reduce your self-worth in the role.

When dealing with any toxic person, it is important to incorporate your own self-care. Remind yourself of your capability by looking at times you have been praised and the projects that have been gone well. Toxic co-workers can be a challenge, but not one that cannot be overcome.


  1. https://www.forbes.com
  2. https://www.pon.harvard.edu

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Sunil Rao

    I agree. Managers, supervisors, principles,secretaries, chief resident doctors should have the highest sensitivity to complaints by co-workers ! Trouble makers should be thrown out of the front door after the facts are proven.

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