How to Deal with Toxic Co-Workers


As HR practitioner, we come across people who are complainers and energy drainers. However toxic co-workers are dysfunctional and poison the work environment. So how do you deal with toxic co-workers?

Book Tips

Here are work tips from the book “Stop Complainers and Energy Drainers: How to Negotiate Work Drama and Get More Work Done” written by Linda Byars Swindling; published by John Wiley & Sons (ISBN 978-1-118-49296-3)

There are 5 types of complainers. The author pointed out: “Each of the 5 types has a specific way of complaining including tone, conversation, style, words, and behavior. The 5 types of complainers want different outcomes, empathy, stability, attention, results, and control. Here we talk about the toxics.

Characteristics of Toxic Co-Workers

Toxics lack conscience. Hence, they exhibits the following characteristics

These are self-absorbed individuals, who concentrate or preserving their own self interests.

  • They use complaining to control their environment and support their interests.
  • They may appear charming and disarming.
  • They like pulling strings, creating confusion and then using the disorder or misperception to further their agendas. They use this misrepresentation to deceive others.
  • They enjoy the turmoil, drama, chaos that they cause.
  • They are passive-aggressive and have no empathy for others.
  • They can be passive emotional roller coasters who are depressive, anxious or distrustful of others.
  • They seems to want attention from anyone that they perceives to have some status.

Why Toxic Co-Workers are Dangerous Individuals

  • They may have untreated emotional problems or psychological issues.
  • They can be aggressive individuals.
  • They are not team players. They think of only their own well beings and how to promote their agendas.
  • They use a variety of approaches to manipulate and poison the work environment. They twist information (misinformation) and present it in a fraudulent manner.
  • They exploit and corrupt work teams.
  • Because they are masters of deception, they can make themselves look like superstars to an organization’s leadership.

Some of the Toxic Co-Worker’s Tricks

They persuade others to raise a problem or suggest a solution but do not provide information that decision makers is already aware of the problem and that things cannot be changed or close relationships.

They spread gossips when one makes the mistake of treating them as a friend and a confidant. If they are caught, they deny the actions, shift the blame or lie.

The Antidote for the Individual

Linda Swindling said that best way for the individual to deal with Toxics is to

  • Protect yourself
  • Watch
  • Steer clear

She suggested gaining leadership’s support by showing them specific instances where turmoil, problems and resignations is caused by the Toxic’s behavior.

Caution: Toxics are intelligent and can adapt their behavior to please management while tormenting coworkers and direct reports.

Linda Swindling on How to Work with a Bully & a Toxic