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Toxic people in the workplace: how to protect yourself

toxic people workplace
Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

Chances are you’ve had to deal with toxic people in the workplace at some point in your life. Maybe you’re dealing with them now.

Toxic people in the workplace come in a number of different forms.

In my career, I’ve experienced harassers, bullies, manipulators, and gossips. And I’m sure you can think of more examples among the people you’ve encountered at work.

The stress of dealing with toxic people in the workplace impacts your health and your ability to do your job. Click To Tweet

The stress of dealing with toxic people in the workplace impacts your health and your ability to do your job. The effects include but are not limited to:

  1. decreased job satisfaction
  2. lost sleep
  3. low productivity
  4. increased stress
  5. poor mental health

How to protect yourself

So, how do you protect yourself from these soul suckers? Here are 4 ways to deal with toxic people in the workplace:

1. Find supporters.

Form relationships with positive people in the office. You don’t need to talk to them about the difficult person.

Simply having good people on your side acts as an antidote to counter the effects of the toxic coworker.

2. Set boundaries.

Do your best not to respond emotionally to the toxic person. Rise above their madness and refuse to get pulled down to their level.

If it’s the office gossip, socializer, or negative Nancy, tell them you can’t talk right now, you’re busy working.

Use body language to indicate your unwillingness to engage with them. This could mean averting your eyes when they approach.

Or you could wear headphones as a barrier.

Bad Coworker GIFs | Tenor

I used to work at a place where my department would meet for lunch every day and gossip about everyone who wasn’t there.

I stayed silent until one day I decided to take my lunches outside rather than stew in that toxic environment.

3. Have good self care.

Meditation helps keep your mind off the offending person and on the present moment instead. It also calms your brain and gives you more mental clarity.

Get a good night’s sleep. You’re more susceptible to someone’s manipulation and other toxic tactics when you’re not well-rested. It’s also essential for your overall well-being.

You're more susceptible to someone's manipulation and other toxic tactics when you're not well-rested. Click To Tweet

Eating healthy and exercising regularly are two more ways to stay physically healthy and emotionally fit. They’ll increase your confidence to counteract the negative effects of your coworker.

Take time off for vacations and personal days when you are permitted to do so. It’s important to get away to reset and refresh and take care of interests you have outside of work.

4. Focus on solutions.

Rather than ruminate on things you can’t control, focus on actions you can take.

There’s no point trying to understand the mind and motives of an irrational person. These people are driven by nefarious methods of getting their way at any cost.

There's no point trying to understand the mind and motives of an irrational person. Click To Tweet

Instead of dwelling on the problem of the toxic person, think of ways you can manage them and maintain your sanity. This helps you feel more in control.

Tell yourself they must be insecure and unhappy and try to find compassion for them.

Don’t bother trying to reason with them or have a civil conversation. They don’t care about you and only know how to deflect blame.

If you do complain, they may manipulate the situation to make you look bad. So arm yourself with evidence and stick to the facts if you are forced to bring in HR.

Sometimes the best way to protect yourself means staying silent. Unlike a toxic friend or family member, you can’t detach yourself from a toxic person in the workplace.

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