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How to Manage Toxic People at Work

This article contains information on how to manage toxic people at work. This is really important in you work with people.

toxic workplace

A toxic environment indirectly breeds toxic humans. Working in a toxic environment is an experience almost everyone may have had, except you have never worked or been employed in an organization.

For those of you who may have experienced it, you will agree with me that it’s not a beautiful experience. Being in a toxic environment filled with toxic colleagues can be a bit frustrating and somehow affect your mental health in extreme cases, thus rendering you unproductive at work.

If only we had the opportunity to pick those we would work for, I’m certain a lot of people wouldn’t be found in such environments. This doesn’t overrule the fact that some people have walked away from such jobs but then, the number is negligible because we’re all seeking for ways to make ends meet.

The latter is the main reason this article will be centered on possible ways to handle toxic people in a toxic work environment. Delving straight to the topic of discussion, here are effective ways to handle and manage toxic people in a toxic work environment.


1. Find Out Why

For every action, there must be a reason behind it. The same is applicable to having toxic people around. There must be a reason why some of your colleagues are toxic. Also, there must be a reason why your work environment is toxic. Whether your manager or coworker, oftentimes people act irrationally because they believe it helps them accomplish a goal which can either be positive or negative.

Most people we refer to as toxic are better referred to as irrational. The first of the possible ways to better handle this situation is to find out why they act the way they do. To achieve this, try as much as possible to get along with such people instead of reacting to them, hold a little bit of you back. This may not be easy especially when you’re drastically affected by their actions.

Engage in a dialogue with the person and listen to what is really bothering them. This is a great way to get at the root of their toxicity, which invariably helps you to tackle the problem from the source.

2. Calmly Speak Up

Having toxic people as colleagues or finding yourself in a toxic environment wouldn’t have been an issue worth writing about if the actions or effects didn’t affect you, but as sad as it is, it certainly has an impact on you, whether directly or indirectly.

Toxic people could have a direct impact through bullying, assault, verbal abuse, manipulation, backstabbing, etc. In whichever form it gets to you, if after making an effort to relate and have a dialogue and the situation persists, instead of giving into being intimidated, speak out.

Politely, calmly and firmly communicate and show your displeasure. Don’t give in to bullying. Silence equates acquiescence to unacceptable behavior. Speak out loo when a coworker is behaving in an inappropriate manner. This can dampen the persons comfort level with aggression.

Speaking up and confronting the situation is usually the last thing people on the receiving end would want to do. Interestingly, it’s actually one of the first things you should do. Sometimes the toxic colleague or boss may not even be aware of the effects of their actions.

3. Set Clear Boundaries

Oftentimes, a lot of people ask this question, “how is it possible to distance myself from a toxic colleague or boss who I have contact with daily?”

Well, as much as it’s no doubt that you have contact with your traitors daily, it is very easy and possible to set a boundary and distance yourself from them.

Distancing yourself does imply you will catch them off completely and you won’t interact with them, of course, it’s a work environment and official matters must be discussed as a team.

Whether your bully is a coworker or your boss, you can establish clear boundaries through assertive communication. Again, it’s important to remain polite except where it has escalated to threaten your life.

It is known that introverts who are not likely to push back are always the victims in toxic workplaces. Being an introvert isn’t a reason to remain calm. At some point, you have to decide what you will and won’t accommodate. This is best to do with a cool head, when you can be your most logical.

Avoid anything that will make toxic colleagues get confrontational with you thus leading to verbal abuse. Do everything it takes to stay off their path, act like they don’t exist and only speak to such people only on official issues.

When they come in the form of complainers and fault finders, a great way to set limits is to inquire how they intend to fix the problem. This will either make them quiet or force them to redirect the conversation in a productive angle.

4. Don’t Counter-Gossip

Do you know that gossiping is another trait of toxic people? If you’re in a toxic environment with toxic people, there are chances you will hear nasty things about yourself. Different demeaning stories will be made up about you. When this is the case, whether or not you are guilty of what was labeled against you, avoid getting into an argument or retaliating.

I totally understand that you might be tempted to fight back but then, that’s not the best. Do not engage in counter-gossip. Instead focus on building positive relationships with others to contain the toxic spread of rumors.

5. Don’t Overshare

It is only natural to share or talk about the things going on in your life to your colleagues. Well, this is not outrightly bad, be cautious of who you share your ideas with. Never share ideas or anything else with a gossiper. This way, it is almost impossible to give your colleagues information that may probably end up being used against you. So in all, mind what you discuss.

6. Document Everything

When you find yourself in a toxic work environment, you must learn to keep details of everything you are facing. Doing this is not been petty but for record and evidence purposes. This comes handy whenever you choose to take the matter to higher authorities.

This has saved a lot of employees from becoming victims of what they know nothing about. Keeping detailed records is important in an office environment but more important when you’re the target of a toxic boss or colleague.

Keep detailed records of events may be the only evidence to make concrete, detailed references in case of any unforeseen circumstances. Document bullying behavior, make sure you stick to the facts, cite specific instances and include witness accounts if possible. With detailed and accurate records, you are unlikely to be defeated.

7. Talk To Management

For some reasons, a lot of people are scared of following this path. It’s preferable to deal with a toxic colleague on your own before going to report to the management, but sometimes you don’t have a choice if you have tried everything else to combat the problem. It’s therefore important to take the matter to the management. Make your manager aware of the issue but then ensure you remain neutral, stick to the facts.

Focus on how the company is negatively affected by this person’s behaviour, avoid making it seem like you’re taking it personal, rather make it about the organisation and state how the action of this person is hurting productivity. This way, the case will be treated as urgent.

If management ignores or contributes to the toxic work environment, it may be time to start considering other options.

8. Remember It’s Not Forever

In life, it’s always good to understand that nothing lasts forever and whatever has a beginning certainly must have an ending. Being an employee today doesn’t necessarily mean that you will remain that forever. Someday you may decide to take a walk to a better place. Whatever option is best for you, having that at the back of your mind will strengthen you to do everything possible not to get caught up in the drama. So, another way to handle toxic people in a toxic workplace is not to get physical with them.


Toxic work relationships can destroy productivity and collaboration in the office. Somehow, it extends to your relationships outside of the office as well. Consequently, it is critical to start detoxifying your workplace as soon as possible to help restore a healthy work-life balance.

This is because being able to build and nurture positive work relationships is critical for success. Toxic people are huge obstacles to a productive and healthy work environment. They can pollute and change the mood of an entire team. But what do you do? Do you ignore them? Do you confront them?

Ofcourse, it’s not wise to pay blind eyes, it’s important to apply all the measures mentioned about. Speak up, set clear boundaries, don’t count-gossip, keep detailed records as evidence and report to the management.

Oftentimes, running like a coward is not a wise thing to do since there is no guarantee that the next workplace will be better. However, looking for ways to cope is always the best except in cases where the action of your colleagues and bosses are beginning to have a psychological effect on you.

In all of these, if you have tried your best to cope with the situation but to no avail, I will suggest you look elsewhere.

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