Do you have a co-worker who is constantly draining your energy, making you feel frustrated, or damaging your confidence? If so, you are not alone. According to a Fierce Inc. report, four out of five employees have crossed paths with toxic colleagues or currently work with them. While we can’t choose our colleagues, we can take a leaf out of Eleanor Roosevelts book, and choose how we respond to them.
You may have thought that by working from home you’ll get rid of these negative people. But remote work requires as much communication and collaboration between team members as any other job – and sometimes even more.
Knowing how to deal with toxic coworkers will help you avoid their hostile intentions and achieve better results and relationships at work. So, grab a pen and paper (or open your computer note-taking app) and start writing down different ways to deal with toxic coworkers.
10 Types of Toxic Remote Coworkers and How to Deal with Them
It only takes a single toxic colleague to tense and damage an entire remote work atmosphere. But there are several ways to cope with them that don’t involve a fight or a discussion.
How to deal with a coworker that undermines you? How to deal with rude coworkers? How to avoid coworkers gossiping about you? Let’s find out!
1. The Gossiper
This toxic coworker is among the worst since you cannot easily recognize their evil intentions. As I told you before, you can find gossip everywhere you go, and in workplaces, gossipers are all around the place and unbalance work routines.
Gossip harms much more than you can imagine. So, it’s always better to stay away from tittle-tattle; and from those who want to spread it.
How to identify remote gossipers? Look for those who’re all day chatting about non-work conversations. Those that ping you every five minutes to ask you personal questions. And especially those who talk to you about other colleagues’ stuff.
Dealing with The Gossip
We’ve all fallen into gossip at some point in our lives. It’s difficult to control our emotions when we’re angry, frustrated, or disappointed at someone. Though criticizing others can be tempting when you’re angry, it’s better if you stay away from it. Gossip can be divisive in your team with different arguments and complaints. As I mentioned before, talking is always better to solve problems – but be careful with who you talk to!
2. The Invisible
Do you have that kind of coworker who is never around? Whether it’s the lousy wifi, the medical studies, or the dog feeling sick, they always seem to have a problem. Well, that’s the kind of toxic worker you can call invisible.
It’s not that their absence can harm you. But these people’s little will and predisposition to work will eventually damage the team as a whole. When someone isn’t fulfilling their role, every member of the team falls behind with their projects. And over time, this becomes a toxic way of acting since they expect their colleagues to work for them.
How to find them? Search for that colleague who always responds with: “Yes, but…”
Dealing with The Invisible
Toxic coworkers bring different problems to the table, and unfortunately, some aren’t for you to solve. The Invisible is one of these – it isn’t your job to police other people’s output. But sometimes, you need to set your own boundaries to improve the situation.
Make a note of a few instances, and then speak to your boss explaining the situation. There may be an ongoing situation which you don’t know about, but your boss may also just be out of touch and not realize what that person is doing (or not doing!)
3. Spotted! Coworker Trying to Take Over My Work
It’s not a problem to be an full of knowledge. The problem start’s when someone who knows a lot is always trying to make others feel less intelligent or less valuable for not knowing certain things.
Working together on projects, having a conversation, or a virtual meeting. Or even trying to agree on new ideas can become irritating when you must do it besides a know-it-all coworker.
It’s easy to recognize them. Those who are always giving orders and talking about facts nobody knows to call the attention.
Dealing with a Take Over
Don’t take their manners personally; they behave this way with everybody else too.
One simple way to deal with this type of toxic co-worker is to focus on your tasks, and stay away from those who distract you from your priorities.
4. The “I don’t have time” Coworker
These toxic coworkers are as annoying in life as they are at work. What’s so negative about these people is that they’re always trying to make you feel as if your job is easy and allows you a lot of free time compared to them.
“You have no idea how overwhelmed I am.” “I’ve been working all weekend.” “I have no free time.” Those are some of the quotes you’ll hear coming from them. Always complaining about things they’ve decided to carry.
Dealing with the ‘I don’t have time’ coworker.
While you might feel pressure to put in as many hours as this person, don’t allow your work to take over your personal life. Your mental health is your top priority – and should always be. So, give work and colleagues the importance they deserve, but don’t let it consume you.
Learn more: Self Care Tips for Remote Work
5. The Politician
Naturally ambitious, the politician is constantly looking for ways they can get the attention of the bosses and take credit for work that has been done. Unfortunately, these people can get so busy being seen, they don’t spend anywhere near enough time actually doing their job.
This can be frustrating, particularly if your bosses are taken in by the schmooze and don’t look below the surface. This is even more true if the politician is taking full or partial credit for some or all of what you do.
How to deal with a Politician
Some people hate calling attention to themselves, and when they achieve great results at work, they don’t focus on making sure everyone knows whose credit is it. But toxic coworkers often take advantage of these situations and – without a second thought – take credits for those projects where you gave a 95%, and they only gave a 5%.
It can be uncomfortable to brag about your accomplishments, but these are your achievements; you’ve earned them. Virtual team meetings are great for this type of conversation since the whole team is listening to you. Remember, if you don’t speak for yourself, no one will.
6. Always Negative
For this type of co-worker, nothing is ever good enough. Whether it’s finding fault with the processes, complaining about customers, their hours, the paycheck…you get the idea. This kind of person can be really draining, as no matter what happens or is suggested, they have to find the downside.
Dealing with the Negative
One way to deal with negativity is to counter it, so try that as a first resort. It might just bring their behaviour to the person’s attention and allow them to see there are other ways of acting.
If that doesn’t work, then you are going to need to tune them out; come to expect it, and when it starts, just nod and listen, then move the conversation on as quickly as possible. Or gamify the situation and have a ‘whinging bingo’ where you try and predict what problems your colleague might find.
7. Flirtation or Inappropriate Behaviour
While the rise of the #metoo movement and public figures being held accountable have made sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour topics of mainstream conversation, there are still those who haven’t got the memo.
Dealing with Inappropriate Behaviour
We’re going to advocate for a zero-tolerance policy on this one.
If anyone says something that you are uncomfortable with, first ask them to clarify what they mean. This will give them a chance to pause and rethink. If they double-down, then clearly state that this isn’t appropriate in a work setting. Screenshot and store for future reference. If anything happens again, it’s time to call in your boss. This kind of behaviour counts as gross misconduct in most organizations, and if it doesn’t in yours? Consider looking for another job.
8. The Favor-Asker
We all end up with too much on our plate at one time or another, and need to ask a colleague to step in and give us a hand, but there are some people who seem to turn it into one of their remote working habits. If you find that one colleague, in particular, appears to be asking you to do their work a little too often, that becomes an issue.
Dealing with Favour-Askers
You’ll need to set boundaries when dealing with this type of worker. While it’s good to be a team player and help others, you don’t want to be working extra hours on other people’s work just to see them take the credit.
If you find you are being asked to help out too often then you can fire a warning shot, ‘Shall we talk to the boss about your workload? You seem to be getting too much all the time!’ and if that doesn’t fix the issue then approach your boss and express your concerns.
9. Toxically Positive
Do you have someone in your team who seems to dismiss other people’s concerns and drown them out with motivational quotes and saccharine encouragement?
If so, you may have a toxic positively problem. While having a generally optimistic outlook isn’t a bad thing, if you are drowning out legitimate issues and silencing others, then that is a bad thing.
Dealing with the Toxically Positive
All feelings are valid, and people need to be able to air problems and negative impacts or things can’t improve and change. Remember that your feelings are valid, and you aren’t required to put them aside just because other people are uncomfortable with them. Support colleagues who may be getting silenced by the positive person.
10. The Make-worker
This is the person who finds themselves things to do which look like they’re useful but in fact aren’t helping you get any closer to the end goal. This might be setting up meetings to discuss things when action is a better choice, or researching tools or alternative ways of working rather than getting on with what they have on their to-do list.
How to deal with the Make-Worker
If you work in the sort of environment where you are judged on output rather than time spent at your desk, then this kind of toxic worker should be easily outed, but because these people tend to be quite good at talking and selling the benefits of the tasks they are creating, this might not be the case.
The lack of productivity from this worker is best dealt with by a manager, so have a discussion with your boss and share your concerns, then step back and let them deal with it.
How to Talk to Your Boss about a Toxic Coworker
For example, imagine you’re having trouble with a colleague that’s not delivering their tasks on time and delays every project. Since you can’t stand it any longer, you bring the situation to your boss’s attention. He tells you that your colleague is going through a challenging health situation. If you hadn’t gone to your boss, you would have never known that your colleague was behaving inefficiently for personal reasons.
As I mentioned before, most of the time, talking is the best way to solve problems. But since this isn’t possible for everyone, if you decide to go to your boss, keep in mind your priorities. Always talk professionally to avoid behaving like an angry teenager, and suggest ideas. A frank talk with your boss can better solve a toxic relationship – only if this one notices you’re coming to the table in good faith.
If one – or more – coworkers are affecting you in a way your well-being is decreasing, it’s time for you to stop. Never sacrifice your well-being when it comes to these types of situations. If things become unbearable between you and your toxic coworker, you can always file a complaint with your HR team or leave your job and find a new one.
None of these decisions is easy to make. If you’re too exhausted to deal with your colleague, boss, or teammates, the HR department should always be willing to help you solve your problems; it’s within your rights. If you think the whole team became toxic and you’re feeling uncomfortable, maybe it’s time for you to make a drastic decision, like going for another job or searching for other options. Always decide what’s good for your health.
Time to Say Goodbye to Toxic and Negative Coworkers
Toxic people are everywhere. And unfortunately, you’ll always have to deal with people who don’t have good intentions or carry negative vibes everywhere they go. But there’s always something you can do about it.
Once you spot your toxic coworker, try to talk. Talking things through calmly and politely could help you solve most of the problems. If this doesn’t work, it’ll be time to take charge and solve some other way, like talking to your boss or presenting an official report to your HR team. But remember, if you prove your intentions are the right ones, all good things will come out of this.
Work is something you should enjoy doing every day. So stop complaining and take these steps to deal with your remote toxic coworkers!