When I first started working remotely, I was happy for different reasons. One of those things is that I was done with all that office politics and toxic coworkers. But I didn’t realize that toxicity in coworkers and companies went beyond personal interactions.
In short, I didn’t stay long in that job because the workplace became too toxic. And this shouldn’t be a surprise since 25% of workers have quit their job due to “toxic company culture.”
But that was before I knew how to spot signs of toxic coworkers early in a remote work situation and deal with them.
This article will cover the warning signs of a toxic coworker, the types, and some ways you can deal with them without quitting your job.
Let’s get started.
What is a Toxic Coworker?
A toxic coworker is someone who creates a negative work environment. This can be done through gossiping, spreading rumors, or being generally unpleasant. Toxic coworkers can make it difficult to get work done and make going to work daily a chore. If you have a toxic coworker, it’s crucial to take steps to protect yourself and your mental health.
Signs to Identify a Toxic Coworker
Because of the nature of remote work, it may be tricky to spot the signs of a negative coworker. Moreover, since communication when working from home is often via text, mannerisms can be misconstrued. So, you must pay attention to pick up on these signals. However, whether in remote work or an office setting, here are some signs that will help you identify a toxic behavior at work:
- A lack of cooperation
- No accountability
- Constantly complaining about everything
- They withhold information crucial to the workflow or project at hand
- Lying about work and projects
- Spreading rumors and gossip
- Making excuses
- No respect for boundaries
- Hold grudges
- Always procrastinate at work
- Bully and offend others without remorse
It is crucial to recognize these signs early because toxic colleagues create unnecessary drama that can impede your productivity and may even affect the team’s bottom line.
Types of Toxic Coworkers in a Remote Workplace
1. The Gossiper
Unfortunately, every remote workplace has this type of toxic coworker. They ping you and try to bond with you by talking about others. These people rarely bring up topics relating to work. Their focus is always on personal matters.
Because remote work can be lonely most of the time, it can be tempting to indulge the gossiper in conversation. But don’t give in to the temptation—nothing good ever comes out of talking behind someone’s back. Besides, gossip in a team can severely damage relationships and trust within the group.
Dealing with the gossiper: The best way to deal with a colleague that likes to gossip and spread rumors is to shut them down instantly. This could mean saying something positive about the person being attacked – or example, “She’s a great person; just different.” Remember that if this person discusses another person with you, they will surely be discussing you with someone else.
2. The Know-it-All
Nobody likes a show-off. These ones know everything, and they are not shy about it. They never let anyone else say anything because they believe their idea is better. Sometimes, they even insert themselves into discussions that have nothing to do with them to sound knowledgeable.
Dealing with the know-it-all: Most know-it-alls just want to be acknowledged. They want people to recognize their intellect and appreciate their knowledge. So, hear them out. After, present your solution and back it up with facts. Then be assertive about your opinions or solutions.
3. Glory Hunter
The glory hunter does little to no work but takes all the credit. These people tend to step up when the work is done so they can take center stage. This type of toxic coworker also has impeccable timing. They know the right things to say and the right people to flatter to get ahead. People who don’t like the limelight are their perfect targets.
Dealing with the glory hunter: To deal with a toxic coworker that steals credit for your work, you must assert yourself. The nature of remote work means it is easy to get overshadowed. So, it is crucial that you let your boss know about your work achievements and successes. Never feel sorry about taking credit for your own accomplishments.
4. The Negative Nancy
Do you have a colleague who always sees the glass as half empty? This person complains about the office, the job, how much work they have to do, how impossible it is to achieve anything at work, and pretty much every darn thing. Yes, you are working with a toxic coworker.
People like this spread negativity in the workplace. Their negative energy is contagious, and it can drag everyone else down with them in no time flat.
Dealing with the negative Nancy: The most effective way to deal with negativity is to counter it. Perhaps they will be able to recognize how their behavior affects others around them and change their attitude.
If that doesn’t work, you must learn to expect such behavior from them, and tune it out, rather than getting sucked into their pessimism. Whenever they try to engage you in one of their tirades, excuse yourself from the conversation politely.
5. Toxically Positive
As we have the overly negative, so do we have the excessively positive person at the office. That colleague always talks about how great everything is – even when it’s not.
They shut down all concerns and constantly give motivational speeches to prevent people from voicing grievances or doubts. It’s okay to have a generally optimistic outlook, but if you drown out legitimate issues and silence others, that’s wrong.
Dealing with toxic positivity: Feelings are valid, and we must be able to speak about problems and negative impacts if we are to improve and change things. Don’t forget that your feelings are valid. Just because other people find them uncomfortable doesn’t mean you have to ignore them. Support colleagues who the toxically positive person is silencing.
6. The Do-nothing
This type of toxic coworker is cunning and smooth. Because they are generally likable, other team members may willingly cover for them. The do-nothing may not want to work or lack the expertise and skills to perform their duties.
In most cases, do-nothings are very adept at getting others to take on a small portion of their responsibilities, so no one realizes how minimally they contribute.
Dealing with The Do-nothing: The problem with dealing with the do-nothing is that because they are good talkers, there’s always someone on the team willing to let them off the hook by doing their work. It is best to discuss this worker’s lack of productivity with your boss and let them know how you feel, then step back and let him handle the situation.
7. Constantly Putting You Down
Sometimes, you are unfortunate enough to have a coworker who always puts you down. They constantly shoot down your ideas, and they issue backhanded compliments that inspire a lot of self-doubts. It can be incredibly demoralizing to have a colleague like this at work.
Dealing with constant put-downs: You may be inclined to react angrily to this type of behavior – especially if it is ongoing – but if you do, it will just fuel the fire and encourage your coworker to keep it up. Instead, remain calm. Ask them for clarity. For instance, explore what they found objectionable if they shut down any of your ideas.
Hopefully, this will lead to a more productive conversation where you can determine whether they have legitimate concerns or are just being malicious. It will be increasingly difficult for them to continue bullying you if you keep your cool and do not give in to their manipulations.
8. Always Asking for Favors
Once in a while, we need our colleagues to help us out with tasks. You may have a lot on your plate that period, or some other commitments are taking up your time. It is always great to know that you can count on your teammates to lend a hand when you need it most. After all, you’d also do the same if they were in need.
However, the toxic coworker may take advantage of this by constantly asking for favors from you. This can take up much of your time and derail you from your work. Worse still, you may feel obliged to respond by saying yes every time because you don’t want to disappoint them.
Dealing with over-dependence on favors: The proper way to deal with this toxic coworker is to set boundaries. Being a team player and helping others is admirable, but you should avoid overworking yourself. You shouldn’t work extra hours on someone else’s work so that they can take credit for it.
9. Flirtation or Inappropriate Behavior
These days more awareness has grown up regarding sexual harassment. However, sometimes people still cross the line and make inappropriate advances toward colleagues in the workplace.
Dealing with Inappropriate behavior: You must immediately halt inappropriate or unwelcome behavior immediately.
If none of the hints work, the best option for dealing with their disrespectful behavior is to be open and honest about it. Message them during a break to discuss your concerns about their flirting. Also, make yourself unavailable whenever this flirtatious colleague tries to initiate a conversation.
Ultimately, you may have no choice but to report their behavior to upper management, your boss, or HR. One of two things will happen: either the individual will receive a warning, or their employment will be terminated. Sexual harassment can result from flirtations, and businesses aren’t too fond of it.
How Do You Protect Yourself From a Toxic Coworker?
There are many more types of toxic coworkers than we can cover in this article. So, here are some tips that should help you in most situations:
- Engage them in an honest, open dialogue – Before you resort to other measures, such as reporting them to management, attempt to resolve the situation first through an open dialogue with the colleague in question. The toxic coworker may be unaware that their behavior negatively affects you. Sometimes, one candid conversation is enough to correct their behavior. You should also ask them for feedback about your behavior to avoid sounding like a judgmental jerk who always criticizes others.
- Don’t fall for their drama – Worst case scenario, you speak to this colleague, and they take it the wrong way or double down on their negative behaviors. Stay calm and professional. Never give them the satisfaction of seeing you get upset at their actions — they’ll just use it to further their own agenda. It’s not going to be easy, and you’d need to grow a thick skin for this to work, but it’s the best way to deal with a toxic coworker who refuses to change his or her ways.
- Report the behavior – If their behavior gets to the point that it affects the team’s productivity or your physical and emotional well-being – you may have no choice but to resort to reporting their behavior. Explain to your manager or HR how their work is affecting you and the team and that you’ve done everything you can to resolve the situation yourself to no avail. If your remote workplace cares about its employees’ mental health, they’ll take action.
- Look after yourself – In the meantime, take care of your mental health by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough rest. Focus on what you can control, like improving your work-life balance, and surround yourself with positive people at work.
How do you outsmart a toxic coworker?
To outsmart a toxic coworker, you must understand the type of toxic worker you are dealing with and create a strategy to deal with them. Remember that the most important thing is not to let their toxic behavior erode your health or the teams. Develop healthy coping mechanisms and steer clear of people who bring you down instead of lifting you up.
How do you deal with a non-collaborative coworker?
Some remote coworkers are always unwilling to work with others and form healthy working relationships. They may be argumentative and unwilling to trust others with their project responsibilities. This situation can be tricky, so don’t jump to conclusions about this person’s character right away. It is also a situation for your manager to handle.
Toxic coworkers aren’t just in the office. They are also in the remote workplace, unfortunately. Whether in an office or working from home, you must protect yourself against toxic people. Sadly, many of us do not even realize that we are around toxic people until it’s too late. So it is crucial to know the behaviors that indicate a toxic person to protect yourself from them.
By recognizing the signs and symptoms of toxic employees, you will become much more aware of workplace toxicity and how to deal with negative people. The more you are aware, the more able you will be to take action to protect yourself and those around you.