A considerable part of what makes coming to work enjoyable is having a great bunch of colleagues. When you get along well with your co-workers, it makes it easier to work together and act as a team.
Conversely, when you’ve got difficult co-workers, it can make it that much harder to take pleasure from your work.
It takes all kinds; the insufferable know-it-alls, the passive-aggressive ones, the ones with the memory of a goldfish. As we’ve already established in part I (here) though, even if these three types of people might annoy the living daylights out of you, they don’t necessarily create a toxic working environment.
However, if your co-workers constantly scheme against you and actively try to sabotage one another, it’ll make you feel absolutely miserable. Worse, it will most likely affect your job performance as well as that of the team’s.
No matter how many times you’re tempted to give up and rage quit, though, it isn’t a practical solution. Instead, here’s how you can deal with two common types of toxic co-workers without losing your mind.
P.S. You can’t control toxic behaviour from other people, but you can control how you react; learn how with SSA Academy’s WSQ course on working in a team!
People who are nosy and love to gossip about others.
They’re notorious for being Gossip Central. They go to great lengths to poke their noses in everybody’s business, and even take pleasure in badmouthing others behind their backs.
They create and exacerbate divides in the office, capitalise on office politics and make mountains out of molehills. In the long run, they sow the seeds of distrust among teammates.
Every office has one, but it’s crucial to deal with them properly to ensure that team performance remains intact. Gossipers can decimate psychological safety, which is the secret sauce behind every team’s sustained performance.
Rumor mills are called “mills” for a reason; they operate like well-staffed factories. There’s likely to be more than one person in the office who enjoys gossiping about the other co-workers. It may even be part of the company culture to gossip.
Nevertheless, the moment you partake in their gossiping, you cease to be an innocent bystander and become a willing participant in office drama. And once you’re in, it’s hard to get out.
Hence, it’s best to avoid gossiping altogether. Focus on doing your job well and uplifting those around you instead of trying to bring them down.
There’s a fine line between approaching your colleagues to verify a negative behavioural pattern you’ve noticed in one of your teammates, and outright gossiping. If there’s a particularly problematic co-worker whose actions are penalising the team as a whole (and indeed, yourself), it may be necessary to ask if your teammates agree with you that he or she needs to be confronted.
For example, as mentioned in part I, when you have a passive-aggressive co-worker, it can leave you wondering if you’re just oversensitive or if their behavior really was uncalled for. The practical thing to do is to confirm with your co-workers if they noticed it too.
The difference between this and gossiping is that in the former, there’s a clear objective and purpose behind doing it. Gossiping, though, is often done for no particular reason besides twisted enjoyment.
Often, the top performers in the team unintentionally engender jealousy, which sparks the office gossipers to badmouth them unfairly. It may be hurtful if this happens to you, especially if you feel betrayed. Nonetheless, take it in stride and don’t allow them to get the better of you.
If left unchecked, office gossip might devolve into office bullying, which is something no one and no company should tolerate. The victim is often ostracised and ridiculed to the point of being emotionally and verbally abused.
Don’t be afraid to take a stand against the perpetrators, whether the victim is another co-worker or yourself. Ask for help; escalate the matter to your superiors if need be.
Manipulative co-workers who actively undermine others privately and publicly.
They work to sabotage others and persistently point fingers at everyone and everything. They’re also often skilled at playing the victim card and can be very charming and charismatic, which makes it harder to spot their manipulative tendencies. Because of this, it might escape your attention for the first few times.
Since they’re so skilled at being under the radar, they are, by far, the most difficult and dangerous type of co-worker you’re likely to encounter. Without knowing how to protect yourself and your teammates from them, you’re making yourself easy prey.
People can turn out to be manipulative for a whole host of different reasons. It might not be the case that they’re naturally manipulative. Stress and pressure, for example, can drive someone to engage in uncharacteristically negative behaviours like manipulating others. In these cases, It’s important to understand not just which battles to sit out and which to fight, but how to fight them if need be.
Someone who lies and takes credit for work they didn’t do, for example, should be dealt with differently from someone who pits two teammates against each other by pretending to have both their best interests at heart.
Once they find your weakness, they’ll exploit it to the fullest to get what they want from you. The last thing you want to do is to make it easier for them to do so. Stay on top of your tasks and ensure that you’re maximally efficient and productive; it’s hard to argue with the cold, hard, facts.