If you’ve landed a job that you truly love, you’re truly one of the lucky ones. It may offer an enticing combination of pay, challenge, upward mobility and environment. However, even in jobs that are otherwise perfect for us, we sometimes face an unexpected problem — a “toxic” coworker.

Some of these types of problematic coworkers include the negative coworker, the overly competitive co-worker, the gossip, the bully, and the lounge lizard who ignores tasks or pushes her work onto others. Hopefully, your workplace doesn’t have too many of these people. But if it does, here’s how to deal with working alongside them.

  • Have an honest, candid conversation with the person.

  • You cannot assume this person will suddenly wake up and realize the error of their ways. Make an honest attempt to provide productive feedback. Focus on the impact their behavior is having on you. Ask for feedback on your own behavior as well. Sometimes people don’t realize the impact of their behavior on those around them.

  • Keep your own ego and behavior in check.

  • Although it may feel good in the moment, don’t fall into the trap of finding retribution or behaving badly back to the problem worker. Create some mental distance from this poor behavior:
    — Rise above it
    — Don’t take it personally
    — Remind yourself that you’re not alone
    — Remember that it’s temporary
    — Practice emotional detachment.

    The more you can maintain your focus on team goals, the less likely you are to become blinded by win/lose thinking with a toxic peer. Be the role model for how you want the team to act. Set a standard with the rest of the team that supports collaboration and open dialogue, not retaliation.

  • Talk with your boss.

  • If a coworker is preventing you from doing your work, creating an unsafe environment or harassing you, discuss it with your HR manager or boss immediately. Proactively suggest that the team hold a meeting to set up team norms and begin to address some of the challenging behaviors and conflicts within the team. This session should not be completely focused on the toxic person. It should be a real and authentic team interaction, in which team members can gain insight into one another’s perspectives, set clear standards of expected behavior and boundaries, and increase peer-to-peer understanding and accountability.

  • Finally, take care of yourself.

  • Don’t let one person’s or group’s toxic behavior damage your own emotional and physical health. Own what you can (your own behavior and your reaction to others), let go of what you can’t control (what other people think or do), and make a change if you have to. If you have worked your tail off to develop better relationships with your toxic coworker and it’s going nowhere, or even getting worse, consider seeking the advice of an HR professional or trusted mentor on what else you might try. But if you’ve done everything you can, you should consider leaving. Life is too short for work to suck the life out of you.

When you’re working with a toxic coworker, there is no question that you’re suffering from the experience. And it’s likely that business results are suffering, too. However, once you fully commit to turning around your difficult relationship, you are likely to see improvements. Be well-intentioned in your efforts — and persistent — and you’ll reap the rewards.

(written by: Whitney)

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