3 Tips for Dealing with Toxic Co-Workers and Growing as a Professional in the Process

29Let’s be frank here, the overwhelming majority of us need a job with a regular stream of income in order to support ourselves. The everyday tedium of a regular 9 – 5 can be a drag at best, and soul-crushing at it’s worst. There are so many elements at play: traffic, work load, bosses and co-workers.

Ahhh, the ever-present co-worker; a group of people over whose presence you have very little control, but whose presence in your world can have such a huge impact on your entire day. There are ‘good co-workers’: the kind you enjoy seeing on a regular basis, who are helpful and generally pleasant to be around and who have the real potential to become true life friends. And then there are the dreaded ‘bad co-workers’: people who can really zap the good out of the morning and whose mere being can make “go someplace and die” begin to seem like a reasonable response to any work-related question.

Instead of staying frustrated with difficult colleagues, look at this as an opportunity for your own professional growth. When you find yourself dealing with a coworker who irritates you, challenge yourself to learn a better way to deal with them. If you have already made the conscious determination that you need to discover how to deal work compatibly with that person in order to ensure your own success, it is in your own best interest to do so.

1. Be Mindful of Who May Be Against You

As unfortunate as it is, knowing how to identify the problem people in your organization is a critical skill. Everybody is not your friend, and while some folks may mean well, there are certain types to avoid in the work place. Some are serial gossipers; others dodge blame at all costs. Some are lackluster workers and then there’s the toxic, passive aggressive coworker who, at the end of the day, is really just a hater. Toxic coworkers can take many forms, and your first line of defense is to identify them – so that you can stay as far away as possible.

2. Evaluate your circumstances
If your spidey senses are tingling and your gut is telling you that something, something just ain’t right, you need to listen to your instincts. If you’re being poorly treated, your first reaction might be shock at the unfair of it. It is not unreasonable to expect others to act professionally when on the job. But since when is everybody reasonable? It may be difficult to identify coworkers who behave in a childish or (passive) aggressive way. Take time to let the initial shock wear off and then evaluate exactly what’s going on so you can assess your options with a cool head.

3. Determine Your Move
When dealing with a problem person at work – especially one who bullies or demeans you – you need to take action. If not, the situation will likely deteriorate, causing you undue stress and undermining your worth as a professional, and as a person. Consider having a face to face, non-confrontational exchange with the offender or expressing to them your willingness to take it to someone higher in the chain of command if necessary. Act prudently and remember, it’s better to handle the problem before it gets out of hand, while you’re still emotionally in control.

The most important thing for you to accomplish in all of this, is protecting your professional reputation. You want to maintain the persona of a level-headed adult who is a team asset and can competently and assertively handle yourself in uncomfortable positions. If this isn’t who you already are, employ the techniques above and add them to your skill-set. There is very little chance that you will make it all the way to retirement without encountering someone you have a difficult time with in the workplace. Your ability to handle these kinds of situations will be essential to your career development and success.

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