How to Deal with Toxic People in the Workplace?

Apparently, every workplace has them: people with the power to make us feel less good (or even bad!). And they come in all types and for all (dis)tastes. Some are irritating, others are too negative, others are very competitive and some are even malicious. This human characteristic in the world of work is unhealthy and can seriously compromise our success and even our mental health.

Therefore, it is important to know what you can do to deal with this type of person. Is easy? Of course. But it is possible. See the tips below.

1. Lower expectations . Accept that no one changes in a day. Stop thinking that that person will change one of these days and spending energy doing things to make them change. It may even look different, but not because of your effort. Only life changes us. From now on, accept that that person is like that and that only the reader can change. Or better yet, you can try to change the way you see it, communicate with it and act towards it. The first thing to do is, in fact, stop having so many expectations of others. Accept that you find her irritating. Don't ruminate any longer about why she is this way and focus on your new way of dealing with the matter.

2. Remove “toxic” people from your mental throne . Stop giving so much importance to these types of people. You have your own life and you have those you love and who love you and who deserve to be there, on the podium of your thoughts. Don't allow others to occupy so many hours of your mind. Think that they are human beings who also have problems, who may even be doing the best they can at that point in their lives but it's not your fault that they do it that way and that the only thing that unites you is work. Nothing more. When you're dwelling on toxicity, think about the people or things that make you happy. It might help to read the article What Motivates You? , here, in Frederica.

3. Remember your capabilities . Don't be complicit in your humiliation. Or better yet, don't let the offenses that others may direct at you become a reality for you. Don't even think that everything the person says or does is to purposely hurt you because, often, that is not the case. If you can respond without starting a discussion, respond, but otherwise, ignore it (at least internally) because it is more than proven that only those who feel very bad about themselves (even if they don't realize it) try to make others feel better. feel the same way. Remember your abilities and see criticism as a possible way to improve your work. Don't take it personally.

4. Set limits . Without communicating this in an aggressive way, if you can, from the beginning of your working relationship with colleagues, make yourself known. Kindly talk about how you like to be when you work and what you usually tolerate and what you don't tolerate so well. You can take the opportunity to hear what colleagues say about themselves. Then, if the person who bothers you goes overboard and doesn't respect yours, you should talk to your superior about it. However, if this happens, be rational and fair: just focus on the professional part. Don't take the opportunity to bring up all the other things you don't like about the person.

5. Distance yourself physically or emotionally . If you share the same workspace with someone who bothers you, you may not be able to physically distance yourself, but if you can, try. Request another place to work, giving a plausible reason such as the fact that you need to be alone to be more concentrated or another reason that you think is relevant. If this is not possible, distance yourself mentally and emotionally. If you can do so, listen to music quietly, preferably ambient music, which does not trigger many emotions ( Chill Out, Bossa Nova , Zen , etc.), but which helps you relax and abstract from the being that bothers you. Do your best to ensure that breaks, such as lunch, are taken outside the workplace and, if possible, take a walk outside. Read, here, at Frederica, the article Learn to Manage Everyday Stress and Anxiety .

6. Know how and when to communicate . However long or short it may be, at least once in a while, you will have to cross paths (or be) with that person. Therefore, learn to understand the best time to communicate with them and in what way. This applies if what bothers you is your boss. Sometimes it is preferable to wait and, if necessary, send an email later, with the subject in question. However, always try to talk constructively and never fuel arguments so that you do not lose your peace of mind unnecessarily. If you have meetings with the person, remain as calm as possible but be assertive. However, do not confuse assertiveness with aggressiveness. Try to stay on the “gentle” side without being too nice. Just share what is related to work and when you feel that some tension is already being generated, take a break, to go to the bathroom, for example. Remember this old Eastern saying: “If you already know that a horse kicks, why do you insist on passing behind it?”.

7. Surround yourself with positive people. It's important to compensate for this toxicity at work by approaching people with good, positive energy. Try to be with friends and/or family members who are most supportive, with whom you can vent and be yourself, without judgment or criticism.

8. Analyze yourself. Try to understand, without any problem, whether, sometimes, it could also be you who triggers that behavior in the person. (Read the last sentence of point 6 again). And it's similarly beneficial to try to understand if, from time to time, you're fueling the spiral of negativity: sometimes, it can also be a little irritating or complicating matters that can be easily resolved. If you think this might happen, read How to Replace Negative Thoughts with Positive ones , by Frederica.

9. Seek help from a professional. If you start to feel too tired, even when you wake up, or feel like crying just thinking about having to go to work or have physical symptoms of anxiety, etc., please don't hesitate to seek out a professional to help you. “Your health comes first” may be one of the most tiring phrases to hear, but it is one of the most realistic and factual. In the article on this site Burnout Syndrome: Professional Exhaustion you can evaluate your current situation a little and get even more tips to protect yourself.

Remember: we are all human and have problems to solve, so we should try to be tolerant towards each other. But everything has a limit. And this limit has a name: it is called the border between health and illness.


Vanda do Nascimento is a therapist, trainer and Mindfulness instructor at the Escola de Mindfulness Essencial , which she founded in 2016. She began her career as a teacher in 1997, obtaining a degree in Education. On that same date, he also began his studies in Reiki, Meditation and Mindfulness. Later, he embarked on the path of Psychology and delved even deeper into the topic of Mindfulness, in order to continue his fight to control stress and anxiety.

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