You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your relatives – or your co-workers. When a colleague is a toxic influence, you probably can't replace them. However, you can take steps to minimize the ways their behaviors impact you and your job performance.
Workplace and health experts say the stakes are too high to simply ignore toxic co-workers. From gripe-fests that drain your time and energy to betrayals that can cause anxiety and even heart attacks, the effects of working with toxic people are widespread and can make you miserable.
Here are five of the most common toxic colleagues and what to do about each one:
It's easy to pick out the flaky co-workers: They're the ones who call in on the day the big project is due or check Facebook while you make all the calls. Along with the obvious effect of reducing your productivity on joint projects, if you let them, flakes can gradually leave you feeling bitter about a job you enjoy. No. 1 rule: Don't let them distract you, Stever Robbins, an executive and personal coach, told Forbes.
"Human beings are funny that way. We will spend more time focusing on the fact that our colleague isn't doing their work than it would take to just do it ourselves."
Robbins also urged co-workers to focus on their own job performance and not to get caught up in the issue of fairness. Not being able to change the flakey co-workers' behavior doesn't mean you just pick up their slack, Robbins added. "When you're given a project where you'll have to depend on your lazy co-worker, factor their anticipated laziness into your schedule."
These co-workers will throw you under the bus the second a project goes wrong or a supervisor questions their mistakes. They're easily spotted as the ones who never, ever take the blame when things go wrong, according to Forbes.
This kind of friction can cause you anxiety, rage, depression and stress, according to Alan Langlieb, director of workplace psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. He told Tesh.com that those symptoms caused by backstabbers can lead to problems from headache to heart attack.
Tesh.com recommended not losing your temper or resorting to negative gossip about the betrayer. Other suggestions include:
• Protecting your ideas by sending a memo that summarizes your thoughts and actions after important meetings.
• Clearing the air tactfully, in a way that won't start a fight.
• Letting it go instead of retaliating. This can be easier said than done, but you're better off just moving forward.
As for future interactions with the betrayer, there's no need to be sociable, only professional, according to an article on Chron.
The Full-time Downer.
Misery loves company and a negative co-worker can suck you into his reality before you realize what's going on. According to The Balance, the first step to coping with “Debbie Downer” in the workplace is to sort out whether a co-worker is chronically negative or has a legitimate, one-time cause for being a downer.
For those who exude negativity constantly, The Balance recommends spending as little time with them as possible. If you must work with a negative person, establish a policy where you don't let yourself be drawn into negative discussions.
The Office Gossip.
A study Forbes stadd wrote about found that 27 percent of those surveyed had a friend who blabbed secrets. If this friend is a co-worker, embarrasment on the job could result. Forbes' tactic for diffusing the office Big Mouth is simply to keep your personal details and at-work secrets close, along with limiting this co-worker's access to your social media posts.
Job coach Lea McLeod encourages forthrightness in her Job Almanac column on The Muse.
"When I hear something outrageous or questionable, I push for real answers: 'Oh, wow, that sounds pretty extreme. Is that a fact? Or did you hear that from someone?'" McLeod noted. "You'll quickly set the expectation that you won't engage in frivolous chatter that's not based in fact.”
"The narcissist is particularly difficult because he or she often lacks the ability to see things any other way than their own, needs constant attention and admiration, and generally lacks empathy," noted AirPR chief strategy officer Rebekah Iliff in Entrepreneur. "And somehow, amidst all of it, they can make you feel like the biggest loser on the planet. It's much like dealing with the antics of a spoiled child."
Tips for dealing with a narcissist, according to executive coach/management consultant Steven Berglas in Forbes:
•Keep your expectations of what they will deliver as low as possible.
•Understand they will give you only what they need to sustain your involvement with them.
•Berglas also recommended being responsive the moment they demand attention. "If you cannot respond to the bell, don't sign up for the job," he noted. "If you do react as desired, what can save you from psychic torment is learning to temper the narcissist's demands without incurring his wrath. Responses such as, 'Sounds good to me,' chill the needy child by affirming his worldview while limiting your involvement in actualizing it."