Dealing with toxic colleagues at work is hard. A work-colleagues relationship is unique. Between one person and each other are close enough to share and complain about the work environment, but not-so-close to share personal problems. You’ll find the one that complains a lot to their colleague, or the one who becomes the bucket to contain those complaints. You could be one, or maybe both. Talking to your workmates may bring a slight relief, but in a certain way, it could be the gate for you or your work colleagues into a toxic work relationship
How to tell that it toxic or not? Psychologist Goali Saedi Bocci said about this, how do you feel when you leave the conversation? “Is it that every time this colleague comes into your office you feel weighed down, [or] you feel not quite as excited to see them?”
IN THIS CASE, THE NEGATIVITY IS LIKELY WEARING ON YOU, AND IT MIGHT BE TIME TO TAKE ACTION.
Know when the line is crossed
The evolution of healthy complain to toxic complain happens slowly, so it may be a bit difficult to notice. The best way to notice it, as Saedi Bocci said, track your own mood after the conversation. Do you feel happy or relieved? Or do you feel weighed down? The easiest thing to notice is when you saw your colleague, you’re not excited. Those are the way to know that the line is crossed.
“When an individual displays extreme emotions — yelling, berating, bullying, etc. — that is always negative. In extremes, it can and does lead to a toxic work environment,” Ronald Riggio, a professor of leadership and organizational psychology at Claremont McKenna College wrote.
When you notice the toxic behavior, the next thing you can do is…
Making friends and being nice in your workplace is great, but remember–you don’t have to be everyone’s buddy. If a person starts to disturb you when you need to get your work done, it’s okay to be professional. It’s really fine to ask them to leave you alone. Don’t be too harsh when you say it. Just say things like, “I’m thrilled to hear about it at the break and now I have to get my work done first,”
But that doesn’t mean you’re antisocial. As Saedi Bocci said, you don’t have to be antisocial, you can see it like this; I need to close my door to get my work done first, once it’s done, I might open the door. Or, to avoid being approached when you’re working, wear your earphone. Easy. But if setting boundaries still don’t work, you really need to do the next step regarding dealing with toxic colleagues at work.
Try to confront your co-worker directly
You already wear your earphone and that one person still come to you? Well, the best thing to do is to tell them directly. Option one; explain to them that their complaint about work is happening everywhere. Tell them to not focus on negativity, and show them the positive things at work. Just hope that your colleague begins to think positively about their work.
Option two; tell them that their behavior is affecting your job. Make a clear point that you’re at work to work, so they should do the same as you. But you can skip this step if you want quick finalization. Instead, do the next step in a way of dealing with toxic colleagues at work.
Ask help, strategically
Saedi Bocci cautions against going directly to HR right away. “I would start to go to supervisors, other colleagues, to figure out how to handle the situation,” she says. Sometimes, looping in another person can be enough to get the colleague off your back: “The sensitive thing can be to talk to other people and say, ‘I know Julia is having a rough time. She tends to corner me a lot. Next time you see her come over to my cubicle, do you think you can swoop in and say, “Let’s go-to coffee”?’”
And if all that fails, you do need to get your boss and possibly HR involved, lest your work performance fall. “You want to be professional, to try to minimize any conflict, and be sure you can be a good team player,” Hakim says. “But you should be able to say, ‘Hey boss, I need some help. I do not feel comfortable working with this individual. I know it’s in the interest of the company for me to get my job done, but this is distracting. What do you suggest?’ It’s very important that you’re constructive and not seen as a complainer.”
Don’t contribute to the problem
If the negativity is the actual problem at your office, don’t feed it up. If you need to complain about your work problem, negative coworker, environment, do it to your friend outside of work. Keep a journal to scribble what annoys you if you can’t wait until work time ends. Aside to keep you away from adding the office negativity, it also prevents you to get a blow-back.
Keep in mind that your colleagues are a person, too
No matter how much negativity your colleague brings to you, you may need to know where it came from. There are people who are just intrinsically negative; there are also people whose personal and inner lives are so negative that that spills into the workplace. For this condition, if you feel comfortable to offer them support, then do it.
But remember that you’re not their therapist. Instead, offer them help by saying that you support them and telling them that seeking professional help is totally fine. Kind is fine, but don’t ever let them use your kind offer too far. “You’re really trying hard. You don’t want to lose your job. You want to make everybody happy, but by trying to make everybody happy, you can kind of end up a doormat,” says Saedi Bocci. “That’s part of that balance.”
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