5 Tips for Handling Toxic People in the Workplace

Nearly every workplace has them – the nitpicking, conniving, mean-spirited, super-competitive people who make work life unbearable.

Sometimes hovering in the lunchroom. Sometimes sitting through the meetings. Sometimes roaming around your work station. There’s no escape from these negative people. The stench of their negativity floats across the workplace and threatens to permeate your own work.

Prolonged exposure to chaotic or strife-inducing people can take a toll on your emotions and create severe stress. Unfortunately, we don’t have a magic wand to make such people disappear. But here are some tactics that can be employed to cope with them:

1. Establish Boundaries

It is not easy to work in close proximity with coworkers who have a negative attitude because you may end up experiencing feelings of frustration and hopelessness and be emotionally drained. This is why, setting boundaries of how much you’ll tolerate is critical to stay positive in the workplace.

While it may be challenging to avoid toxic people, especially when you have to interact with them for work, it is still possible to keep an emotional distance from everyone possessing negative traits. Keep your responses short, unenthusiastic and to the point. Work on dissociating yourself a little. This way, there will be slim chances of your words being used negatively against you.

2. Conduct Employee Cleansing

“One bad apple can spoil the bunch” – this saying couldn’t be more true. So, you have a naysayer in your organization who tries to cast gloom with unsolicited criticism and talk. Well, before you know it, the negativity will spread like wildfire and your company will be fractured into smaller groups, harming your organizational productivity – not to mention the company reputation that will also suffer.

It is, therefore, important that you nip in the bud and take the necessary steps to cleanse your workplace of toxic people. Start the conversation by reminding such employees the company policies and then counselling and encouraging them to change their behavior with positive energy. Find out if the bad behaviour is a result of personal issues or stress. If nothing works out, it’s best to part ways.

3. Don’t Overanalyze

It isn’t surprising that negative people generally behave irrationally and absurdly. Most of the times what they say is nothing more than baseless tirades. And sometimes they go as far as spreading scurrilous rumours.

Trying to decode what they mean or why they act in a negative manner is only going to waste your valuable time with no result. While it is not easy to ignore such individuals, especially when their negativity hurts and angers you, detaching yourself from such toxic people and their issues is imperative to spare yourself the agony. You need to come to terms with the fact that you have little to no control over their behaviour.

4. Pour in Some Positivity

On effective way to stay sane in negativity is by immersing yourself in positivity to the extent that there’s no room for negative feelings.

In their book Connected, Harvard professor Nicholas Christakis and political scientist James Fowler indicate that happiness not only spreads between pairs of people but also from a person to their friend, to their friends’ friends, and then to their friends. Their findings reveal that even frequent, face-to-face interactions can dramatically influence happiness. So, whenever you feel negativity creeping in, interact with positive people. Remind yourself of the things you’ve done well at work. Perform positive self-talk consistently to stay calm.

5. Focus on Yourself

If you love your job and the company you work for – and generally speaking, the people you work with, it doesn’t make sense to let the negative people ruin it all for you. Rather than letting negative people deviate and distract you from your goals and purpose, stay focused on what you’re aiming for. Tune the negative people out and maintain a positive outlook. You never know, you might bush off some positivity on them as well!

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Author: Paul Keijzer

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