Keeping Your Cool: How to Survive Toxic Coworkers

05 June 2024 by Alifia


While it’s impossible to click with each of your colleagues at work, some people do have toxic personalities that might affect your mental health and work performance. Read more to find out about toxic coworkers and how to deal with them.

Working with difficult coworkers everyday is exhausting. According to Susie Silver, senior consultant at The Diversity Movement, these kinds of toxic coworkers are usually unwilling to collaborate, speaking over others, and they don’t listen to other people. These kinds of coworkers are usually what causes workplace incivility in the most subtle forms, that is prompted by thoughtlessness rather than actual malice.

Consequently, difficult coworkers will create a negative and toxic working environment. In turn, this will eventually affect your performance at work. According to SHRM, employees who had experienced or witnessed incivility are less likely to be their authentic selves at work. They are also likely to leave their job over the next 12 months.

5 Common Types of Toxic Coworkers

It’s impossible for each coworker to exactly match each other’s preference. However, while some people are just mildly annoying, some people do have toxic personalities that may contribute to the bad office environment. The Muse has compiled five common types of toxic coworkers that you should be wary of.

The Constant Complainer

You will find this kind of coworker complaining about anything and everything. There’s nothing that is not wrong in their eyes. Eventually, their negativity will affect how you feel about the workplace, even though you have no issue with it in the first place.

The Gossiper

In any office, there must be a coworker who seemed to know every gossip happening in an office. Sometimes gossiping during off-work or happy hours cannot be avoided. However, when occasional chit chat becomes a regular occurrence, this coworker will turn into a toxic gossiper. This person might spread rumors about other coworkers, damaging employees morale and the team’s psychological safety.

The Credit Stealer

Credit stealers usually claim other coworker’s ideas as their own in a meeting. They might also make your accomplishment seem like their own. Women and people of color are often victims of credit stealers. If this keeps happening for a long time, this will damage your career prospect and mental health.

The Microaggressor

Sometimes microaggression at work can be more damaging than blatant bullying. People often don’t recognize microaggression behavior because it’s often something that is deemed small, like calling a female colleague with nicknames that make her uncomfortable. Microaggressions tend to be done unconsciously and based on a lack of awareness of a specific topic.

The Bystander

Until they experience it themselves, bystander coworkers will ignore things that are happening in the office. This is most likely also sourced from the lack of awareness. This kind of colleague can be toxic to your mental health and your sense of self-worth, because they might dismiss your problem as insignificant, even though it clearly states otherwise.

How to Handle Toxic Coworker at Work

Handling toxic coworkers can be tough for some types, but it isn’t impossible. Here are some tips on taking care of difficult colleagues at work.

Document the Behavior

Having proof is always beneficial if you want to bring the issue to your manager or HR. You might want to take a log of specific incidents and ask some of your trusted colleagues to vouch for you.


For some specific types, like microaggressor coworkers, you might want to communicate with them first. Directly say that you are uncomfortable with their specific behavior and what you expect from them in the future. When that person isn’t responding well, bring the matter to your higher-ups.

Set Boundaries

If communicating doesn’t work, it’s better to avoid them completely. Limit your interaction, keep it strictly professional. Try to redirect the conversation to work-related topics whenever possible. Avoid getting drawn into arguments with them.

Seek Support

Talk to your trusted colleague or even friends outside the office. This can help in adding a new perspective and offer new solutions for your problem. However, if the condition is severe, don’t hesitate to contact your manager or your HR for mediation. If possible, you should ask for a transfer to a different team or department.

Ultimately, it’s not your job to transform someone into a less toxic person. Remember that your mental health is your top priority. While you cannot control other people’s behavior, you can control your responses. Don’t let their negativity affect your working environment.

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