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Do’s and Don’ts: Toxic Co-Worker Edition

While some co-workers may be difficult, a toxic co-worker brings a distinctive brand of disharmony to the workplace. Abby Curnow-Chaves outlines some common behaviors in the Harvard Business Review including:

  • Backstabbing, criticizing and blaming
  • Gossiping and spreading rumors
  • Hoarding information
  • Purposely undermining others

If this sounds like someone you work with, here are some do’s and don’ts for dealing with a toxic co-worker.


Communicate Your Issues

Curnow-Chavez says, “Have an honest, candid conversation with the person. If you don’t attempt to do this, you are 100 percent ensuring that the relationship will, at best, continue in its current, dysfunctional state.” And this is great advice. While it may not be easy, you should definitely communicate and explain to the person how their behavior is affecting you.

Note Their Actions

If the situation worsens, you’ll want to have specific examples of the toxic co-worker’s actions for reports, documentation, etc. Take note of the unacceptable behaviors they’re engaging in.

Have a Private Conversation With a Manager

If your conversation with the co-worker didn’t go anywhere and nothing changes, discuss the situation with a manager in private. Provide your view on things and explain some of the issues that are creating friction.


Let Them Distract You

It’s easy for a toxic co-worker’s behavior to throw you off your game, and you may feel frustrated, upset or angry. Try not to let it get to you. Instead,  focus on doing your job at a high level and keep a healthy distance if possible.


Talking behind the person’s back will only add fuel to the fire and cause further issues. Avoid getting pulled into the drama or gossiping to other co-workers about them. As Curnow-Chavez puts it, “Don’t stoop to their level.”

Take on Their Work

These types of personalities are often natural manipulators, and they may try to unload some of their tasks on you. It’s important you don’t fall into this trap. Instead, be assertive and put your foot down if you feel like they’re trying to take advantage of you.

Dealing with a toxic co-worker can be a troublesome thing and put you in a difficult position. Following these do’s and don’ts should help you address the issue and prevent it from escalating.

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