Surviving Toxic Coworkers: How to Stay Sane in a Challenging Workplace

Most of your colleagues are great. They chat, make coffee, and help you through your working day. But there’s always someone that you just can’t get along with—that one person who seems determined to single you out and make your day that much harder.

If you’ve got “that colleague” on your team, you’ll recognize how toxic it can quickly make any office environment. Unfortunately, they always seem to be the one that has the boss on their side and makes you think twice about rocking the boat.

And it really doesn’t matter which industry you’re in; these awkward people are everywhere.

So, aside from getting frustrated and angry, what else can you do to handle your temperamental co-worker and restore some tranquility to your working day? We look at some of the best tips for dealing with colleagues who drive you nuts.

It’s Not You

Recognize off the bat that their behavior actually has very little to do with you and probably stems from a deep insecurity. You can choose to ignore their under-their-breath remarks and rude behavior, or you can try giving some positive reinforcement a go. You never know; it might just work.

Praise them for everything they do that’s helpful or clever. Don’t make stuff up or praise inconsequential work, but give credit where it’s due.

Your kind words may be the only positivity they have in their lives. You never know how it’s affecting them deep down, so stick with it.

It will make you feel a little happier at work, if nothing else, and you’ll know you’ve tried.

Keep Your Distance

If their behavior is beginning to stress you out, staying away from them as much as possible can be one solution. Limiting your interactions should keep you out of the firing line, but unfortunately, it won’t help your other poor colleagues left to deal with the toxic coworker.

Set Boundaries

Keeping your distance is not always possible, especially if you share an office or are working on the same project. In that case, you need to set clear boundaries. Tell them what you’re willing and not willing to tolerate, and stick to it.

Don’t Get Sucked In

Even if you agree with their negative criticisms, it’s never good to start agreeing with someone toxic out loud. Either they will use what you’ve said against you, making you look like a serial complainer, or they’ll have you down as an ally, which can be equally as dangerous.

Instead, redirect the conversation back to your work. The same goes for when they try to engage you in negative conversations.

If that doesn’t work, excuse yourself and walk away. You don’t need to be involved in their drama.

If All Else Fails

There’s no reason at all why you should have to put up with someone who makes your life hellish. If things are not longer just annoying, but verging on harassment, begin keeping a log of when and where they spoke to you and what was said. Keep details of their impact on your working life and your personal discomfort.

When you have sufficient evidence, escalate the matter to the boss or your HR team and make sure it gets taken seriously. Follow up by asking what action is to be taken and push until some harmony is restored in your day-to-day office life.

Tackling Toxicity at Work

Dealing with a toxic coworker can be a real struggle. It’s like trying to navigate through a minefield of negativity and drama every time you step into the office.

But here’s the thing: you deserve to feel happy and healthy in your workplace, and that means taking care of yourself. Remember your worth; don’t let a toxic coworker bring you down.

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Feature Image Credit: Dean Drobot via

Amanda Kay, the founder of My Life, I Guess, provides valuable career advice and support for anyone striving to make a living and, more importantly, make a life. Whether it's navigating job searches, learning new skills, overcoming unemployment, or dealing with debt, My Life, I Guess has been a go-to resource for career guidance and financial stability since 2013. Amanda's expertise and relatable approach have been featured in trusted publications such as MSN,, Yahoo! Finance, the Ladders and Fairygodboss.

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