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5 Tips for Dealing with Toxic Co-Workers That Love to Spread Negativity

toxic coworkers

Toxic Coworkers and Negative People

Sometimes you just can’t escape negative (otherwise known as “toxic”) people who are a part of your daily work routine. Almost every encounter with this type of co-worker quickly escalates into you being subjected to either an earful of gossip or a barrage of complaints.

At some point, all of us will encounter toxic people at work. Over the course of time, their unpleasant attitude can take a toll, sending you into a negative spiral that crashes your mood. I’ve known instances where the situation gets so bad, people experience physical reactions, including gastrointestinal problems, and even stress pimples.

If you are looking for some effective strategies for dealing with these types of individuals at work, here are five tips you’ll find useful.

1. Reframe toxic interactions in your mind as behavioral “observation studies.” Instead of buying into the story of their negativity and allowing it to taint your emotions in a dark way, create a new internal story that casts you as the healthy, adult observing, with great curiosity, just how irrational and ridiculous the strange creature can get about small challenges.

Remain silent, but keep good mental notes that you can review later for your own private amusement.

More: Build relationships that last

2. Consciously distance yourself by physical space or by schedule. Since conflicts with toxic people tend to happen when you’re accessible, you may decide to create excuses in which you suddenly become too busy to chat because of an important project or meeting that needs your immediate attention.

No one else has to know that the “important project” is you keeping your sanity. This may require interrupting the person mid-sentence to say, for example (with a smile), “I apologize, Bob, but I have to jump on a phone call now. If there is something I need to know about this, please shoot it to me in an email.”

3. Make use of an imaginary bubble visualization. When you have to interact with the toxic individual, you can employ a powerful mental image of you protected inside a bubble of positive energy that doesn’t allow anything negative to penetrate it.

Even as venomous words or ideas come your way, imagine them rolling off the side of the bubble as smoothly as water rolls off a duck’s back, while you maintain a sense of centered gratitude that these ugly interactions no longer impact you, emotionally.

4. Choose to spend time with healthy people or uplifting resources to rebalance your energy. When you are away from the toxic person or persons, be sure to take deliberate actions to associate with people or other resources (such as art, music, pets, audio, or video programs) that return you to a sense of peace and calm.

5. If the co-worker crosses a professional boundary, try talking to them first. If that doesn’t work, don’t hesitate to take swift action to file a complaint. Toxic people still live in a world of cause and effect. If their comments become overly insulting or inappropriate, there is nothing noble in protecting them from the real-life consequences of their actions.

If the actions are potentially damaging to you or others, be sure to file a complaint with human resources or upper management, making sure it is clear, concise and professional in tone.

Though a change in the culprit’s behavior might be unlikely after a warning or reprimand, remember that remaining silent about genuinely abusive behavior is certain to encourage more of the same and will never offer an opportunity for the person to receive potentially valuable feedback on how they negatively impact others.

More: 5 ways you project a toxic vibe and not know it

Toxic people in the workplace may be unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t employ effective coping strategies that can minimize their toxic impact on your day-to-day experience. It’s well worth the effort to protect your state of mental well-being and productivity.

5 Tips for Dealing with Toxic Co-Workers That Love to Spread Negativity

John D. Moore, PhD

Described as folksy and down to earth, Dr. John Moore infuses current events and pop culture into his posts as a way of communicating wider points on issues related to wellness and goal attainment. His work has been featured in nationally syndicated media, including Cosmo, Men's Fitness and CBS Market Watch. He is a consultant to a number of Fortune 500 companies and institutions of Higher Learning. Dr. Moore is author of Confusing Love with Obsessionand Editor in Chief at: Guy Counseling.

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APA Reference
Moore, J. (2017). 5 Tips for Dealing with Toxic Co-Workers That Love to Spread Negativity. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 Apr 2017
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