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3 Types of Toxic Coworkers (And How to Handle Them Tactfully)


Imagine having to face that difficult coworker of yours every day. Just being in the same room as them is enough to make you feel suffocated, let alone having to work and collaborate with them in a particular project. As annoying as it might be, avoiding them altogether is not an option either, as you need to ensure professionalism in the workplace. Then what is the best way to handle such type of coworkers?

An office is a place where people from different cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds meet and intersect with each other. Owing to this diversity, clashes and disputes are not something new to happen in a team. Meanwhile, work relationship with your colleagues is among the most crucial factors which influences an employee’s level of job satisfaction. Not only that, the presence of difficult teammates in the workplace can create negative and toxic environments that will eventually impact your emotional, mental, as well as physical wellbeing.

Scientific studies have found that long-term emotional states can be really contagious, as coworker’s negativity can affect one’s mood in the workplace. So, does it mean that you have to burn the bridges and stay away from them, or even get out of your job and get a better circle of friends? Well, that might not be the best solution given that wherever you are, there is always such coworker type in every company. The wisest solution is to be aware of how toxic coworkers can affect you, so you can guard against such contagion.

Here are some types of toxic coworkers and how you should deal with them:

1. The Complainer

As the old adage says, "The devil is in the details." People with this personality seem to be crazily difficult to please and satisfy. No matter how good and positive something is, they always find something negative to complain and criticise. They usually get along well with other complainers. While it seems that they can be very fiery when pointing out their disapproval or criticism toward something, sometimes it is just all mouth and no trousers. If you happen to bump into them and they start to complain, you should find an excuse to get out from the conversation.

2. The Gossip Monger

“Great minds discuss ideas, average ones discuss events, and small minds discuss people,” (Eleanor Roosevelt).

At the very least, office gossip is unproductive. While not all gossips are harmful, people who talk about others behind their back usually take pleasure in other’s misfortunes. If not handled seriously, seemingly small and harmless rumours could grow bigger and eventually put the workplace harmony at risk. When you hear your coworker talk bad about others, you should respond by asking whether he or she has clarified the fact or not. Try to stay out of gossipy talk and tell them that you would prefer not talking about personal issues or office politics at work.

3. The Control Freak

Taking ownership over your work is good, as it helps you assume responsibility over certain target and builds confidence. However, coworker with control freak personality tends to overdo this. They feel like they have to be the person in charge in every situation and control everything around them, even in irrelevant situation where they cannot contribute anything. Typically obsessed to be a leader, they will find people with lower self-esteem to boss around. The best way to deal with this type of person is to not acknowledge their authority so they cannot dominate and give you order as they please.

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