Toxic co-workers or bosses can create big problems at work. As a workplace conflict transformation consultant, coach, and trainer, I have assisted many of my individual and organizational conflict clients who have had issues with toxic people in their workplaces.
What are signs that a coworker is toxic?
There are a number of signs that a coworker is toxic, including:
How can you prevent yourself from getting sucked into a toxic worker’s or boss’s death spiral?
It is not easy to deal with toxic people, and staying out of their way can be a valid option. But, If you assume all the fault is theirs, you may be missing out on a self-learning opportunity. It is important to look at your own perceptions and biases as well.
How do you know if it is you or them?
If someone has a very different work style, culture, or definition of appropriate behavior, we may think they are toxic or bad from our narrow perspective. In that case, it is not so much about their behavior as our assumptions or shadow spots. If that is true, curiosity and openness can help. Ask yourself:
It is possible that by posing the questions above, you can begin a different and more helpful relationship with that person, making them an ally rather than a difficult enemy. I have worked with many leaders in corporations and non-profits who were able to turn these relationships around. But it does take some willingness from the other person as well. Without that, avoidance, detachment, and self protection are wise moves.
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