If you notice these 10 behaviors, you have a toxic co-worker

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Toxic co-workers are a nightmare to deal with, aren’t they? They can make our daily lives miserable, hinder our career progress, and get us in trouble with the boss.

Some toxic co-workers are easy to spot. They display such egregious behavior that they stick out like a sore thumb.

 We all know about passive-aggressive behavior, undermining, and bullying. But there are many lesser-known behaviors that clearly mark a toxic co-worker. 

Let’s see what they are. 

1) Constant negativity

Toxic co-workers tend to have a negative attitude and complain excessively. They focus on problems rather than finding solutions, and their negativity can bring down the entire team’s morale.

Don’t get me wrong, you definitely should complain and even try to change work practices that are harmful and unfair. That means spreading awareness, joining or forming a union, and even going on a strike.

But the Negative Nellies I’m talking about will simply drain the energy and enthusiasm of those around them. 

After some time, it just becomes mentally and emotionally exhausting to deal with their persistent complaints, criticism, and lack of optimism. 

And guess what? When constantly exposed to negativity, other team members also adopt similar behaviors. This is perpetuating a cycle of pessimism and discontent. 

This creates a toxic work culture that’s challenging to break free from.

2) Lack of accountability and scapegoating 

Another terrible behavior of toxic co-workers is avoiding responsibility for their actions and blaming others for their mistakes.

For example, if a project fails or they make a mistake, they’ll immediately point fingers at colleagues. They’ll also claim it wasn’t their fault or that they weren’t provided with sufficient support.

Another example I’ve noticed is that when provided with feedback or constructive criticism, toxic co-workers will dismiss or ignore it altogether. 

They’ll refuse to acknowledge areas for improvement and disregard the perspectives of others.

3) Lack of empathy

Toxic colleagues are also rarely or never sympathetic to others’ feelings and experiences. Sure, they might say they understand you, but the truth is, they couldn’t care less.

In fact, in some instances, they’ll go behind your mouth and badmouth you to your co-workers and your boss.

Sometimes, it doesn’t even end there. Toxic co-workers will go on to disregard cultural sensitivities, use offensive language, or make hurtful remarks without guilt, contributing to a hostile work environment. 

Aren’t they the worst?

4) Intellectual bullying 

There are classic bullying or harassing behaviors, like belittling others, shouting, name-calling, or using derogatory language. But some toxic colleagues also use intellectual superiority as a weapon to demean and disparage others. 

They engage in condescending behavior, use complex language intentionally to confuse or intimidate you or dismiss the ideas and opinions of their colleagues based on perceived intellectual inferiority.

5) Micromanaging

Micromanaging is another behavior that includes constantly interfering with others’ work, excessively monitoring their activities, and refusing to trust their colleagues’ abilities.

I’m sure you’ve met micromanagers in your lifetime too. It doesn’t necessarily mean these people are toxic.

But coupled with their overall behavior, you can surely come to a conclusion whether they are or not. 

6) Micro monitoring 

There’s another behavior that’s similar to micromanaging. It’s called micro monitoring.

Now, you may think, is there a difference? There is. 

While it’s less of an issue than micromanaging, it’s still very annoying. It includes tracking and monitoring the progress of work, projects, or tasks. 

It also involves regularly checking in, requesting updates, or reviewing reports to stay updated on work status. 

You can see how annoying it can be even if they aren’t directly interfering with your work. 

On the other side, if done correctly, it can be a useful tool aiming to provide guidance, resources, or assistance to ensure successful results.

7) Selective cooperation 

Some toxic co-workers selectively choose when to cooperate with others based on their personal agendas. 

They’re cooperative and helpful when it benefits them but refuse to collaborate or share information when it doesn’t align with their own interests.

Co-workers who engage in selective cooperation prioritize their own needs, goals, and interests above the collective goals of the team or organization. 

They’re driven by personal gain, recognition, or maintaining their own advantage, leading them to choose cooperation only when it directly benefits them.

8) Passive undermining 

Instead of overtly sabotaging their colleagues, toxic co-workers sometimes engage in passive undermining. 

This means subtly undermining and even outright sabotaging others’ efforts or contributions through backhanded compliments, subtle criticisms, or strategically questioning their decisions in public settings.

I’ve seen this play out in the past. A toxic co-worker withheld necessary information from their colleague, making it difficult for them to succeed or even perform effectively. 

They also intentionally failed to provide critical guidance or resources, curbing their colleagues’ progress and success so they maintain a sense of superiority. 

9) Emotional manipulation through silence 

Toxic co-workers sometimes also employ silent treatment as a form of emotional manipulation. They intentionally ignore or exclude certain individuals, refusing to communicate or engage with them as a means of punishment or control.

This is passive-aggressive behavior and, in some sense, bullying. However, it’s certainly a way to make the targeted person feel isolated and insignificant. But also creates a sense of self-doubt, anxiety, and frustration in them.

10) Discrimination and prejudice 

And lastly, toxic co-workers display discriminatory or prejudiced behavior towards specific co-workers or groups of co-workers based on race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. 

Even in 2023, this behavior is somewhat common and creates a hostile and discriminatory work environment.

This type of behavior, like many others on this list, creates an environment where individuals feel belittled, demeaned, or devalued because of their identity. 

This has a significant negative impact on the well-being and self-esteem of those targeted, leading to decreased morale, job satisfaction, and productivity.

How to deal with toxic co-workers

Recognize and acknowledge the behavior

The first step is to recognize and acknowledge that you’re dealing with a toxic co-worker. Understand that their behavior is not your fault and that you deserve to work in a positive and healthy environment.

Set boundaries

Okay, now that we definitely know someone is a toxic co-worker, how do we deal with them?

Establish clear boundaries to protect yourself from their toxic behavior. Determine what you’re willing to tolerate and what is unacceptable. Communicate these boundaries assertively and respectfully when necessary.

Document incidents

Keep a record of specific incidents where the toxic behavior occurs. Note the date, time, and details of each incident. 

This documentation will be useful if you need to report the behavior to your supervisor or human resources later.

Limit interaction

Minimize unnecessary interaction with the toxic co-worker as much as possible. If their behavior becomes unbearable, consider avoiding direct contact when it’s not work-related. 

Redirect your attention to your tasks and colleagues who contribute positively to the work environment.

Report the behavior

If the toxic behavior persists and has a detrimental impact on your well-being and work environment, you may need to report the behavior to your supervisor, manager, or human resources department. 

Provide the documented incidents and explain how the behavior is affecting you and the team.

Final thoughts

There you have it. You now know how to recognize and deal with a toxic co-worker. But what if your boss is toxic?

Learn how to deal with them before they ruin your life!

Adrian Volenik

Adrian has years of experience in the field of personal development and building wealth. Both physical and spiritual. He has a deep understanding of the human mind and a passion for helping people enhance their lives. Adrian loves to share practical tips and insights that can help readers achieve their personal and professional goals. He has lived in several European countries and has now settled in Portugal with his family. When he’s not writing, he enjoys going to the beach, hiking, drinking sangria, and spending time with his wife and son.

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